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How the Rider Influences the Horse

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Earlier on this year I was lucky to be invited by Gillian Higgins to be part of the team involved in filming this Autumn’s Webinar Wednesday Series of Live Lecture Demonstrations.

You can find out more about the filming days in my previous blog.

I have been waiting patiently ever since to be able to watch the final demos on screen. And finally Episode 2 – Riding from an Anatomical Perspective is here and available to watch in the Horses Inside Out Online Academy.

gillian higgins horses inside out online academy link photograph

Having been there in person for the painting, preparation and filming of this demo, and even being in it! I knew pretty much what to expect. But it’s amazing how different things can look on camera and how much more detail you can see from the film that you can easily miss when you watch in person.

gillian higgins horses inside out filming school painted horse muscles cameraman

I watched the demo live when Gillian streamed it as part of Webinar Wednesdays. This gives us all as participants a chance to ask questions as the demo plays and it’s so interesting to hear the questions people think of and ask and then have the opportunity to learn even more from Gillian about something that may not be covered in it’s entirety in the demo itself.

So even though I had watched the filming of the demo in person I was still able to learn something new!

What’s also really cool about the lecture demonstration being filmed is that after the live version is aired you get a recording to watch at your leisure for the next 7 days OR you can purchase a lifetime copy from the Horses Inside Out Academy. This means you can stop, rewind and replay as much as you like which really helps with making notes or seeing things in more detail.

I feel like I could watch this demo over and over and still either learn something new each time or begin to understand something I already know about at a much deeper level.

In my previous blog I gave some examples of what Gillian had talked about that resonated with me on the day.

A few months on and watching the full demo again it was a different part of the lecture that resonated with me.

It’s so interesting to me how this can happen, I guess it depends on what is relevant to you at the particular time you watch it?

Anyways, this time my notes were all in relation to posture.

gillian higgins horses inside out posture in relation to back spine thoracic verterbrae
(Posture in relation to the back)

This is not a new concept to me, spending time with Gillian over the last 18 months has taught me a lot about the posture of the horse and why it is so important.

gillian higgins horses inside out demonstration painted horse descending transverse pectorals pecs
(Posture in relation to the Thoracic Sling muscles (Yes that’s me on the right!))

Gillian has a previous webinar recording that is purely based around the horse’s posture, how to recognise good and poor posture and useful exercises to help create good posture. You can find out more about that one in my previous blog.

But what I thought about more when watching this demo of horse and rider together was how the posture of the rider and the horse are related.

And how important it is for the rider to have good posture and musculoskeletal performance ‘rider fitness’ as this will directly influence the way that the horse is able to move underneath the rider.

gillian higgins horses inside out painted horse rider skeleton suit poor posture

I am an Equine Massage Therapist and regularly see how much hard work my clients put into their horse’s physical health, working on fitness, strength, symmetry, and musculoskeletal performance but then they don’t put the same thought and effort into their own.

Riding is a partnership, if you want your horse to perform to their very best you need to work on yourself too!

And this doesn’t just go for riding but mounting too. A poor mounting technique can also affect your horse’s posture and could possibly cause musculoskeletal discomfort which will lead to a lack of performance.

gillian higgins horses inside out screen shot poll mounting

Gillian does a great job of demonstrating the effects of the rider on the horse in this demo. Fascinating to watch.

Another thing I loved was when Gillian talked about the importance of cardiovascular fitness for good posture.

gillian higgins horses inside out demonstration painted horses serratus ventralis cervicis thoracis muscles thoracic sling

I think a lot of people think about strengthening exercises and slow and controlled exercise, which is of course very useful. But many of the horses I see on a day to day basis simply aren’t fit enough to have good posture.

In the demo Gillian demonstrates how the canter is the only gait that gets the horse’s abdominal line and back continually shortening, lengthening and shortening again. Just like doing a bunch of sit-ups!

So we should all be getting out there and cantering our horses more and reaping the benefits 😊

I am really looking forward to next month coming around now so I can get to watch part 3 of the series ‘Dressage Dissected’ played in full and seeing what else I can learn.


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Leonore Laidler
Leonore Laidler
24 nov 2021

That is so interesting about cantering and getting the horse fit, i have heard people say that a horse is naturally fit which I knew could not be right. Thanks so much for the information. :)

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