Turn your T Spine

I was watching a talk by Ashleigh Wallace who is a physio on the Equestrian World Class Programme.

 

She discussed lack of mobility through the Thoracic Spine, in that she had reviewed 65 riders of varying levels and the majority lacked Thoracic mobility.

 

The Thoracic Spine is essentially your mid back and it forms part of your core stability. Core stability is the ability to absorb the force/movement of the horse underneath you, for that it needs both mobility and stability. The mobility is required to make tiny micro adjustments to dissipate the impact and the stability is all of the muscles working together to keep the spine aligned. 

 

If there is too much mobility the spine moves around too much and you will be unbalanced. If there is too much stability without mobility the force does not dissipate and it becomes an impact to the spine-think whiplash.

 

This week let’s start with mobility of the Thoracic Spine.

 

Here are 3 of my favourite exercises to mobilise the Thoracic Spine.

 

Lying on the floor, knees and arms to one side stacked on top of one another. Open the top arm, sweep it out following with your head then bring it back. You can either take it straight up and out or sweep it over your head and round.

It is also useful to try and incorporate the breathing and breathe in to prepare and out to move the arm.

 

In a 4 point position, take one arm to the back of your head. Leading with the elbow open up and then close back down. Try to keep your hips still -they will try and sway away to gain more movement but that’s cheating!

Seated on a chair or I often do this with clients on a gym ball. Place a pole (your schooling whip will do) over the back of your shoulders, then add a ball or something between your knees to engage your core and help to stabilise your hips. Rotate the torso left to right, breathing out as you turn.

React Fast

One thing to always expect when riding is ……...the unexpected.

There is the spooking at nothing, the cheeky buck and No matter how bombproof your horse may be sometimes he may just trip up potentially sending you somersaulting over his head!

So as well as a core of steel it helps to have good reaction times. In team sports such as hockey they will work on this stuff as part of their regular training but I don’t think it’s something as riders we really think about . Yet when things do go wrong how fast we can react and re-balance can make a huge difference as whether you hit the deck or stay on board and keep riding forwards (usually muttering a few choice words….)

Here’s a couple of suggestions for training your reflexes that we use in class and with 1 2 1 clients.

  • A reaction ball is an odd shaped bouncy ball, that when you throw on the floor can bounce off in any direction meaning you have to be ready to grab it at any angle-it’s sooooo tough and we have lots of fun playing this as a group in class.
  • The humble gym ball essentially teaches you to constantly re adjust your balance just to stay sitting, kneeling whatever. If you have mastered staying still why not try adding throwing and catching a ball, if you do this with a group of friends you can throw to each other whilst shouting out someone else’s name….so you’ve no idea where the Ball is actually heading.
  • And a game we played this week I’ve called  Musical S!ut drops! If you are in a group with whatever track you fancy on squat as normal then someone stops the music and you drop to a low squat -holding your reins so like a two point seat as fast as you can. If you’re on your own use a track with a repeated word or phrase and each time it says it drop down as fast you can-Try Bring Sally Up…..or set a timer for every 20 secs or so but face away from it so you can’t see it.

Running for Riding?

I’ve been thinking lately about cardio for Equestrians. There’s quite a few of the ladies in my classes that have started couch to 5k which I think is great and several others including myself who already run as part of their fitness. 

 

I’ve seen various opinions as to whether running is beneficial to Equestrians so here’s my thoughts on it.

 

Firstly when considering what kind of cardio to do you need to consider the requirements of your sport.

 

For example a show jumper will ordinarily go into the ring for about a minute so that’s quite a short burst and would lead me towards HIIT. So short bursts of fast work.

 

A Dressage rider will be in the ring for up to around 5 minutes so this makes the demand more endurance based.

 

An eventer will need a huge amount of endurance to get round a cross country course, alongside the short burst required for the showjumping. 

 

Endurance riding kind of speaks for itself and showing again can be a long time in the ring so endurance based (particularly if it’s in hand!).

 

There are also a couple of other things to take into account such as what you do at home training horses. 

 

For example I spend a lot of time long reining with two of my ponies so that can be 40mins to an hour of walking and trotting with a pony which is basically a cardio workout for me. So my at home training requires  a certain level of endurance even though if I’m Carriage Driving I only really need my upper body. 

 

So take into account your home training too. 

 

I think from that though we’ve pretty much confirmed that endurance is a requirement of most aspects of Equestrian sport.

 

Back to running then. Well it uses your heart and lungs, legs, bum and core so ✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️ all of those are required to ride so making them stronger will help.

 

If you are generally fitter those riding lessons that feel more like boot camp will become just a little easier so you will be more effective for longer.

 

So if you fancy upping your game then give a couch to 5k a go. One of the other benefits of running is that it only requires some decent running trainers and some basic Lycra (I’ve run plenty of time in stretchy breeches and riding socks!) You don’t need a gym membership etc. Just some will power to get out there. You could always rope in a yard buddy or join a running club to help. I use  my collie dogs as running buddies.

 

 There are of course other ways to train your endurance so as cycling, rowing , swimming etc and maybe I’ll look at the benefits of those another time.

 

How many of you already run as part of your fitness training?