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What is physical balance? Balance is what keeps us upright, allows us to recognise our position relative to other objects around us, and control our movement. Three systems - visual, vestibular, and somatosensory - work together to achieve and maintain your body's balance. By providing diverse sensory inputs, these systems help regulate your balance without requiring  intellectual analysis; in other words, you feel it, rather than think it. 

Why do I need it?  Horse riding requires balancing on an unstable, moving object! 

How do I improve it? The SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) applies to balancing and tells us that if we want to be good at balancing on both stable and unstable surfaces, we must train on both types of surfaces. Our training must also challenge all three systems AND integrate them with more complex movements. 

At the most recent Rider Development Clinic with Aspire Equestrian we worked with some of our riders on training their balance systems to improve their riding progress: 

Somatosensory (proprioception): Rider goal - improving balance in light seat, in all gaits. She identified that her workout programme focused on strength (fabulous!) so we adapted this to incorporate a set on the bosu, a wide flat but unstable surface, to challenge her proprioception. 

Visual: Rider goal - improving her posture to gain a higher dressage score. We observed that her head was drawn forward/down on both the horse and the wobble boards. We explored a visual training exercise (eyes closed, stable surface, varied feet positions) which then improved her balance back on the unstable surfaces and in the saddle. 

Somatosensory (proprioception): Rider goal - improving posture to positively influence her horse. Whilst the rider had a good ability to remain upright (balance), we observed asymmetries in her squat and seat. She could see this in the mirror and the bands added sensory feedback so that she could feel this in the saddle. A plan was established to address the muscular imbalances.

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