What’s the Connection Between Your Myofascia and Horseback Riding?

What does fascia have to with riding horses?

Rider Position, Spinal Twist

horse-rider-skeleton-1How many of us have an imbalance between the right and left sides of our body?  Probably just about everyone.  It particulary shows up when riding.  I myself have trouble with my left shoulder girdle and my right hip,  Interestingly, I recently came across a theory in “Anatomy Trains” by Thomas Myers that explains some of these disparities between our right and left sides.  First let me give some background in myofascial release.

What exactly is fascia?

Fascia is the fibrous body or connective tissue that holds the body together. It is a mesh or web that infiltrates every part of the living body and acts as a glue. Without it the body would be a puddle of gooey mess and bones on the floor. If one could remove all of the other components in the body and just leave the fascia you would still have the shape and look of the body. Damage to this system causes distortions in the system and therefore compensations and pain. Sometimes these symptoms are not near the located site of distortion. Strain on muscles or fascia for whatever reason (injury, improper posture and training, overuse etc.) will create trigger points and also a electric charge. This electric charge will travel through the fascia to surrounding muscles and beyond (in both directions along the meridians lines) causing distortions along these lines. This snag in fascia is communicated across the entire system below conscious awareness and the body creates a change in shape in the connective tissue that stays unless altered for better or worse.  Releasing these restrictions not only bring the body back into balance and allows us to use our body more properly and efficiently but also relieves pain.

Thomas Myers writes about the lines along the body called fascial meridians where the strain will “run” and connect to various body parts.  This is why one may have a pain in one part of the body but need a fascial release in another part of the body to relieve it.  One such meridian that I want to discuss today is the Spiral Line.  First let me say that dysfunction in the spiral line usually involves and affects other fascial meridians lines.  However, as it relates to my own body’s imbalance I found it extremely interesting.

The spiral line begins at the junction of the occipital bone with the temporal bone on the back of the head.  It crosses over the mid line and wraps underneath the opposite scapula, around the rib cage, crossing the mid line again to the iliac crest.  From here traverses down the anterior lateral part of the leg, into the arch of the medial foot, across the foot to the lateral side of the heel, up the lateral side of the leg, across the buttocks then up the back alongside the spinal column and finally ending on the occipital.   Remember this runs bilaterally connecting each shoulder to the opposite iliac crest.  The spiral line also plays a role in the diagonal pair lameness we commonly see in horses.

However, more importantly is the common compensatory postures that arise from restrictions anywhere along this line.  They include ankle pronation or supination, knee rotation, ilio tibial (IT) band problems, pelvic rotation, rib rotation in relation to the pelvis, one shoulder lifted or anteriorly displaced, and a head tilt or rotation.  In me this manifests as a problem with my right shoulder high, left shoulder girdle including ribs displaced and pulled to my right iliac crest which makes my right hip seems to float in nowhereville.  To compensate then I have trouble with uneven leg length issues.

Body work is needed on the splenius, rhomboids, all the attachments on the anterior spine of the iliac crest, iliotibial tract, tibialis major, peroneus, biceps femoris, sacral tuberous ligament, sacral fascia and erector spinae muscles.

Fascia and Riding Horses

So what does this all mean?  It means that the fascial restrictions in the spiral line and sometimes other fascial meridian lines are responsible for the postural rotation or spinal twist we feel and see in our riding.  For instance, if the rib cage is restricted and protracted on one side it will involve the shoulder pulling the upper back and lower neck toward the shoulder.  In relation the opposite side of the pelvis will also shift toward the lower shoulder.  The sternum may collapse and the head tilt forward.  Finally one or more knees may rotate inward or outward, and the ankles may develop tightness.

How do we correct it?  One by working on it while riding and teaching yourself to let go of holding patterns.  This can be a slow and painful process but teaching yourself positional awareness is an important tool in body balance.  Second, yoga exercises.  In particular, spinal twist poses like the Triangle pose and the Seated twist, Warrior pose and Upward Dog.  Third, go for treatment in acupressure, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy that release myo-fascial restrictions.


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