Horse riding boosts standing postural balance in women, findings suggest

The experimental conditions and set-up, with arrows showing the different balance conditions. Photo: Olivier et al.

Female riders showed superior stability on their feet when compared to their non-riding counterparts, in a study carried out in France.

Riders require the ability to adapt to changes in balance in order to maintain equilibrium and prevent falls.

Intensive training in horseback riding has already been shown to induce changes in postural control, as measured on a horse simulator.

Researcher Agnès Olivier and her colleagues thought it might be interesting to investigate the influence of this intensive training on postural control when standing.

The study team set out to learn more about the use of the senses in postural control among a group of 10 expert horse-riding women who specialized in dressage. They compared their performance to that of 12 non-athlete women.

Their postural control was evaluated through monitoring the center of pressure measured on a force platform on both stable and unstable supports. The women did so with their eyes open and eyes closed.

They were also assessed with the additional challenge of foam on the support.

The results showed that the riding women, when facing unstable support, had better postural stability in the mediolateral axis compared to non-athletes.

On the anteroposterior axis, expert horse riders were less dependent on sight and more stable in the presence of foam.

Results suggested that horseback riding could help to develop particular proprioceptive abilities on standing posture, Olivier and her colleagues reported in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

They also appeared to contribute to better postural muscle tone during particular challenges to standing balance.

The full study team comprised Olivier, Jean-Philippe Viseu and Nicolas Vignais, from the University of Paris-Saclay; and Nicolas Vuillerme, from the University of Grenoble.

Olivier A, Viseu J-P, Vignais N, Vuillerme N (2019) Balance control during stance – A comparison between horseback riding athletes and non-athletes. PLoS ONE 14(2): e0211834.

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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