Today’s blog is written (with some judicious editing) by my good friend Dr. James Warson MD, author of “The Rider’s Pain Free Back” and a recent addition to Barnmice as an expert. I wanted to share with you this extraordinary man’s thoughts on his passion, what makes him so absolutely unique in this industry and the role he plays in the team of horse, rider, and saddle.
“Rider health is what I do. It’s the application of medical knowledge, combined with knowledge of horses and riding, to promote rider health and safety. As our rider population ages, it will increase in importance as the horse industry seeks to increase and maintain participation. The horse industry is America’s third largest industry, trailing manufacturing and retailing. Growth and stability depend on not only attracting, but maintaining riders in the industry. Riding is a contact sport, and attention must be directed to proper prevention and treatment of both acute and chronic rider health challenges. This is where I come in.
In the beginning it was just me. Riders who had seen me at various horse events, realized that I had an interest in riders and their health. When they would encounter a health problem requiring a physician, they were universally told that they had to stop riding, especially if they had a back pain problem. They knew that my specialty was spine surgery and spine care, so they then came to me. I realized that I needed more knowledge if I was to care responsibly for these rider patients, so I looked to the medical literature.
There was none. Horses have been ridden for 3000 years by riders who encountered certain problems, but the medical literature cupboard was bare regarding their care. I was excited. I knew that responsible care of these patients would require a lot of observation, analysis, conclusions and applications regarding riding and its effects on human health. I added watching and thinking, and 30 years later I had a grasp of what it took to get riders back in the saddle. At the end of my surgical career, riders comprised the majority of my patients, thanks to word of mouth “advertising”. Areas such as knee, hip, and hand problems followed because of their prevalence, and I applied the same dedication to addressing them.
Following publications in magazines the people at Trafalgar Square publishing contacted me about writing a book so that 30 years’ experience would not be lost following my demise. My response was affirmative, but only if the book The Rider’s Pain Free Back could be written for riders, the ones that count, rather than physicians who have too much literature and too little time to digest it. I was subsequently interviewed by a faculty panel of the School of Medicine of the University of New Mexico and was judged to be an expert in the field of equestrian medicine. I am alone in this form of certification.
My policy is to apply knowledge to the betterment of riders and their health. That’s what I do when I write or speak. Riders are intelligent, responsible people who only seek to enjoy a continuously improving relationship with horses. No physician could ask for better patients. Keep riding!” JSW
Thanks Jim! You may ask what does any of this have to do with Saddle Fit, but my extrapolated point here is simply that unless the rider is in balance with his horse (and the saddle fits the rider to avoid any of these pain issues),then no matter how well your saddle may fit your horse - if it doesn't work for you as the rider, then the horse will never be comfortable, will never perform to his maximum potential because your discomfort will translate down to him.
Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE