As the longest-serving President of the International Society of Rider Biomechanics, it has been my honor to help host the International Symposium of Rider Biomechanics every year in Lexington Kentucky co-hosted with the University of Kentucky, Asbury University,Midway University, Kentucky Horse Park and the world’s most prestigious speakers from around the world (Luis Lucio, Anneke Roodt, Dr. Fernanda Carmargo etc).
The Symposiums are filmed from beginning to end and 2013, 2014 and 2015 are available from the ISRB.
After 34 years of judging, the only Official Judge ever to get 100% in the judge’s exam, I know what the answer is – simplicity. Seat and posture coaching often becomes so difficult to remember, it’s impossible…we’re here to make science simple!
Sports Biomechanics…mechanics of any athlete, any sport
Everyone has now seen athletes on push bikes with a bunch of electrodes stuck to them, and breathing into a tube, measuring every part of the rider’s fitness, seat, position & balance. That’s what I’ve done as an Exercise Physiologist since the 1970’s, and now as a Visiting Adjunct Professor in Sports Biomechanics here in the USA my job is to make all the “technical stuff” easy for the beginner rider and the Olympian to easily understand, repeat, and increase performance.
Biomechanics is USELESS…
After working at UNSW for 8 years in a different field of research, now was the time to take my own sport, dressage, and work from the pure science end. It didn’t take long to figure out shouting “watch your 2nd metatarsal phalangeal joint and the relationship to the outside of the greater trochanter of the femur” is useless when a beginner is losing the reins, already lost one stirrup half hanging off bolting down the road and terrified.
Basically…the mechanics and theory and big complicated “science words” don’t matter any more when you’re jumping massive downhills at Badminton & Rolex! You’ll only be able to think of 1 or 2 things at the most and the relationship between your metatarsals and trochanters won’t be one of them! We want to get science and almost boil it down to what Mom would yell at you across a paddock when fluffy the pony is bolting off…the IMPORTANT stuff in 1 or 2 easy words that anyone can understand and repeat.
The same goes for the Olympians, Para-Olympians and World Champions I work with…just the tiniest change, the “one point” to think about as you’re coming into the pirouette. Or the “one point” to concentrate on when your piaffe is falling on the forehand…not on the horse…on YOU! What one single thing in YOU put that horse on the forehand, and how can we INSTANTLY correct it.
I even had one pupil say to me after Beijing and say “all I thought about was my left thumb, I couldn’t believe how things changed, how straight the horse was in the tempis – my thumb – seriously – I got 2 extra marks because of my thumb“.
No more games…
Remember the egg and spoon race when you were a kid. Remember bending and barrels and sack races.
The egg and spoon race MADE you have good hands partly because of the exercise, partly because you were not thinking of HOW to do it, what muscles, what tendons, what ligaments, what loads, what forces, what leverages…instead you were thinking “keep the egg still”… it’s INSTANT! (and more fun than thinking about some deep muscle somewhere in your body that controls your stability). We have FORCED your hand still – not by worrying about which tendon was involved – but on concentrating on the egg!
Sports Biomechanics is like an Olympic Level egg and spoon race….the higher level exercises literally MAKE your body INSTANTLY take up the correct position for that movement…literally instantly. Heels down, swinging legs, quarters always left or right, head tilt in half pass, horses on the forehand – are all rider-related problems – and could SO EASILY be a thing of the past!
For the beginner it’s a life safer, but at the other end of the scale biomechanics for the WEG & Olympic rider “fine tunes” the pirouettes so you don’t lose bend, it “livens up” your half pass so it doesn’t die half way through. Biomechanics – your seat and position – helps you change tiny things in your body to instantly get as much engagement as the horse is ready for, and ultimately when the rider is really in position, SELF carriage – with no attempt at all to get the horse on the bit…the horse puts THEMSELVES on the bit. The less the rider does – the higher the submission mark.
That’s why, around the world, people are RUSHING to get biomechanics-specialist coaches who work on YOU, the rider, in addition to the horse.