Rider Fitness – How We Could Be Affecting Our Horses’ Health
Guest Blog by Sinead from CentreLine Performance
No matter if your just hack or regularly compete our horses all have a job, they are athletes and so are we. The sport of equestrianism is totally unique as it requires two athletes to compete and work together as one. One is no good without the other and every athlete needs a proper training program to be successful so in order to achieve our goal whether it be to hack out for 30 minutes or go round Badminton, we need to make sure both sides of the partnership are getting the training they need.
Contrary to the popular opinion of non-riders that we all just sit and look pretty in the saddle, we all know how hard we have to work to create that look of effortlessness – requiring optimal strength and mobility individual to us and our horse.
The ability to create and maintain our stable seat will vary from rider to rider with varying levels of mobility and fitness being a key variant. The key to achieving this is to assess not only your riding but also your posture and movement on the ground to determine the areas you personally, need to work on to create the perfect partnership.
Could We Be Causing Our Horses Pain?
As a result of improving our stability in the saddle we are not only increasing our effectiveness as a rider but more importantly allowing our horse freedom to move. Horses are wild animals and not designed to have a rider on their back – so a wobbly/unbalanced rider is going to make the horses job even tougher.
Just imagine trying to run/jump carrying a small child on your back wobbling around, naturally you will tighten/shift your weight to avoid damage to yourself. So for our horses’ it is easy to see how an unbalanced rider can cause the horse to become tight/stiff and hamper their natural movement.
What Should I be Doing?
Riding effectively requires a huge control over our lumbo-pelvic region (area surrounding your hips and lower back) as we know the best form of communication is through your saddle and the more control you have here not only will your riding be more effectively but you will create the look of effortless harmony with your horse and be able to feel and correct more easily in competition.
For a lot of us the majority of our day is spent sitting down and so the lumbo-pelvic region can become blocked/weakened. A good way to help combat the effects of this is to schedule in a daily mobility routine in the morning or just before you ride.
Once we have mobilised the area I always look to strengthen and balance out the muscles for the area to work effectively. On the whole 30mins of physical activity daily is recommended not only for health reasons mental and physical but also to help keep muscle tone and in the case of the equestrian athlete address imbalances and strength for a more supple and stable seat.
Without knowing you personally I would be unable to advice the best exercise program for you but this would be a good place to start to establish the basis towards a better posture and position.
Having regular riding lessons or even video tape yourself will help identify areas that you struggle with, but as I mentioned earlier it is also hugely important we look at our posture on the ground too for this is often the cause of our imbalance/postural issues.
It is worth investing in a recommended Physiotherapist/Specialist Personal Trainer to assess your movement, mobility and posture and prescribe you an exercise program to help this. You can find YouTube videos and general advice online but I would advise getting professional to correctly identify your own weaknesses and take the guess work out of your training.
We are often willing to fork out for the best food/lessons/massage for our horse and so we should but don’t let this go to waste – invest just a little time and money in yourself and reach that goal of 70% Dressage score or getting that double clear and even being at the very top of your discipline. That’s how much committing to yourself and your training can really do. It is no wonder the best of the best from Charlotte Dujardin , William Fox-Pitt and Laura Kraut – all have dedicated training programmes to ensure they are at the very top of their game and giving their horse the best possible ride.
I have written this piece because I am a Specialist Personal Trainer/Sports Masseuse /Nutritionist and want to promote my business, however I am in this profession because I have a real passion for helping others and as a rider myself have experienced what a difference I have made to my horse and my riding by identifying my weaknesses and creating my own training program based on this. Further to this I want to help you not only improve your riding but benefit from the positive physical and mental effects of effective exercise, nutrition and mobility work.
I currently offer a range of online packages to suit your lifestyle and budget. My programmes are bespoke and tailor made for you with a limit on the number of clients I take on to make sure you receive everything you need to succeed.
My training and methods won’t be for everyone and it is important to me you are 100% happy so any questions/queries you may have please or to book your free consultation please do drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring me on 07788 272797. No question is stupid and don’t forget no matter your age, weight, height or riding ability – we all have different starting points which is part of the fun.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Owner and Lead Trainer at CentreLine Performance
BSc (Hons) Sport & Exercise Therapy
Level 3 Personal Trainer