Are you arguing with the right party?

Classic scenario you ask, don’t get, you keep asking, getting annoyed and applying stronger aids.

Are you arguing with the right party?

Is it your horse not responding or are you not actually asking accurately?

When you’re riding and it’s not going to plan how often do you tune in to what you’re doing that’s not working?

Not riding a straight line? Are you stacked up in a straight line?

Not achieving impulsion, collection or softness? Is your body energised, collected or soft?

If you change your body position, tension level or just your energy how does that change your horse?

Being fit to ride is not about hitting strength numbers or timed runs, it’s about the ability to tune into the different parts of your body and be able to adapt or change to create change within your horse.

Next time it’s not going right, instead of trying to make the change in your horse, tune into yourself, make a change and see what happens.

Also, I’m really bad at doing this regularly so I would be super greatful if you have worked with me in any capacity could you write me a review? Either hit reply and email straight back or go to my Facebook Page

I would really appreciate it!


I see a lot of riders who live with a lot of pain day to day, and are also increasingly tired and finding that just doing the yard jobs is exhausting-never mind the riding!

That’s no way to live, especially as many of these riders will be 30’s, 40’s, 50’s but they’d still like to be riding in their 70’s and beyond! That’s absolutely possible but only if you’re fit enough to keep going. 

The problem with ageing is that we stop building muscle day to day so unless we actively build it I.e create an effort level that requires the muscle to repair and build again stronger we are essentially losing muscle. Which makes things seem harder and stuff hurt more …….

There is a way to push through this though. In Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue work it’s called activity stacking. If someone is starting from not being able to get out of bed then suggesting they take up couch to 5k is incredibly unrealistic. However suggesting they get out of bed, shower, dress and make themselves a cup of tea is a little more manageable. If they can do that every day for a few days they then add on an extra task perhaps cooking a meal or taking a very short walk to the end of the street and back. These little steps of course feel really hard at first and that’s why they are small steps, but bit by bit with enough perseverance the steps start to add up and big stuff has started to happen! 

You may not be starting from that point if you’re already looking after a horse, but if you’re struggling the principle is the same. You could either add in an extra task or a little boost, so maybe aim to trot for a smidge longer than you normally would or you could try to increase the pace you do the yard work. So walk purposefully to collect your horse or pushing the wheelbarrow so the jobs gets done a little faster. Yes, at first it will seem hard, but you keep it at that extra 10% push until it doesn’t feel like such a push anymore so then you add another 10%......... and so on.

If it’s pain you are struggling with it’s the same system however unfortunately it really going to require some off horse exercise. Many pain issues are caused by weakness or in non scientific terms chronic pain requires you to require the nerves to tell it that movement is safe (the details are a whole other topic so if you’d like me to cover it more specifically let me know!)

So you stack the exercise. Again, you don’t need to go out and do a full hour workout you could just do 1 exercise every day. Something like a wall sit for 10 seconds to start with and build up as you feel able-you could pick any exercise such as squats, planks, slow high knees, whatever you like! But just make it a tiny step, then stack it up brick by brick and before you know it a 20 minute workout won’t seem so insurmountable. 

If you’d like some more help with starting small hit reply.

All on or off?

Most riders I see don’t need extra range in their inner thigh, if you’re able to get on your horse you’ve got all the range you need-admittedly how much range that is depends on what you’re riding-Cobs aren’t the same as Arabs!

Either way, you don’t need to be able to do the splits to ride better.

I also find most riders have plenty of strength in their inner thighs, however what I do find is a problem is the ability to control how much “On” or “Off” they have.

It’s either all on or all off.

My riders have found it helpful to work on dialling up and dialling down their inner thigh muscles. Then when you’re riding you can give only the amount of the aid required and if you’re really cool, inner thigh aids independently!

In the classic inner thigh exercise – Side lying lifting the lower leg, we often tense the leg, make it rigid and lift from there. Classic all or nothing!

Try the same exercise and make the leg soft, make it feel as light as possible as you lift it up and down. Try upping the inner thigh activation without creating tension in the leg, can you dial it up and dial it down?

Sitting on a gym ball can you turn your body left and right without at least one of your thighs clamping on or increasing in tension? Of course, you may need to increase activation of your inner thigh to perform a movement but if you are aware of how much or how little you are applying those aids will be much more accurate and clearer to your horse.

Next time you ride, can you take your inner thigh completely away from the saddle. How softly can you apply it? Can you apply one whilst fully removing the other?

