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Don’t forget your own body! - Physical Therapy

Rider on a horse
Photo: Mia Bach

It is common knowledge that physical well-being is connected to mental well-being, so keeping the body intact and feeling good is an important fundament for the mental state of mind. Most of us focus immensely on the well-being of the horse and its body. Many horses receive several types of bodywork, such as massage, physical therapy, chiropractic, light therapy, craniosacral therapy – the list goes on. But what about our own bodies? Do we sometimes override the need for bodywork, which is so essential for mental well-being? 

Whether you strive for good performance, a comfortable horse, or rehabilitation, it is no secret that bodywork can do wonders for many horses. But you should not dismiss your own body’s need for wellbeing and in this article, we would like to create awareness of the physical health of the human body. We will focus on physical therapy for horse riders, and therefore we spoke to the experienced physical therapist Trine Brix about improving horse riders' physical and mental well-being. 

Who is Trine Brix?

Educated physiotherapist in Copenhagen in 1998, she also obtained a degree as a rider physiotherapist, where the horse is used as a therapeutic tool for people with different disabilities such as Parkinson's, scleroses, Downs and so on. 

She has been a rider herself since the age of 11 and both her mother and daughter rides as well.

Fun fact: currently they all three share the same pony.

She has specialised in elite sports people, especially riders and has performed numerous screenings to test riders for their physical abilities. This way she has acquired enough knowledge to find the optimal training, diet and sleep balance for elite riders.

Photo: Trine Brix

What is a physiotherapist?

Physiotherapists help people affected by injury, illness, or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education, and advice. The overall goal for physiotherapists is to maintain health and prevent injuries and diseases for their patients. Physical therapy often includes an individual, holistic approach. 
Physiotherapists use different tools to help the body such as exercises for pain deduction, mobilizing joints, strength and stability exercises, manipulation, massage, laser, shockwave, and tape. Trine Brix emphasizes that physiotherapy, and no form of body treatment, can be a stand-alone solution. She encourages physical training, massage, and even bone manipulation such as chiropractic. Each treatment has its own strengths. 


Typical challenges for horse riders:

Some of the typical challenges that Trine Brix sees that riders have are discomforts such as: 

  • Headache 
  • Neck pain 
  • Shoulder pain 
  • Hip pain 
  • Pain in the lumbar region and pelvis

Trine Brix determines these issues to a lack of strength and mobility in the riders. “If you don’t have enough strength in your seat you will tend to use your neck instead to balance. This will cause pain and headache.” 

If you have a habit of keeping your hands too far forward when riding, it will affect your seat and the body will become unbalanced. To compensate, the rider will experience pain in the neck and shoulders. If you don't have enough muscle strength in your abdomen or sit crooked, the rider will experience pain in the lower back and hip flexors.  

In general, lack of strength will cause you to be unbalanced, which also causes imbalance for the horse. Therefore, Trine Brix explains that increased body awareness is essential to knowing how to use your body correctly as a rider. 

“Riders should care for themselves like they care for their horses!”

Trine Brix

Solving the challenges:

  • See a physiotherapist 
  • Start a training program (train three hours a week) 
  • Use a massage therapist to loosen up tight muscles 
  • Create awareness of your sleep patterns and diet 

Always see a professional when it comes to creating the right training program as you can do more harm than good by training incorrectly. 

Trine Brix’s three favorite training exercises


Sit on the ball as shown in the picture, it helps with balance on the horse. With a resistance band, pull your arms apart and towards each other. Do the exercise for one minute

Practice balance on the ball. Photo: Mia Bach

Pelvic lift

place your feet on the ball, which again helps with balance. Lift your pelvis up and down towards the floor for one minute

Pelvic lifts help strengthen the core muscles and balance. Photo: Mia Bach

Side plank

lie on your side as in the picture and keep your leg lifted horizontally. At the same time, keep the upper arm horizontally outward from the body. Hold for one minute

The side plank helps to achieve equal strength on each side of the body. Photo: Mia Bach

Not only physical training makes a difference

Trine Brix has a holistic view of the body and explains that she often sees lack of sleep and poor nutrition as possible causes of both physical and mental challenges. She finds that riders forget to eat when they are with the horse, which often results in food that can be bought from vending machines or cafeterias. She emphasizes that a more nutritious diet is important.  

Trine Brix advises elite riders to eat six times a day - three main meals and three snacks, as they are physically active from morning to late evening. Regular riders should just remember to eat 1 to 2 hours before riding and otherwise eat normally.  

In addition, she also stresses the importance of drinking enough water - at least 1.5 litres, and more during physical activity. 

Did you know?

That with poor sleep, you can't perform at the same level. Sleep deprivation of just one hour can cause a weakened immune system and can also affect your balance and coordination.

Testimonial from a rider:

Marianne Vesterholt was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2020 and decided to maintain her riding, which is how she found Trine Brix. Marianne finds that Trine and the training have done wonders for her health and her riding 

"Since I started training with Trine, I feel like I can keep up the pace for longer. My muscles don't get tired sas quickly when I'm in the stable. My physical fitness has improved a lot and I have become much stronger." - Marianne Vesterholt. 

Marianne on the 8-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Danny (Great Dane). Photo: Natasja Stienstra.


Trine Brix –


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