Andy Thomas: A look behind the scenes at British Equestrian
By Andy Thomas - 20 August 2009
My role within the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is lead practitioner for human science and sports Medicine. Basically I am the Human Physio (i.e I don’t treat the horses) but co-ordinate all aspects related to rider performance.
My role has two main objectives firstly the prevention treatment and management of injuries and secondly to enhance the riders performance and technical ability on a horse by addressing specific weaknesses and imbalances that a rider might have.
Riders typically suffer with back pain most commonly but they also subject themselves to quite a lot of trauma either by falling off or horses kicking or standing on them!
I look after all the disciplines eventing, dressage and Para-equestrian dressage and the show jumpers. Each discipline has its specific injuries. Eventers suffer the most trauma and generally walk with a limp! Dressage riders suffer more with their backs and show jumpers with groin problems.
I work very closely with the whole team, coaches, vets, doctors, horse physios and farriers. If the rider has injuries it affects the way they ride which then can affect or influence injuries of the horse so we have regular meetings particularly in the build up to a major championship. I have been lucky enough to work in many different sports at elite level. Working with riders is so different, one of my hardest tasks has been to convince them they don’t need to live with pain. They generally don’t complain unless one limb stops working or is pointing in the wrong direction!
I was part of the team taken to Hong Kong last year for the Beijing Olympics - what an experience. I was very impressed with our team. The riders, coaches and support staff worked fantastically well together. We are lucky to have such a team and this will be one of our strongest reasons for future success. All our riders and support staff believe that Team GBR will bring home the medals in 2012 and will work very hard to make this happen.
I spend most of my life now in a lorry. A mobile physiotherapy clinic driving from one end of the country to the other occasionally stopping off to drag a rider on and sort out their problems - mostly physical. I am very caring in my nature with an emphasis on pain relief however some of our riders who don’t do their exercises need a gentle reminder now and again and faint screams can sometimes be heard.
At the moment I am seeing our key riders in our dressage and show jumping teams just to make sure they haven’t got any niggles or problems fortunately they are all fit and well so providing they behave they should appear at Windsor in the European Championships looking like highly trained athletes.
Andy Thomas is the lead practitioner for human science and sports medicine at the British Equestrian Federation (BEF). The FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships are held at Windsor Castle August 2009 25-30. This article first appeared on UK Sport.