Common examples of how muscle imbalances negatively impact riders:

Susie spends a lot of time on the computer for work, and reading in her down time. She has her head craned forward much of the time, which has resulted in chronically over active cervical (neck) extensors (muscles on the back of the neck that are active to cause this neck position). These over- active extensor muscles reciprocally inhibit the cervical flexors which bring the head and neck into proper alignment. This makes it hard or impossible for Susie to bring her head and neck into the correct posture, because her neck flexors and neurologically inhibited by the extensors, so she has reduced access to these muscles. This also effects shoulder kinematics, and her over active neck extensors start to take over from muscles such as the middle and lower trapezius muscles when she tries to do shoulder and upper back exercises to correct her posture. This continues the vicious cycle as the neck extensors continue to become more over-active and the flexors continue to be inhibited and more under- active as a result. This is beginning to cause Susie shoulder pain as well. She cannot get her shoulders back when riding, even though her and her coach have been working on it for years. No matter what she does, she cannot have soft hands, and her and her horse lean on each other via the reins.

Another example would be Craig who worked out for many years, but when doing upper body workouts, only focused on chest and biceps brachii exercises, but neglected their antagonists, upper back muscles and triceps. As a result, the latter muscles became underactive and continue to be underactive through reciprocal inhibition. Craig has started to have shoulder pain as a result of the effects on the shoulder joint from these muscle imbalances he unknowingly created by choosing a work out program based purely on his desired aesthetics. When he was advised by his physiotherapist to engage the underactive muscles as part of his therapy program, he feels like these muscles are in a “black hole of awareness”, and he cannot feel them engaging, as much as he tries. When he rides he has rounded shoulders and always has a backwards pull on the reins. Due to a tight overactive chest, his hands roll inward, making “bear paws”. None of his horses go well in the contact, and he has developed biceps tendonitis.

 Louise rides hunter jumpers, and has short stirrups and rides perched very forward. She also sits for much of the day, driving for work. All this time spent with her hip joint flexed, and a forward lean of her trunk, has resulted in over active hip flexor muscles and spinal extensor muscles of her lower back , and inhibited glutes and abdominals. This reduces her ability to stabilize herself on the horse, and interferes with her ability to absorb force through the joints in her legs and prevents her from following the horse with her pelvis when she does try to sit in full seat. All of this then results in her using more muscle tension to stay on, and contributes to the vicious cycle of all of this getting worse. As many people with this pattern do, she has started to have lower back and hip pain. She was advised by her personal trainer to strengthen her abs and glutes more, to correct the pattern, and she thinks she is doing the exercises properly. She is not actually recruiting these muscles as well as she should be however, because they are reciprocally inhibited by their overactive antagonists, and she does not know what correct engagement feels like because it has been so many years since she felt these under active muscles get engaged properly. She also is told to stretch her hip flexors, and has been show how to perform the stretches. However she feels like she stretches and stretches but her hip flexors always feel tight. She cannot get her horses to use their hind ends well when riding, and as a result they are very on the forehand.

Brad uses his body un-evenly due to work, driving most of the day. He leans to the left against his car door, and his right hip flexors and quads are over active, his right glute medius is under active. When he rides, his horses have difficulty bending to the left. He has trouble sitting in the center of the horse, and he has pain in his right hip when loping to the left. He has trouble sitting on his right seat bone, and when he asks his horses to perform sliding stops, they often come out of the ground with their right hind leg.