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Be a Better Rider - 2020 Conference - Part 12

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Hello and welcome to my blog series on the Horses Inside Out Conference 2020 - Anatomy In Action.

This is the final blog about the presentations of the weekend, with the last speaker being PhD candidate Celeste Wilkins.

gillian higgins horses inside out conference 2020

Celeste is from Canada but is currently studying for a PhD in rider biomechanics and performance at Hartpury University in Gloucestershire.

Her PHD involves using a Racewood Eventing Simulator and 3D motion capture to study rider biomechanics.

Her studies aim to use movement analyses to improve our understanding of riders technique, with implications for both training and rehabilitation of riders in the future.

The name of her presentation was ‘How to Ride a Horse: unravelling the postural strategies of dressage riders’

gillian higgins horses inside out how to ride a horse conference 2020

Celeste shared with us some of the findings from her PhD to date, exploring the strategies used by riders to achieve stability whilst sitting on an unstable, oscillating platform.

Celeste was a remarkably confident and affluent presenter, and was a pleasure to listen to. I thought she was extremely brave presenting in front of a large audience and some of the top industry experts.

gillian higgins horses inside out conference 2020

She shared with us how every rider has a strategy to absorb the movement of the horse that is influenced by their:

  • anatomy

  • physiology

  • skill

  • horse

  • goals

  • confidence

Celeste’s evaluation of rider strategies requires lots of data points on the rider’s bodies, of as many riders as possible on the same horse.

This is where the Racewood Event Simulator and Qualisys motion capture cameras come in.

The cameras track markers placed on the riders down to the millimetre allowing Celeste to compare riders using numbers, such as angles, displacement and velocity.

gillian higgins horses inside out conference 2020

What has Celeste’s research told her so far?

Study 1:

A systematic review of rider research

This research focussed on comparing elite riders with novice riders.

Novices range in experience from complete beginners to 3+yrs


The research showed that the advanced riders:

  • have more stable movement patterns

  • rely less on visual cues

  • sit centrally in the saddle

Study 2:

Does static pelvic posture or competition level predict dynamic pelvic tilt?

In this study 35 female riders currently competing at BD or FEI levels rode the riding simulator.

Motion capture was used to assess the rider’s sagittal pelvic tilt (anterior/neutral/posterior) at halt and in med walk/trot/left & right canter.


Statistics suggest that static capture or competition level cannot predict the rider’s dynamic posture.

What’s next?

Celeste next plans to study the factors that influence the rider’s movement, with the aim to indentify the factors that influence rider’s trunk and seat movement.

Why is this important?

Understanding how you/your clients ride will make for better coaching, more efficient rider rehabilitation and off-horse training that focuses on the rider’s needs.

From an equine musculoskeletal perspective, if you can find ways to help rider’s improve their seat, balance and the way they absorb the horse’s movement, we will be helping horses carry the rider more easily and may be able to prevent some musculoskeletal problems developing due to unbalanced or poor riding.

Thank you for visiting my blog today.

In my next blog installment I would like to share with you some of the trade stands that were exhibiting at the conference over the weekend.

Thank you to Horses Inside Out for allowing me access to their professional images.

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