The Athletic Rider: Farrier Fitness, Part IV

Hoof care professionals have incredibly demanding jobs, requiring the physicality of weightlifters, the skill of craftsmen and the patience of saints. All that hard work takes its toll and is the focus of a series by equestrian personal trainer Leah Hinnefeld.

If you missed it: Part I, Part II, Part III of The Athletic Rider’s four-part series on fitness considerations for hoof care providers (HCPs). 

Today is the final part in the series and focuses on the third most common posture distortion in both the HCP population and the population in general: the Upper Crossed Syndrome.

Upper Crossed Syndrome is recognized by a forward head with rounded shoulders (a common posture distortion in riders as well). Upper Crossed Syndrome can be responsible for rotator cuff issues, biceps tendonitis, thoracic outlet syndrome and even headaches! Instead of offering your farrier a headache pill to help with the syndrome, give him a copy of this article to so he can find the trail to recovery rather than simply masking the pain. 


Not only will a farrier spend a great deal of time rounded over a hoof in concentration as he levels the wall or drives a nail, but he can also remain in this posture when he is shaping a shoe for your horse. Trimmers shouldn’t get too smug! Most trimmers are subject to Upper Crossed Syndrome because they are in the same posture when leaning over to fit a boot or wrap a hoof. Come to think of it, there does not seem much that a HCP can do that does not require a forward head/round shoulder posture-unless he takes fitness measures to correct the imbalance.


As with all postural distortions and muscular imbalances, the “fitness prescription” is foam rolling to release muscle adhesions, followed by stretching to restore muscular balance, finishing with strengthening to maintain balance. In the case of Upper Crossed Syndrome, foam rolling the pectoral muscles (upper chest) will allow the HCP (or rider — I can’t leave all of you out for too long) to posture up and open the anterior part of the body. A simple chest stretch will then lengthen those muscles, allowing correct range of motion while strengthening the back with a wide bent over row. 

Upper Crossed Syndrome Rx

A farrier or trimmers job is incredibly demanding from a physical standpoint. I know because I spent over 10 years underneath a few horses myself! In addition to basic flexibility and strength, most HCPs would also benefit from incorporating the occasional speed and agility training into that well-designed HCP fitness program. Not because the job itself specifically requires the skills, but because S&A training prepares the muscles and nervous system to respond when placed under immediate stress. In the general population (and especially elderly people), S&A training is useful to prevent extensive injuries if facing a loss of balance that could have or does result in a fall. With HCPs, it can prepare the body for the strain of having a horse give a quick jerk or movement that creates a quick momentary loss of balance or one that requires a quick reaction from the HCP or horse to remain safe.

If you are interested in learning more about the Athletic Rider Fitness Solutions that are available to the farrier and trimming community, CONTACT US. One of the best ways to add some fun into your fitness program is join with other HCPs in your area and allow me to organizer a FARRIER/TRIMER Fitness Boot Camp. Who knows, there may even be some riders interested to give you a run for your fitness money in a little fitness competition!

*postural distortion image courtesy of Clark, Michael A., Sutton, Brian G., Lucett, Scott C., NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, 4th Ed., 2014. Jones & Bartless Learning. p. 134-136.


Leah Hinnefeld is a lifelong equestrian who spent over a decade studying hoof health and metabolism in horses before turning her attention to rider fitness. Leah is a personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Fitness and offers Virtual Fitness Training for riders and horse lovers. You can learn more about how to get fit to ride at Please contact Leah if you are interested in learning more about the Rider Fitness Boot Camps offered by The Athletic Rider.


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