Did You Know that Dressage Riding can Increases the Risk for Both Asymmetry and Pain?


We believe in science based development. We are sharing different scientific studies that prove the importance of a good seat. Since the communication between rider and horse is predominately embodied and depending of the quality of the rider’s seat.
rider in the saddle

There is a common opinion in equestrian sport that symmetry in riders is desired, but it has been indicated that riders often have anatomical and functional asymmetry that could put both riders and horses’ health at risk. Symmetry, strength, and flexibility was assessed in a large population of riders to determine whether typical traits existed due to riding.


The aim of the study was to determine whether anatomical asymmetry (leg length, pelvis and shoulder height), functional asymmetry (trunk lateral bending and axial rotation range of motion (ROM) during sitting) and dynamical asymmetry (grip strength) were prevalent in a larger population of riders.


Results showed that riding influence the rider’s body to become more asymmetrical. The longer riders had been riding, the larger pelvis asymmetry was found resulting in that riders’ pelvis was higher on the right side compared to the left. Right grip strength was greater for all groups, which would be expected for a right-handed population and grip strength was correlated with muscle mass.


Moreover, the lateral bending to the left was also reduced in higher level riders that had ridden for a longer amount of time. This may be attributed to asymmetric shoulder height, suggesting that strength and therefore muscle development is greater on the right side of the body. Moreover, a trend was seen in riders with postural defects developing back and/or neck pain with an increasing level of competition.


How was the study performed?

127 right-handed riders from the UK and USA were categorized according to years riding and their competition level. Leg length, grip strength and spinal posture were measured and recorded by a physiotherapist. Standing and sitting posture and trunk flexibility were measured with 3-D motion capture technology. Right-left differences were explored in relation to years riding and rider competitive experience. 

Functional asymmetry showed a significant interaction for lateral bending and axial rotation ROM across years riding x competition level. This implies that more years of riding correlate with reduced ROM.


The conclusion.

The demands on dressage riders competing at higher levels may predispose these riders to a higher risk of developing asymmetry and potentially chronic back pain rather than improving their symmetry. It is suggested that further studies would be warranted to develop educational strategies including methods of how to decrease these risks.

Here you will find summaries of scientific articles that explains more.


S. J. Hobbs, J. Baxter, L. Broom, L-A. Rossell, J. Sinclair, and H. M. Clayton. Posture, Flexibility and Grip Strength in Horse Riders. Journal of Human Kinetics volume 42/2014, 113-125.