Tag Archives: Biomechanics

Review of the Equiformance Rider Bands

Contralateral bands for flatwork


The first time I tried these bands with various riders I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. They arrived with a leaflet and a link to a video briefly explaining how to use them and the benefits they might have.

Being someone who appreciates rider development tools, I fired the good old Google searches and got down to educating myself on the ins and outs of using resistance bands for posture training. After a few days of reading, I was quietly excited to give this new toy a go.

I was prepared for the riders to feedback about feeling some level of increase of the effort through their core muscles, maybe better awareness of where their centre of balance was and I hoped for a good level of improvement of their lateral crookedness.

They experienced all that and much more…Once they worked themselves through the initial bewilderment of the feel of the bands, here is what I observed :


  • nearly immediate and substantial improvement in basic straightness through the body
  • many laid back horses moving with more impulsion
  • sensitive horses slowing down and moving calmer
  • hollow horses showing improved relaxation through the back and offering more functional, lower, more relaxed neck positions
  • stabler neck position (in the middle of the shoulder blades instead of displaced positions)


  • huge improvement in rider’s ability to maintain rhythm in trot and canter
  • huge improvement in rider’s ability to “internally understand” (vs intellectual understanding only) the feel of the horse staying off the forehand
  • nearly immediate internal understanding of the pelvis-to -contact connection/relationship
  • nearly immediate internal understanding and heightened perception of the “stable hands” concept (huge decrease in lifting/busy-ness of the hand(s) etc)
  • various “riding through the seat” concepts like weight aids and importance of central body position sinking in into the rider’s feel very quickly

Many of these findings were a big surprise to me albeit very welcomed! It often takes me weeks if not months of many well thought out exercises to build certain feels in the rider and for them to become established enough to be sustainable and able to be repeated. The seemingly inconspicuous set of bands sped this process up immensely.

One of several different ways of using the bands


The use of resistance bands in improving athletic skills is not new and has been around for a while. The same applies to the use of such bands in physiotherapy and one of the more interesting applications I came across was their (successful) integration into rehabilitation of stroke patients. (more if interested: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21555984/)

The bands I am reviewing here were designed by Performance Refinery, a company owned by Britta Anna Pedersen, “an experienced senior Physiotherapist with over 16 years experience in the field, prior International Dressage & Event Rider” More: https://equiformancebands.com/pages/about-us

I’ve been using their PR Equiformance Posture Sling – Functional Rider Performance Training Kit and PR Rider Performance Training Kit for about 12 months with 20 riders of various skills levels from complete beginners to grassroots levels competition riders.


For all the really good benefits these bands have, I’ve come across riders who purchased them for individual use and weren’t satisfied. Having listened to the reasons these riders had I did see how the bands missed their application in their instances.

Even though there are no particular directives anywhere to use the bands under coaching supervision, I think the lack of eyes on the ground and help with correct wear (adjusted to the issues the rider has) were the reasons some riders didn’t experience full benefits. In some cases, it could simply have been a wrong aid altogether.

Whilst I don’t think one needs to be a physiotherapist to advise on a successful use of the bands, a decent knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics of both horse and rider plays an important role here, at least during the initial ride.

Aspire Equestrian Equiformance Bands Clinic at Brookfields Livery, Oxon

Not every rider will benefit from the use of contralateral bands for example, some will gain an immense help from just one band which will highlight undesirable movement patterns. Others will experience light bulb moments with the band held behind their lower back and held in both hands. Some can have a superb experience with wrists bands only.

I also noticed that riders with naturally high muscle tone have better results with bands that are longer than their height-suitable-band. This might be due to the tension increasing beyond functional level when they have to resist the action of the band. Having a full set for all the heights comes very handy here!

In summary, yes I think this is a fantastic tool for self learning but only after some sessions with a biomechanics focused coach. I am not recommending that to create some false dependency between a rider and an instructor but to help spread a word about the very positive possible applications of this particular rider development aid.

Leo’s Barefoot Transition: Day 1-3

By Wiola Grabowska
If you don’t know Leo’s story please see HERE and HERE as some of the below will make more sense if you know why I have Leo…

Snoozing in his stable after night turn out. Last day with hind shoes. If you look closely, you’ll see he has no shoe on his right fore but that’s because he twisted it the day before and I had to remove it.

