Ok, did you have a go at wobbling around on the gym ball?
This week I want to take things up a notch and go to 4 point kneeling. I know it sounds really hard! Honestly it’s not as hard as you think, I’m going to talk you through it on the video and most people who have done it this way have cracked it pretty quick and it’s the first step in kneeling up on the ball-which we will cover next week!
So, why should you spend your time trying to kneel on the ball? Well apart from obviously how much fun it is trying and of course how cool you will look, there is actually a point to it in terms of your riding Fitness.
I’m pretty sure you have guessed it’s about core stability but core stability for a rider encapsulates hip stability and shoulder stability. This position on the ball covers core,hip and shoulder stability.
Stable hips will help to control your seat, enable your legs to work effectively and prevent you from gripping or of course falling off! Shoulder stability enables you to retain a good upper body position keeping the rib cage over the pelvis and have a consistent but soft rein contact.
So, not just messing about on a gym ball after all.......
Well, we’ve been looking at the role of seatbones and using the gym ball to help you get the jist of it. Often I find videos of me or my clients doing daft things on a gym ball get the most traction, maybe people like the novelty value or they see it as some incredible feat that they could only dream of achieving.
The thing is I use gym balls a lot in my class and with 121 clients but often it’s not doing the crazy rising trot or throwing balls at each other (although we do that too!) it’s actually because there are loads of reasons to do even the most basic balancing exercises on a gym ball.
As you will note the gym ball moves around quite a bit. So in fact the very act of just trying to sit balanced, quietly on one requires core strength. Even more so if you lift your feet.
This is where I think the magic lies for riders. Firstly to sit on a gym ball with feet lifted whether in a chair like position or straddled as if in the saddle (i prefer this way) requires you to have level hips and be sat up straight i.e be equal length in your torso front and back……………..so you need neutral spine just like when you are riding. Secondly even if you can’t at first manage to do this and sit still, the very act of shifting around trying to balance and rebalance is exactly what you are doing on a horse all the time. As the horse moves underneath you, your body is constantly making micro shifts to rebalance the whole time-otherwise you’d fall off at even the slightest deviation from straight ahead.
So we will start with this, just have a go at sitting and maybe lifting one heel, one foot whatever you are capable of, hold onto a solid object next you if needs be. I’m a big fan if the cheating option if you need it as I find it can be difficult to grasp what correct feels like if you have never felt it, whereas if you have a hand on a table to help you get your balance you can consider which bits of you you need to adjust, switch on or strengthen to help you stay there in future.
So let’s leave that as your task for this week. Grab yourself a gym ball, straddle it as if on your horse, find your neutral spine and see of you can lift your feet, stay there and stay still-and if not at least feel good that the constant effort of rebalancing is improving your riding muscles anyway!
Little tip on gym balls. In the fitness world gym ball sizes are recommended according to your height. Under 5 ft 5” 65cm, 5ft5-5 ft 10 75cm and over 5ft10 85cm. This is to do with the alignment of your spine, hips, knees etc for lying on it etc. so different to what we are using it for.
From our very unscientific trials in my classes with ladies of various heights from about 5 ft 2 to 5 ft 10 ish we have come to the conclusion that we prefer big balls for this kind of work. (Stop sniggering I know what I’ve said!) so I would say at least a 75cm if you are on the short side but most of my class uses an 85cm. I get the 85cm from Decathlon https://www.decathlon.co.uk/anti-burst-swiss-ball-large-id_8381486.html
Ok, last week we looked at seat bones with regards to walk and sitting trot so hopefully you’ve been practicing all week and now have totallymoveable wigglyseat bones?
This week I want to look at Canter.
What should our seat bones be doing when we are in canter?
Well we should be moving our leading seat bone with the leading leg. So think of the motion it makes. It lifts up, goes forward and comes down to hit the floor, comes back underneath, lifts up and repeats. Your seat bone should follow the same route.
Unfortunately what usually happens is either we sit really deep and push with our seats, or we bounce up and back, up and back…..neither of which is a) very comfortable for us or the horse or b) actually helping us to move with the horse. In order to ride a light, controlled canter we need to be with the stride of the horse completely. If we can do that and get him listening to those seat bones we ca then use that communication to lengthen or collect the Canter. How else did you think the pros were doing it without looking like they were doing anything at all?
So let’s get those seat bones cantering!
Again this can be done standing (members of my class have been known to do it in the que at the co-op!) or on a gym ball
Ok, we’ve spent a couple of weeks discussing general areas of fitness but this week I want to delve really deep into what is actually one of the often forgotten basics of riding………………..seat bones!
Now I know you won’t have really forgotten about them, you just kind of forget how important they are in your seat, aids, communicating with your horse………….
The thing is, your seat bones are the foundation of your seat, forming a triangle with your pubic bone, if you are in neutral spine (which of course you are) they are literally what you are sitting on! If you have more weight on one than the other your horse knows and responds, if one is further forward or back your horse knows. We of course give aids with them and you can also use them to increase or decrease speed, they should move in time with every step your horse takes.
Unfortunately, due to erm, well life stuff the muscles surrounding the seat bones such as the Glutes, Hip abductors, adductors, flexors, hamstrings, quads, low back (you get the idea) can all impact on how well your seat bones move. If there are restrictions in these areas you may find your seat bones are not able to move freely and independently.
The good news is with a little practice you can get them back swinging like a skipping imp in no time.
I’m going to take you through some simple “gaits” with your seat bones. You can do this standing or on a gym ball. * I find it easier to grasp the movement standing but better for my riding connection to do it straddling a gym ball i.e as if on a horse.
Then we will start with walk.
And then speed it up for trot.
Next week we will look at Canter!
Biomechanics, Posture and Performance for the Equestrian