This week we caught up with to Harry Hall sponsored rider Naomi Oliver and her mum, Mattie, to hear about a recent session with rider physio specialist Hannah Gadsden from Rider Focus Physiotherapy. Hannah specialises in helping riders in recovery from injury while improving balance symmetry and performance in all equestrian disciplines.


Over to you Mattie:

The expression should be ‘live like a pony, not a king'.

Our ponies, like most, live the life of Riley. On top of the daily pampering, kisses, treats, comfy beds and nutritionally correct diets, we make certain they are fit to perform with regular physio. They have a session every eight weeks, which works alongside a tailored fitness program. We are always looking to identify their weaknesses so that we can strengthen and improve these areas.

But it’s not just about the horses, we are a team, and riders must improve their effectiveness and fitness as well. Improving the rider’s position will not only benefit you, but can have a positive effect on the horses we ride too.

Most commonly human physios are used, but we discovered a whole host of benefits by switching to Hannah from Rider Focus Physio. For those of you who don’t know, Hannah is a qualified physiotherapist who is specially trained and educated in treating horse riders.


The problem:


Naomi is always working hard to improve her riding and has been struggling to bend her ponies to the right, as she is quite noticeably left-sided.

This is where the lovely Hannah comes in, she radiates happiness and is so welcoming – a great first impression, especially for a child! The two of them had a real laugh together. Hannah brought along an array of interesting items – she started by putting Naomi into a specially designed jacket before videoing Naomi riding in all three paces on both reins to assess what was going on in the saddle.

Following this, a variety of 'off the horse' exercises were performed to gain further insight. These started with Naomi lying on the physio couch, in the corner of the arena with her pony Buddy watching. This beats a sterilised treatment room for a pony-mad child!

Hannah then used a combination of muscle release, muscle activation, trigger points and soft tissue work, firing up some sleepy muscles to balance the weak and tight muscles. This aims to make the right side mimic the left so when riding, Naomi can give equal signals from the left and right leg - pretty crucial stuff.

Naomi hopped back on Buddy and instantly there was a notable improvement to her position! Hannah then launched straight into using a variety of tools to help raise Naomi’s awareness of her own body and reinforce a correct and effective seat. We have learned so many fun tricks with balls and resistance bands!


There's really nothing to worry about:

As a parent, I was a little concerned about having someone point out Naomi’s weaknesses thinking it could be discouraging for her. Hannah made sure that Naomi knew that all riders, even the best in the world, are uneven and have to work on their position constantly. This made Naomi feel confident and completely at ease.

Hannah left Naomi with exercises to improve her core stability, let’s just say I wish she showed the same enthusiasm for her schoolwork!


Top advice:

Don’t make the mistake of thinking rider physio is only for elite riders, it’s an incredibly insightful tool - arguably, far better than going to a treatment room with someone who has not seen you in the saddle. Hannah is a specialised professional who truly understands horse riding and the demands it has on the human body.

Check out Hannah's website for more information on her services - www.riderfocusphysiotherapy.co.uk