Even though Leo arrived to live with me in most dreadful circumstances, I feel privileged to have him. He became a big part of my life and whilst I had some plans for him at the beginning, they evolved and changed. Right now, he’s my “learning together” horse. With my keen interest in biomechanics and rehabilitation, he is helping me learn about movement, soundness and together we are testing different groundwork therapies/in-hand work.

Some of you will have heard of Kingsley, a horse that opened my eyes to knowledge I was oblivious to prior having him and whose 2010/11 barefoot transition journey can be followed on Rockley Farm Blog. Him and Nic Barker has inspired me to learn about hoofcare every day ever since.

In contrast to Kingsley, Leo is sound and happy in low level, hacking work which is all I realistically have the time for. As far as I know, he had been shod all his life.

Why am I taking his shoes off then? 

Leo’s last full set 9th May 2017. Farrier: Jack Boardman Awcf

As most good farriers I had a pleasure chatting with about hoofcare have always said, shoes weaken horses feet.

Everything about horses’ management have progressed at a speed of light from some top spec materials used for rugs, numnahs, boots to bedding we use for them, to the way we feed them, to the science of saddle fitting and saddle design. Pretty much everything has changed. Except hoofcare. We shod horses in Xenophon times (c. 430–354 BC) for war purposes and we still shoe them with metal shoes in 2017…So amazing or so insane? I don’t claim to know but having ridden (sound) barefoot horses I know that there’s a different level of suppleness, fluidity, body awareness and dexterity to their movement that I have never felt on a shod horse. It is true that sometimes, shoes can change the movement to more extravagant and I have seen this happen but I don’t personally consider that a positive as far as soundness and longevity of the horse goes.

So why am I doing this with Leo?

Mostly to learn more. To help him have the healthiest, soundest life I can give him, to test if his movement patterns improve (he has slight pelvis asymmetry), to see how his feet change and what impact will this have on him overall, to understand further the benefit of improved proprioception on the rest of the body biomechanics.

Leo’s last full set 9th May 2017. Farrier: Jack Boardman Awcf

5 weeks before…

In preparation for his shoes coming off I put Leo on Key-3 Oil by Keyflow for its Linseed oil and recommended joint care benefit. My reason for this is that hooves are incredibly dynamic and change in ways I have never imagined possible (you can watch Kingsley’s hoof changes on Rockley’s Farm blog I linked above as Nic kept a good record of those) but from what I gather, joints must have a harder time to adjust to those fast changes. Any person with some kind of foot issue will know how using different shoes can cause plethora of aches and pains in every joint as well as back/neck. As Leo is otherwise healthy and is fed a handful of high fibre nuts by Castle Horse Feeds simply so I have something to put his supplements in and so he has his “I had breakfast and dinner fix” , I have not changed his diet that much. He is on hay during the day and night turn out from about 3pm until 8am.

In the lead up to the transition I worked him for 30 min 5 days a week hacking around the fields and on the roads mostly focusing on hill work. I didn’t want him to be too fit as I knew I will be giving him a few weeks off ridden work once his shoes were removed.

I also treated his feet daily with Red Horse Sole Cleanse.

Day 1 -3 (21st June – 23rd June 2017)

Leo Barefoot Transition
The even heel bulbs foot is his right hind, the unbalanced one is the left hind. Side shots are Day 2, the rest Day 1. Fronts are shod. 

As I mentioned above, I had to remove Leo’s front shoe the day before Jack was due to come to shoe him. As I walked him to the field over some stoney patch of ground I thought he would be footy but he wasn’t in the slightest. Out of curiosity I walked him around some more stones and he couldn’t care less. That’s when I decided to keep his feed unchanged for now and just ordered Pro Feet broad spectrum mineral balancer to add to current feed.

From all the adventures with Kingsley and other barefoot horses I have looked after, I know diet is the key, it is all much more eloquently explained HERE . I am looking into other feeds and considering what to put him on but for the moment, he seems fine so I won’t change anything until end of summer.

Why not in the winter…

There seem to be a common advice to transition in the winter when the ground is soft. I personally found winter second hardest of seasons (after spring) to keep a barefoot horse sound.

