Training for Turns

Whenever I assess my clients riding I look at whether they are sitting straight both on a straight line and on turns and circles. 


If a rider is sat rotated on a straight line quite often they are not aware of it. If you’re lucky you can make them aware of it and they will straighten right up- but it’s not always that easy.


Aside from not being aware,the reason riders are sat crooked is due to a restriction and weakness somewhere in the body that they are not able to hold themselves straight in the saddle.


If it only happens on turns and circles -again just bringing awareness to the pattern can help but sometimes these riders also just need a little extra strength in their turning straight muscles to help them out.


In order to move and therefore be still freely both left to right we need to be able to first move equally left to right.


I like to use pole rotations (yes it’s just a broom handle, a long schooling whip will do). These help to identify asymmetry in the rotation pattern and repeated practicing of the pattern will result in improvement.


To then strengthen the area I like to do two things.


  1. Strengthen the muscles that wrap around the trunk in slightly more isolation-there will be other muscles involved but I like to take out the symmetry requirement to focus on the left and right more individually.
  2. Get the trunk to work in a rotation pattern and focus on the straightness.


To work the muscles in a more singular manner I like Windmills if you have access to light weights or side plank dips for a no equipment exercise.


To the then work in the rotation pattern I like a cable or band Russian Twist or for no equipment a seated Russian Twist.





Solid Front to Back

If you ever look at top riders they look solid in the torso, no wibbling around in the middle creating flailing arms and limbs!


It’s what most people would refer to as good core stability. The aim is to create equal strength at the front, the back and the sides of the body. This also translates as being sat equally front to back and left to right. 


If you are able to hold a level of strength here you are firstly able to better absorb the movement of your horse underneath you ( see last week for some specific exercises on force absorption) but also better able to maintain control of your body and limbs which in turn makes you more able to give clear aids. 


As the goal is strength whilst moving limbs and absorbing movement your standard crunch and static plank just aren’t going to cut it. 


Starting with a basic exercise 


Tap Back Planks.

Starting at 4 point in a neutral spine imagine pushing your front to your back and your back to your front. Keeping your neutral spine, hips as still as possible tap one foot back, leave it there and then again keeping everything as still as possible tap the other foot back to take you to a full plank position. Take each foot back down one by one and then repeat changing the leading leg each time.


Lifted Bird Dogs.

In a 4 point kneeling position and neutral spine, lift your knees just off the floor (about an inch will do as you don’t want to have to round your back) From here maintain neutral and lift opposite arms and legs away. 


Now for some fun……


If you want to add in some force absorption, try standing on one leg, standing on a wobble board, kneeling on a gym whatever level you are at, then throw and catch a ball against a wall or have a friend throw it to you. That’s solid core, moving limbs and dealing with extra movement all in one go!


We do exercises like this in my Equestrian Fitness Classes every week. If you would like to join our group of like minded Equestrians all working towards improving their riding whilst having loads of fun and making friends hit reply and I can let you know which classes have space available.

Shock Absorption

What do we actually do with our bodies when we ride?


Well we,


  • Use it to help balance the horse

  • Control the direction, speed and tempo with it


But, in order to effectively do this we must first absorb forces with it. That is we must be able to absorb the movement of the horse underneath us and be still in control of our muscles. That’s a pretty big ask for say a 60kg woman on a 600kg horse!


So, what can we do to help us achieve this?


Firstly, riding in a neutral spine allows our bodies to be it’s most effective at absorbing force.


Neutral spine is when all of the joints of the body stack on top of one another allowing them to fully supported by the big muscles of the body to do this.


However there are also things we can add into our off horse training for shock absorption.


By being able to recruit the big glute muscles (that’s your bum) and the hip stabiliser muscles around the pelvis you are better able to absorb movement of the horse underneath you and keep your control centre that is your pelvis and spine stable.


Here are a couple of great exercises to train your shock absorption system.


Kettlebell swings. Working with kettlebells trains you to control the speed of the swing with your own body. You control the speed of the kettlebell swings and then you control the stop at the top to bring it back down.


Quick Squat Drop. If you are a regular on the dance floor on a saturday night you may know these as a sl*t drop, but basically you drop into a squat really fast, take control at the bottom and push back up.


Squat Jumps. Drop into a squat and jump back up. This can be done as a single or in a continuous pattern of squat to jump straight back to squat to jump.


Depth Jumps. That is jumping off a box, landing and then immediately jumping again


Now to up the Ante’

Single Leg Squat Drop. As with the quisk squat drop but on one leg!


Single Leg Squat Jump. Start with your back foot on a bench in a split squat position. Jump with the front foot, land and repeat.