AERC Donna Snyder-Smith on The Biomechanical Partnership
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Achieve greater speed, distance and soundness w better rider biomechanics. Donna Snyder-Smith. Donna Snyder Smith endurance guru.
March 11, 2013 @ 12:26p IDK why the links are not showing up…. am working on that… they are here, inserted correctly. Feel free just to look up the products on your own.
I saw Donna Snyder Smith ( DSS from hereonin) at PNER convention one year and just was flat out impressed. How about that idea of ensuring that you are balanced and fit and ready to be a partner for your horse? What a concept that us as riders being *sided* can lead to unsoundness in our horses? Yeah. Well. That.
A small bit of history of mine that may resonate with allaya’ll… I was fit and happy and going to the gym in March 2010. Then, my stepmom *Rock* was diagnosed with lung cancer and my beloved dad Harry (civil engineer extraordinaire) with dementia (actually he had had it for 3 years prior, but my stepmom was taking care of him and them). My whole life turned upside down as I started spending more and more time in California, with them, trying to forestall the inevitable but also just making sure I got my time with them as we were very close. I don’t live in CA, I live in WA state. I also have a husband, horses, cat, godchildren, a job, students, and responsibilities to handle here at home. My life went tipsy topsy turvy and what was not included in the next two years until they both passed away within 3 weeks of each other, was exercise for me. Grief and stress really took a toll on my fitness as well as my drive to be more fit. I gained weight and am less fit. I hate it but there you go. This year, 2013 I am just now starting to feel as though I should try to get my life back in order—Gym regularly, Zumba perhaps? I need to be more fit.
So, here I am feeling guilty for stressing my horses out already and here comes Donna Snyder Smith. I know you all know that when you are fit and happy, information hits differently than when you are overweight, unfit, sad, and just feeling a lot less like yourself. The latter is me; but hopefully am coming out of that funk now with renewed spirit and vigor albeit 2 years older, now…..
DSS has a world of experience, years and years and YEARS of it, she says to us, * most of what I am going to share with you comes from 1990 onward* Ok…. AND two pieces of information came from her that bear listening very hard to: 1) She is considering herself retired now and 2) she said we all need to start paying real close attention to someone named Michael *Beasely*— read his work, get ourselves to a clinic…. She emphasized that REALLY strongly. OK then…. She is retiring but she has passed gospel on someone newer, younger, and someone SHE respects. That’s GOOD! However, my hard of hearing says she said Michael *Beasely*, however, that is a basketball player. I THINK she may have meant Michael Peace? But, I have emailed her for verification and will edit this post when her reply comes in. Michael Peace is in the UK, hoping there is someone closer….
One of the many many many things I so enjoy about DSS is her use of audience volunteers as models for what she is talking about. Her presentations are interactive, lively and ring true, and work!
Her talk could also be called *taking care of horse AND rider*, or *Endurance is a sport of partnership, because of the distances we go with our horses*. If we neglect our half of the partnership we may have issues such as lameness, being pulled from rides, non completion. She had a quote of which I lost the last word…
*Dead Last is greater than did not finish and did not finish trumps_____* anyone catch that last word? LMK please!
Donna Snyder Smith, AERC convention, March 8-9, 2013 Reno, NV.
She then went on… it is best to ride by balance, we learned this via interactively partnering up and using *grip* vs *balance* to ride whereupon you and your partner are variously the horse and then the rider, using your cupped hands on each other’s rib cage, guiding as though you are riding. It actually *hurts* to have someone GRIPPING your rib cage. Well, yeah, and I have personally been told by my trainer that I have very strong adductors so if I grip, I am saying GO GO GO and sending my horse down the trail fast and all spun up, rather than relaxed. If I reflect on two starts in two different races— I had just had a lesson and was practicing at the start of one race and me and my very high energy gelding started smooth and relaxed, whereupon, I did not do that at the start of another race and he worked himself into such a tizzy that his heart rate did not come down for 30 min at the 25-30 mile vet ck. He was actually OK, I was just riding HORRIBLY. I am still learning, and am learning to ride all over again, which is why I am taking centered riding lessons, it really helps me with my high energy horses. RIDE BY BALANCE, NOT BY GRIP!
DSS then used audience participation to illustrate the horse, its’ back, the biomechanics of horse movement, and how we, as riders, can interfere or help our horses move more freely. Horses are really NOT designed for riding, thus we add weight to the horse’s back, and we must also ask the horse to carry us correctly by asking our horses to lift their backs, by talking to their belly muscles. We must ask the horse to use its’ back correctly to carry us to strengthen their back muscles. Which means if we are riding correctly and doing the best with our half, our horses backs will strengthen, backs will widen as back muscles develop. My pea brain went * Duh, SADDLE FIT!* I have been having saddle fit issues, my horses both have backs that are wide, but, the saddles that fit last two years do not fit anymore. Any of you in saddle fit hell?
As riders, we need to think proportionally. We need to ride in the middle of our horse, but there are two axes upon which to measure the middle. Longitudinally (head to tail), and side to side. Therefore my own body needs to be in alignment and developed on both sides. (See personal note, above, again, I used to be better).
