The health of the human body is judged by its range of movement. Why then have we not made this same assessment of range of movement a fundamental element in working with horses? It is essential that we – the riders, trainers, and instructors – develop our awareness of what full range of movement is, and use this as our guideline of good riding.
As a “rider, trainer, teacher.
Physiotherapists look at the mobility of the body and how it can be improved. Should we be doing anything less?
When you work with physiotherapists who work on humans, one of the phrases that you will hear most often is “range of movement”. “He has limited ‘range of movement’, we were able to increase her ‘range of movement’, his ‘range of movement’ has decreased.”
Checking the range of movement of any one joint informs the physiotherapist as to the health of that joint and the body in general.
Injury, lack of exercise, and improper use can all lead to limited range of movement. We must carefully assess both the rider and the horse for full range of movement, as limited range of movement often leads to even more limited range of movement.
A typical example … if the muscles are not moved through their full normal range, they will become tight. This is called a contracture. If the muscles can’t move the joints through their full range of movement, they do not get the chance to work properly and can become weak.
Obviously, this is true of horses, limit the range of movement through training or riding techniques, and you will also limit the muscles’ ability to work properly; and we thus weaken the horse, rather than strengthen him.
When we ride, when we train, we must keep full range of movement as one of the single-most important things that we must maintain to provide full health to the horse. Otherwise, our riding literally becomes detrimental to the horse.
We must welcome the power of the whole horse and his full range of motion if we are going to ride him in such a way that is healthy for our horse.
ANYTHING that we do that limits the full range of movement of our horse is, in effect, a negative influence upon our horse. Any equipment that we use that limits full range of movement of the horse is a negative influence upon his physical health, as we limit the mobility of the horse.
The question then becomes: what do we use as our benchmark of the full range of movement of the horse?
Understanding and learning the “range of movement” of each individual joint seems to be a forgotten element in the process of training horses, yet it should be part of the foundation – one of the fundamental skills that we develop.
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