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Posture and Your Horse's Well-Being

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

Good horsemanship and correct training are two key parts of the puzzle when it comes to your horse being able to perform at his best. Another major factor in this complex puzzle and vital for every ridden horse's comfort and well-being is good posture. Ignore it at your peril and you'll discover that without good posture it's not possible for your horse to be truly physically fit and he'll not be able to reach his full potential.

gillian higgins horses inside out posture painted horse muscles

What is Posture?

Posture is the position in which the body is held and is maintained through a harmonious muscular and skeletal balance where each joint is correctly aligned and each muscle is working efficiently and correctly.

When your horse is moving, posture refers to self-carriage and optimum balance. Without good balance your horse can’t carry himself comfortably and efficiently.

Each discipline has different postural requirements – it doesn’t matter what breed your horse is, his conformation or type, good posture will make the best of his conformation.

If you take nothing else from this blog, think of yourself as your horse’s personal trainer - you are responsible for looking after his well-being and his posture.

Good posture = good health. Anatomically, good posture is important for the efficient functioning of your horse’s body.

Benefits of Good Posture

  • It keeps bones and joints correctly aligned to enable correct functioning of the musculoskeletal system during all weight-bearing activities

  • Minimises abnormal wear of joint surfaces that can result in premature degeneration

  • Decreases stress on ligaments, tendons and fascia

  • Prevents the back becoming fixed in an over-extended position

  • Ensures muscles are used effectively and efficiently

  • Allows optimum functioning of the internal organs

  • Allows the nervous system to work efficiently

The Effects of Poor Posture

The consequences of long-term poor posture can have a detrimental effect on soft tissue, where your horse will find even the most basic movements tiring and uncomfortable. This can affect his temperament and behaviour and stop your training progressing.

There a many factors that can contribute to poor posture:

  • Pain

  • Lack of fitness

  • Poorly balanced rider

  • Psychological tension, resistance

  • Carrying a rider that’s too heavy for too long

  • Working in an inappropriate outline for the horse’s age and level of training

  • Obesity

  • Poor hoof balance

  • Dental issues

  • Immobility – too much time in the stable with lack of space to move

Promote Good Posture

The subject of equine posture is a big one and there’s so much you can do to help your horse to promote and maintain good posture.

The four main mechanisms that influence your horse’s posture are:

  1. Positioning of the head and neck

  2. Positioning of the hindlegs

  3. Positioning of the thorax

  4. Development and tone of the flexor and extensor chain of muscle

Want to learn more?

Join us on our Assessing Posture and Movement course where Gillian will share with you her system for assessing equine posture and movement.

This course is ideal for equine therapists, therapy students, coaches, instructors, farriers, and judges wishing to hone their skills and better understand posture, biomechanics and movement.

Alternatively, get your hands on a copy of Posture and Performance. This really is a must-have book that covers in detail training your horse from the anatomical perspective.

There's a whole chapter dedicated to the subject of posture - plus numerous exercises that will help to promote and improve your horse's posture.

We're not quite done yet - if you like a spot of online learning direct to your computer at home, head over to the Horses Inside Out Academy where you'll find a number of recorded webinars to purchase.

If you are interested in improving your horse's posture we recommend: Understanding and Assessing Your Horse's Posture and Poles for Posture

gillian higgins horses inside out a system for assessing posture painted horses skeleton


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