BY JESS CLAWSON
Competitive riders in any discipline consider their horses athletes, and provide for them whatever they need to feel their best: thousands of dollars’ worth of new shoes every year, well-fitted tack and equipment, bodywork and more. Jamie Pestana of Elite Chiropractic, located in the Bay Area, understands how equestrians often put their horse first. She wants riders to pay as much attention to their own bodies as we do to our horses.
Jamie grew up in the dressage world, and had a very successful junior career. She knew she wanted to be part of the horse industry professionally. Although she works as an assistant trainer to her mother at Iron Horse Equestrian Center, she didn’t want training to be her sole career. She considered going to vet school, but realized that she would be unlikely to get to train or compete with the veterinarian lifestyle.
While in college, she did some training and coaching while also studying exercise science and human physiology. “It became apparent that the more I knew about the human body, the better I was able to help the rider and, consequently, the better the horse performed,” she explained. “I absolutely advocate for treating the horse as a high-level athlete, but from my experience working with the riders as a practitioner and coach, it is just as important to treat the rider as an athlete for optimal performance.” So she followed a professor’s advice to pursue the chiropractic path in order to help the human athlete.
Jamie has found that riding puts unique, specific demands on the rider’s body, and her understanding of the stresses placed on a rider’s pelvis and spine after years of study enables her to provide the best care for equestrians at Elite Chiropractic.
It’s is a completely mobile service. “For many years, an equine chiropractor has come to my barn to take care of my horse. It gave me the idea that the same service should be available for riders who are usually spending any spare time they have at the barn,” she said. “It is not only convenient, but it also allows me to watch a rider in his or her own saddle to see where any imbalances are. If appropriate, I can also talk to the coach or trainer about areas the rider is struggling with and incorporate that into the care plan to help the athlete meet his or her goals.”
Jamie loves becoming part of riders’ support team to help them achieve success, and takes the role seriously, “I am constantly continuing my education and expanding my toolbox to provide value to clients.” Along with chiropractic adjustments, she incorporates other modalities including Erchonia cold laser, Theragun percussive therapy, RockBlade instrumentation, and RockTaping. She is currently working towards a Master of Sports Medicine through University of Western States, which will give her even more tools to manage the entire athlete.
“The most common issue I see in riders is pelvic misalignment,” Jamie said. This misalignment is common, as many of us spend much of our time sitting, which shortens the hip flexors and de-activates deep core muscles to result in a forward tilted pelvis and a curved lumbar spine. Riders in particular create another imbalance by using their inner leg (which Jamie cals the “don’t fall off the horse” muscle) far more than outer leg muscles, further contributing to the misalignment.
“Symptomatically, these pelvic issues can cause low back pain, hip pain, and even pain lower down in the leg. Functionally, it can impair a rider’s ability to properly use his or her seat and leg,” she explained. “An unlevel or locked pelvis can cause a rider to sit crooked, twist the seat, and have an asymmetrical leg position. A forward-tilted pelvis and tight hip flexors can lead to position issues such as (but not limited to) a sway back position, lack of core activation, tendency to be too far forward, or a chair seat position.”
These pelvic alignment issues are all easily treatable with chiropractic care, especially when combined with easy at-home stretches and exercises tailored to that particular rider’s imbalances.
Beyond bone alignment, the latest chiropractic research demonstrates its effect on the nervous system of the body. Nervous system function is absolutely essential for riding. To be able to sense the horse’s movement and know the right response before having to actually think about it is the hallmark of a “natural rider.” Chiropractic influences the way that the brain communicates with the rest of the body, making every rider more effective in the saddle.
Jamie has helped many riders with hip and back pain, including a Grand Prix dressage rider whom Jamie worked with by analyzing her position in the saddle to determine the best course of care. “Her symptoms went away very quickly, but she has maintained bi-monthly visits because she has noticed such a significant improvement to her riding,” she said. “The biggest change has been her ability to use her seat in the piaffe and passage movements of her Grand Prix test and has consequently led to a better performance with her horse.”
Others might not be having pain symptoms, but are struggling to find the right position in the saddle. One such rider’s exam showed that her pelvis was rotated in on one side, affecting her femur and entire leg position. After her first adjustment, her trainer noticed a significant improvement in her leg position and with every adjustment since, has continued to improve in her position and connection with her horse.
Elite Chiropractic now travels to horse shows as well as barn visits. “I set up a vendor booth and am available the whole show for clients to get exams and adjustments. It is great getting to talk to riders about their experiences and help them feel and perform better in the high-stress show environment,” Jamie said. She has focused on dressage shows, but will be branching into hunter/jumper shows for the 2020 season.
Jamie loves combining her training in horses and science into one career. “Being a trainer and growing up as a trainer’s daughter, I have developed an eye for the rider’s position and how it influences the horse. Now, as a chiropractor, I have the tools to actually help the rider improve his or her physical ability to ride more effectively,” she explained. “I get to hear feedback about how care has helped the rider feel better, sit better, and as a result the horse performs better. It is incredibly rewarding and fun to be a part of the team that helps equestrian athletes achieve their goals.”To learn more about Elite Chiropractic, including their service area and rates, visit https://www.elitechirobayarea.com/.