In your on and off horse training start to bring awareness to your inner thighs and start to use them with more of a gear system as opposed to an all on or all off system.

New Ideas

I had a discussion with a client earlier this week about embracing new ideas.

It’s sadly often seen in the Equestrian world that people have rigid beliefs of how things should be done and no other way should be considered. This is a closed mindset.

I believe the best horse people I know have a growth mindset. They embrace new ideas, there is no set programme of how things should be done. Each horse and rider are unique so there is no “one size fits all approach.”

If you’ve never tried it how do you know it doesn’t work?

As long as something is ethical and not inherently dangerous I’m willing to try it if doing what I’ve previously done isn’t working.

This week I’ve tried Qi Gong to help me tune into and relax my body a little to help me stay soft whilst riding. It’s not my normal style of exercise as I usually prefer to sweat but someone suggested it could help me manage the tension in my muscles created by my hyper mobility. Bits of me have a tendency to latch on when I ride even if I’m not feeling tense at all. I’ve only ridden once this week but I was definitely more aware of and able to release the “tense for no reason bits”.

This week I implore you to try something new.

Something not your style at all, out of your comfort zone and a different approach to deal with your horse/riding/body issues.

Have a think and let me know what that could be?

Or need some inspiration? Tell me what you need help with and we can brain storm some alternative ideas for you to try out!

Train Your Hip Flexors

Often riders will say they have tight hip flexors and feel the need to stretch them. Whilst I absolutely agree due to sitting down at desks all day, driving etc we should lengthen those hip flexors back out to maintain their natural length; this won’t necessarily improve the feeling of tightness or how they perform when you ride.

To improve the hip flexors functionality they need to be stronger, which means we need to work them.

When we ride our Hip Flexors form part of our pelvic stability.

The main hip flexors are

  • Psoas. It originates in the lumbar spine and passes through the pelvis, inserting into the thigh bone. This is the one I think many  riders are familiar with as it has many other functions in riding along with stabilising your back.
  • Illiacus. This lies deep within the pelvis, again connecting through to the thigh bone. It works in conjunction with the Psoas to flex the hip joint.
  • Rectus Femoris. This is one of the quad muscles on the front of your thigh. It crosses both the hip and knee joint so it does both hip flexion and knee extension. Often when riders have non joint knee pain it is this muscle causing the problem.
  • Sartorius. This is the longest muscle in the body running diagonally across the front of the thigh. It helps in flexing and rotating the hip.
  • Tensor Fasciae Latae. This small muscle is on the outside of the hip. It helps to stabilise the hip as well as aiding in flexion.

So how do we train them?

Band March-Great way to work them fairly isolated but whilst still having to work your glutes, hamstrings and core to maintain the bridge position.

Seated Leg Lift-Again , fairly isolated aside from  the back and abdominals working to keep you upright, but if you can’t stay upright you know you’re cheating!

Standing Pull Through-Similar to march, or it can be made into a split squat march combo, and for extra points really adding some oomph can bring a power element to your hip training.

Feeling inspired? Let me know which one’s you’re thinking of adding to your regular routine.

Do you train your back

Often missed in riders off horse training is their back muscles. Yet a strong back is fundamental to a stable riding position, as well as being a major player in preventing back pain.

If your back is strong, it is better able to withstand the forces you put it under such as yard work, sitting trot etc. So many riders suffer with back pain, is it any wonder with all of the things we put it through yet never give it the training to make it stronger. Having a strong back can both improve existing back pain and prevent further injury.

Your back is a part of your stability and effectiveness whilst riding. It operates as part of your core; it’s required to be strong yet pliable as you ride and needs to be able to remain stable and in control as the limbs attached to it move to give aids. Your spine and the surrounding, supporting musculature absorb the force of your horse’s movement underneath you. Your ability to do this effects how well you stay with the movement and in balance with your horse and how clearly you give aids

There are lots of back exercises you can do depending on where you are in your exercise journey and the equipment you have available.

No Equipment: Back Extension -arms up or with a W Pull down

With a Band-Band Pull Apart, Band Pull Down, Bent Over Row/Single Arm Row

With Weights-Bent Over Row/Single Arm Row

Barbell- Deadlift, Good Mornings, Bent Over Row

I’ll post some videos to social media this week with some examples of these for you to try out.

Do it for your horse

This week I was asked why people start working with me. 