My main reasons for transitioning in the summer: 

  • long, night turn out – grass is much “safer” at night (sugar levels drop). Hooves need movement to grow healthy. In the summer, Leo gets about 17 hours of turn out while in the winter, about 7h.
  • light evenings for roadwork (contrary to popular belief that barefoot horses shouldn’t do much roadwork, they indeed do. It helps hugely with self trimming and soundest barefoot horses I have seen and ridden are the most hard working ones )
  • this might be my personal experience only but I find dry ground means less bacterial infections (abscesses), less problems with white line disease and thrush
  • perfect weather for hacking on variety of surfaces to condition the hooves
  • more time to dedicate to the whole process

Farrier or trimmer

I decided to stay with Leo’s current farrier to help me with the transition. He understands the importance of minimal trimming and have done a great job with two other fully barefoot horses where Leo lives so I see no reason to change right now.

Plan for the next 2 weeks

Week 1: Turn out only, no work. Until Wednesday 28th June I am letting Leo figure out the changes by himself. I continue the Sole Cleanse daily and just keep monitoring him for any signs of discomfort. So far he acts as if nothing has changed!

Week 2: I will start introducing short sessions of non-ridden exercise on variety of surfaces starting with smooth tarmac and waxed sand surface of the arena and see how he copes. No plans beyond that as taking each week as it comes.

Please note: mine and Leo’s experience I will share on here is as individual as any other horse is. This is not a “how to go barefoot” blog but simply a diary of this particular horse’s transition. If you are after a more in-depth guidance please visit http://rockleyfarm.blogspot.co.uk/p/hoofcare-essentials.html 








New for 2014 – Introducing Aspire Equestrian Getaways: Tuscany ’14

AspireGateaway Cover

It’s been my goal for Aspire Equestrian to organise short training getaways that bring together hard work on own riding skills in lesson environment and the pure joy of being around horses in most natural way – looking after them and riding out in beautiful countryside.

Here is the first one of, hopefully, many such breaks! There are 6 places available in total. 3 are already taken, 3 are still up for grabs. If we have a lot of interest and there is a possibility to have a bigger group, I will look into it but for now, we are starting small :)


Total hours: approx. 14+ hours in the saddle + 4 hours In-hand training + 4 hours of off-horse training + horse care time as per your wishes

1) Daily Aspire Training Sessions with myself (working on horse’s straightness, suppleness and correct biomechanics as well as on own use of body as a rider. Adjusted to levels of the riders and horses. Use of video feedback for awareness training).

2) 3 x Challenging HALF-A-DAY Trail Rides over varied Tuscan countryside. Plenty of hills and tracks to explore. Both fast and slower options available. Well mannered horses. Fit and fun. For fitness and for joy of life 🙂

3) Each rider to receive 2 private lessons with myself during the stay. Focus on your seat, effectiveness, improvement of given horse on given day.

4) Opportunity to fully look after the allocated horse throughout the stay, muck in and out, feed, groom, make friends and prepare the horse for training and trail rides (with supervision). This was important to me so I was looking for a place where riders could get involved fully. 

Mark your diaries: 12-17 June 2014 (Thu-Tue).

Please click the poster image below to enlarge it and read the print easily. If you feel like you would love to join us, email Wiola at aspire @ outlook . com for update on availability, costs and booking conditions. Beginner riders with aspirations to become sympathetic and effective riders also welcome.

POSTER AspireGateaway Tuscany 2014
All updates on this Getaway will be posted on the ASPIRE 2014 GETAWAY: TUSCANY page at https://aspireequestrian.wordpress.com/aspire-2014-getaway-tuscany/ (please see main menu at the top of the blog page)

Video Day Saturday: Dr. Deb Bennett about physical and deep straightening (lessons from Woody)

usef network 2
Photo: http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2013GeorgeMorris/

The below videos show recorded lectures, workshops and ridden training during USEF 2013 George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session. All videos included in the Training Session are interesting to watch and many curious riders and instructors should find in them something for themselves. I am posting these videos on here because I strongly believe in learning from multiple systems and approaches so we can develop own healthy and constructive views.

The ones I chose to underline below are lectures by Dr. Deb Bennett from Equine Studies Institute. I think they discuss matters which are still and often under the radar of many horse owners, instructors and riders.

1) Lessons from Woody Part I: Physical Straightening

(you can read more about Woody here: Lessons From Woody Pdf) 

2) Lessons from Woody Part II: Deep Straightening 

3) True Collection: Coiling of the Loins and Raising the Base of The Neck

Continue reading Video Day Saturday: Dr. Deb Bennett about physical and deep straightening (lessons from Woody)