You can run a test on yourself: here is how: stand square in front of a mirror, in a relaxed position, are my shoulders level? Can I place a carpenters’ level shoulder to shoulder in front and have the level be level? YES? NO? Usually we all have a side that is tighter, due to pelvis alignment or drop or tight muscles or pelvis rotation. This results in differential weight on the horse and in the stirrups. Visualize this, I am sitting on my horse with my rotated pelvis moved back, right hip back, left hip fwd. This results in fatigue, and preferring one side (have we ever wondered why it is so easy to post in one direction? Yeah, well….. go do that leveling exercise). This off positioning of our body can result in the horse adjusting to us, causing spasms in the back, because we are choking the horse’s movement on one side; short stride on one side, regular stride on the other— over 50 miles? UGH! Attention Endurance riders: A thought….. a shortened stride adds to completion time and wears our horses and us out….. YIKES!
DSS gave us a prescription: YOGA is imperative to open our groin areas and get elasticity. GO TO THE GYM, GO DOO YOGA, Do not use your horse as a GYM machine. oops…Ok. Yes. I should do that. I know that. I should do that. I am not holding up my half of this partnership.
Best to push a little bit, and back off and then push a bit more the next day, you will get more stretch. Pay NO attention to the No Pain no Gain. Pain causes your body to say * uh uh, no way, no more, and back off and do less because pain is the marker that says STOP THAT, you dullard*
We all need to build core strength. You can measure or diagnose your core strength by two exercises:
a) on the floor, all fours, stretch opposite leg and arm out until you shake… the side you shake less and can hold longer is your dominant side.
b) Using a mounting block, or steps, stand next to the step sideways to the step, life that leg, place it on the step, and lift/stand straight up—what happens? Do you tip? Do you protect something? Can you do it strongly and straightly? Now try the other side, and then repeat using a higher step.
Another DSS prescription: we need to test ourselves like this 3-4X a year to see how we are doing and what we need to work on.
Also, and just as important, if we ride off balance, we can impact our horse’s mental state, as well as physical state. Uh oh….. I am really paying attention now. And, she says, the more sensitive horses are impacted faster so do pay attention.
Newsflash from DSS— about riding correctly: Stirrups are not meant to stand in!!!!!! You wait for the horse’s motion to throw your pelvis up; don’t sit back down before the horse’s front foot is UNDER you. Keep your knee joint loose, ankle joint flexion unlocked, (slightly turned in). Post LIGHTLY, 1/3 of your weight in the stirrups and 2/3 on your inner thigh with NO TENSION. DSS said during rising trot she should be able to come over and poke her finger in your inner thigh and go easily all the way do the bone. WOW! I can see myself trying that….. and my friends putting the video on FB! LOL. Here’s an exercise for ya: tap your stirrup with the ball of your foot DURING the rise at the posting trot. Let’s Go do that and report back allya’ll
DSS took a break in the middle for some commercials awesome….. she said when she was in the peak of her career and had a barn full of horses she could use her barn as a *test barn* however, she no longer ha that so she passed on some of the items that she would have tested at her barn and is recommending we test them/go explore them because they sound good to her:
1. Rice bran has a been a real boon to our sport and there is a new product that has coconut and flax added called RenewGold™ website of The Phoenix company that makes it
2. EquineClot® Trauma Gauze ™ this product is said to stem arterial blood flow in 2-3 minutes. It is hemostatic gauze; go read about it and get some for your trailer and trail first aid packs. Website here:
Purina folks said it should take about 10 minutes for the block about 4x2x6 inches block. IF your horse cannot have alfalfa at all, you cannot use this product. BONUS for us endurance riders is that this is hay that holds water. The people at the Purina booth were inundated after DSS’ talk and after one lady held her FREE SAMPLE up for us all to see. We were thankful they were there, They were thankful for DSS’ endorsement, Thank you Purina People for the free sample, cannot WAIT to test it and see if my horses will EAT it. NOTE: They, my horses, Bella and Chance, were less than impressed with the compressed weed seed free hay horse triscuits we bought for a Mt Adams ride. I would LOVE it if they will eat this product!
4. On to another topic, and another new product—of which we need to test 3-4X a year, is equine ulcers. Studies show (she did not provide those studies) that 70-90% of horses trailered have ulcers; there is now an at home equine ulcer diagnosis for hind gut and GI tract ulcers. However, the Treatment still needs to come from your veterinarian
5. Back on Track® has a new fabric with a ceramic element that retains and reflects heat; I think it is called Welltex fabric. DSS was envisioning us using the products i.e. butt rugs and blankets to help cold muscles retain warmth and stay flexible. Here is the link to Back on Track®
Back on Track therapeutic mesh sheet
The conclusion of DSS’ presentation was * ok, back to the humans*:
It’s a partnership…..Go down the trail, stay in the middle remember your horse will form a mental and physical state due to our balance or imbalance, and physical discomfort.
My own resolutions: Back the gym try Zumba classes ( Grand Sierra had walk in gym classes and I tried Zumba for the very first time and am thinking it might be for me because it is more like dancing to sexy music along with cardio and muscle strength) and YOGA! Yeah…. I massage my horses and do yoga with them, why not pay attention to me as well?