Honestly most people start their enquiry with “I know I need to be better for my horse.” 

That could be backing a youngster, rehabbing through an injury, managing an older horse or just feeling like you’re on an absolute unicorn and you need to be able to keep up. 

Whatever our horse situation we know that being lighter, very stable and more in tune with our bodies is of great benefit to our horse.

That’s why when we start using the excuses of “ I don’t have time…… back hurts……..surely I do enough yard work” Remember spending just 20-30 minutes on your own body 2-3 times per week could make a huge difference to how you feel as a load for your horse to carry. 

If you’re not balanced how can you expect your horse to be? 

If you can’t control your body and limbs how can you expect your horse to understand what you’re asking?

So although I could say that a correct exercise programme would help with those aches, pains and tiredness if that hasn’t inspired you before it’s time to think about being the best rider that you can be for the sake of your horse.

He doesn’t care if you’re the best rider but I bet he cares if you’re able to to let him get on with doing what you’ve asked him to do (and he’s understood it because it was clear) without hindering him in the process! 

Your lower leg

So many posts on lower leg stability. 

It comes from the hips.

If the hips aren’t stable the legs aren’t stable 

Yes as you move down the chain if there are issues within the knee or ankle they will absolutely affect the lower leg but you should always start at the hip. 

Focus on your hip stability-what creates hip stability I hear you ask? Great question!

Think about the big muscle groups attached to the pelvis.

The Glutes, The Quads, The Hamstrings, The abdominals and the lower back. They all work together to create stability in the pelvis. So all exercises to train this should include movement and cooperation between these muscle groups. 

Some examples: 



Single Leg Squat 

Single Leg Squat 

There’s tons of things you could do these are just some of my picks. 

If you think your actual lower leg may be the problem adding in exercises such as a Front leg raised Split Squat can help you to improve both mobility of the ankle and stability of the knee whilst loaded/absorbing movement. 

Keep an eye out on the socials for some videos of these exercises! 

Independent Hands

Watching Badminton last weekend I’m sure you’ll agree those riders are proper fit athletes. 

So many of them when interviewed about how they prepared mentioned their own fitness regime. This ranged from running, Pilates to PT sessions. 

Along with great endurance those riders that did well across country had something else in common-true independent hands. Demonstrated by the ability to stay upright and keep riding even when they had zero rein contact and the front end of the horse wasn’t where it was supposed to be! I also thought on some occasions it was the difference between a scrape through and kick on or a horse and rider fall. 

This comes down to more than what we’d term “core stability” which is often thought of as the abdominals. 

Independent hands require a strong back and shoulders which then work with the abdominals to create a really stable torso. This means the arms aren’t responsible for upper body stability. They can hold the reins, give aids and direction but if those reins are taken away it doesn’t take your stability with it.

So if you don’t already think about adding in some back and shoulder work into your rider fitness. 

I like to start with the basics of switching on the back and shoulder muscles with Pilates staple Dumb Waiters. This helps you find those muscles and then you can progress to moving the arm’s forward in a rein position or out to the sides, focusing on maintaining that muscular connection to the back. 

More of a Gym Bunny? Exercises like Lat Pull Downs and Bent over Row will strengthen your back muscles;  it’s really important that you connect to those muscles of your posterior chain as you work them to avoid over using your arms. 

Then when you ride, connect into those back and shoulder muscles and feel your arm’s work lighter yet the rest of you feel more stable. Testing it by throwing away your reins whilst cantering downhill optional…….

Strength isn’t enough

The thing with rider performance is being just fitter isn’t enough.

The ability to improve your riding often comes from the subtle movements, the tiny tweaks and noticing how your body reacts to your horse and how he responds to you. 

Of course it helps if your body is strong enough to make and maintain these movements but strength alone is no use if you aren’t in tune with your body.

How do you get in tune with your body?

  • When you are exercising, slow the movement down and feel what’s happening at each point in a movement. Which muscles are working? What happens to the rest of your body? Do the bits move that are supposed to? Do bits move that aren’t supposed to? Really use your exercise to build both strength and connection in your body. 
  • Do some slower paced exercise such as Pilates, Yoga or Thai Chi that really encourages you to connect with your movements. 
  • Roll parts of your body with a prickly massage ball before you exercise or ride. This can help to bring awareness to parts that you may otherwise struggle to connect with.

Do you struggle with body awareness when you ride?

What have you tried to improve it?

Biomechanics, Posture and Performance for the Equestrian