RIDING IN HARMONY - Ella improves her riding posture, balance and strength

Earlier this year Horse Answers Today together with Human Movement Systems launched a competition for one lucky reader to win a course of biomechanics coaching sessions. 

ELLA IMAGE 2 Opening meet 2013

Ella Yabbacome-Laycock- Ivory, 23 year old BHS qualified riding instructor from Nottinghamshire was that lucky person. Ella, a freelance teacher, is in the process of establishing her own business, YLI Equestrian. She currently has three horses, a dog, cat, rabbit and long suffering husband. Life really does revolve around the horses; "I ride every day, from one hour to 4 hours depending on how many horses’ I have to ride and what they are training for. I drag hunt every weekend on my super reliable horse Mr. Cobby and also enjoy competing in various disciplines during the summer". 

hms Specialised biomechanics coach Libby Upton met Ella to find out more about her and how she could improve her riding. 

Current and previous injuries 

Ella reported occasional neck pain which had resulted from a previous injury, a riding accident where she was thrown from a horse 12 months prior. This was treated by a physiotherapist and had taken several months to feel more normal. 

Initial assessment findings

During the initial assessment, Ella presented with a leg length discrepancy of approximately 2mm, with the left leg being longer than the right.  This pelvis dysfunction was due to muscle spasm in the gluteal muscles, causing abnormal hip rotation. This could also have caused the tightness in both hips and sciatic nerve tension as well as a tingling in the toes. Nerve tightness was recorded in the median nerve at the elbow. Ella's chest muscles also appeared tight with her shoulders rounded forwards leaving her with poor posture. These biomechancial dysfunctions are very common in horse riders. 

Abnormal biomechancial imbalances can present in the following ways:

•Riding with one stirrup longer than the other

•Moving better on one rein

•Over gripping of the reins

•The need for more contact to move the horse forward


During the assessments Libby worked with Ella to correct these biomechancial dysfunctions by giving her a series of exercises to release muscle spasm and neural tension as well as increase spinal mobility. The appointments also included sports massage treatment and RockTape application, both of which work well alongside the biomechanics coaching. 

Further assessments and improvement

Two further biomechanics assessments recorded clear improvements, with muscles functioning normally, improved mobility and posture. The course was completed with a pre and post exercise program for her to follow until the next assessment in approximately 6 months, at which time Libby will assess Ella's progress and revise her exercise plan accordingly. 

Pre and post riding exercise program

Over the series of screenings Libby detected the most valuable muscle releases, nerve mobilisations and mobility exercises for Ella. With these in mind Libby created a unique exercise plan for Ella to perform before and after riding, mucking out and other activities. This exercise routine included releasing her hip muscles to keep her pelvis functioning correctly, chest muscles to keep her posture inline and nerve releases to prevent further injuries.

What Ella had to say about her experience? 

"I was lucky enough to win a course of Biomechanics sessions with Libby this year.  Suzanne and her team at Horse Answers Today must have heard my prayers for help in improving my riding posture.  At the grand old age of 23 I'm sure many equestrian folk can sympathise with me when I say that I often felt 3 times as old. With all the mucking out; lugging hay bales, feed bags, tack, wheel barrows, water buckets and goodness only knows what else, I often felt the worse for wear before I had even got on my horse'. 

Then I met Libby...

Piece by piece she has set about improving my posture, balance, strength and general physical wellbeing. Her wealth of knowledge and experience has been superb at getting me back on the road to riding harmony.  After 'screening' me she could pin point where I had imbalances. She then tailor made an exercise plan which slotted easily into my hectic lifestyle. I could feel the improvements after a week or so, and over the last several months I have been feeling much freer from aches, pains and tight muscles.

In particular I have found Libby's expertise with Rocktape brilliant!!! I have over developed muscles around my right shoulder, making the shoulder almost set in a forward position. With the exercises, sports massage and Rocktape, Libby has been able to manipulate the shoulder and tape it- encouraging the muscles to remember the correct position, with very positive results. 

I would highly recommend Libby and the hms team to anyone wanting to achieve physical harmony for life!"

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To find out more about how biomechanics coaching can improve you and your riding or to book an assessment contact Libby on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.humanmovementsystems.com 

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Read more getting fit for riding articles 

Libby Upton Dip ITS MBCA

Specialised Biomechanics Coach & Sports Massage