Not Got Time To Exercise? Join The #HorseHour Fitness Challenge

Not Got The Time?

I hear this so much when I ask people why they don’t exercise, and I hear it even more with Equestrians. I get it I do, we go to work, and we muck out the horse, ride the horse and then we go home to eat, sleep and then repeat. I have been there. When I had a 9-5 job I get up super early to muck out my horse before work and be at my desk for 8am (overalls and a hat combined with a good perfume!)So that I could ride after work, then go to the gym before going home usually to do more work as my 9-5 wasn’t really that exactly! So I would pretty much be on the go from 5am until 9pm. I’ll be honest I don’t advise it long term it was exhausting.

However, what it does show is that if you really want to fit something in you can. I also get that some of you may have children so you have added pressures and time constraints there.

What I am suggesting though is firstly realising why your own fitness is important.
If you are a fit and healthy person then all of the running around in general life feels much easier. You just have more energy to get through the day. Mucking out and carrying feed bags becomes a breeze too!

The stronger your muscles are, the better able you are to control them which in turn makes you a better rider. It also means you won’t get tired and start to lag towards the end of your schooling session.

We expect our horses to be athletes, to be fit, muscular and able to do whatever we ask, but surely your horse should expect the same from you? You should be strong enough to move with him and give clear, precise aids whenever you ride him from start to finish. That’s what makes you a partnership. You both work hard to become better together so I think it’s time you kept up your end of the partnership.

The Time issue? Well How about 10 mins per day? Surely you can find that?

Check out my podcast with Amy at Horse Hour and our Fitness Challenge.

Also Check out My You tube Channel for the videos.

And if you want to join us don’t forget to tag us in your workout pics and statuses!

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C’mon Join Us It’s only 10 mins per day to improve your riding!

What’s the Core Principle?

I’m sure you’ve heard it and heck I’ve even written about it. To improve your position in the saddle you need to strengthen your core.

That’s great advice it really is, but it’s not the whole story.

A strong core can be interpreted in many ways.

Firstly what is the function of our core whilst we are riding? It is to absorb force. In this case the force created by your horse as he hits the ground and moves off again-that’s some force! In order to do this it actually needs to be able to flex and extend whilst maintaining control. It also needs to be our stable base from which to move our arms and legs without losing balance.

So, let’s go back to the first point. In order to absorb your horses movement your spine needs to be able flex and extend? Ever see those riders with ram rod straight spines-fixed in that position in order to maintain a “strong core”. In reality they are sending all of that force their horse has created right into their spine. If the spine does not move itself cannot absorb movement sent through it-short version this is bad news for your spine long term and likely to cause you back pain.

On to the second point, if your spine is a hardened, solid core it will actually be quite difficult to create soft and subtle movements with the attaching body parts. They will also be stiff and maybe jerky.

So what to do? Well core work is still great for your riding, but I also recommend yoga to maintain flexibility and also to do core work that involves movement at the same time perhaps balance work involving movement of arms or legs –or both! It is also to look at how you breathe when your core is “switched on”. Can you keep those muscles switched on and take some deep breaths at the same time-then move an opposite arm and leg…..tricky huh? It will be worth the practice I promise!

Is Your Riding Suffering Because Of This?

You know the scenario, long day at your desk, hour commute in the car, arrive at yard, drag horse in , wave a brush at him, throw some tack on and jump on board. Now I bet at this point you spend 10 mins warming your horse up, starting slowly, bending, flexing and stretching before you move onto your planned schooling session.

But what about you? Did you do anything to warm yourself up and prepare to participate in this schooling session? Did you do anything to undo all of those hours spent sedentary?

Thought not.

I know, I know you haven’t got time to do an hours yoga before you ride!

The thing is you are all stiff, tight and hunched from a day spent at a desk or in a car your body is not primed to perform like the athlete you are! I know you don’t think you are an athlete but riding is a sport like any other – except there are two athletes in the performance and both of you need to be on top form to be your best. I bet Usain Bolt doesn’t train without warming up first so you shouldn’t either!

Just 5-10mins of movement before you mount up will have your hips relaxed, your back ready to absorb your horses movement and your shoulders and arms able to maintain a stable but elastic contact.

I know you might think you look silly but when you get on your horse and ride better than ever………….who looks silly now!

Check out this little 5 mins routine and try it before your next ride:

The Rider Weight Debate

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a nice break over the festive period.

January is the time the world is full of weight loss and health kicks. You may have also seen much more publicity recently surrounding rider/horse weight ratios. This has mainly been aimed at adults on ponies wherein the Great Yorkshire Show actually asked riders it deemed too heavy to dismount-awkward!

There have been a couple of bits of research but nothing with solid outcomes as such. Previously it was stated that the rider should be no more than 10% of the horses weight-which I think personally is ridiculous as most average sized women would have to ride a Shire Horse! More recently it was suggested more in the region of 15-20% was acceptable with over 25% beginning to show welfare concerns for the horse. I think is more reasonable but what many have questioned is the different breeds and conformation of ponies and horses.

It has been accepted for many years that Native Ponies in particular are capable of comfortably carrying weights much more than their size would suggest. Then perhaps in comparison we should consider whether a much taller horse with say, a long and therefore potentially weaker back with very little bone to the leg may actually weigh more due it is size but may not actually be as strong as something shorter and more compact? Then comes into the equation the riders seat, being that a more capable rider with a light seat would be much less strain on a horse than a beginner who may not carry themselves as well.

Anyway as yet research continues and there are no definitive guidelines on the matter so I guess we just have to use our common sense.

What I will say though is that we should consider on own fitness level and how this impacts our horse when we are riding. I don’t just mean our weight-but I think we do need to accept that being overweight ourselves is not good for our own or our horses health, but there is more to it than that.

In reality you could be 9 stone, incredibly weak and unfit and therefore your horse has to work harder to “carry” you than maybe if you were 12 stone but with lots of muscle and endurance and in turn actually had better “self carriage” whilst riding.
Secondly, in terms of health and your day to day energy levels; eating a predominantly whole food, unprocessed diet will give you more energy and you will be less susceptible to illness. I bet you give your horse the best diet you can………………….so why not you?

This January I want you to embark on that health and fitness kick to improve your riding and to have more energy to give to your horse time-I promise you it’s a better motivator than celebrity ideals. Although I am told the fear of white breeches for dressage season can be equally motivating!

And if you are like me and have a penchant for ponies rather than horses, I’ve got to get some weight off to get down to my “jockey” weight so I am below 20% of my 12.2h native ponies bodyweight-turns out the promise of riding my pony when she is backed is all the motivation I need to keep my diet on track!

What do you want?

You may remember a few weeks ago I talked about goal setting and breaking them down into 12 week blocks. Following on with that set yourself smaller monthly and even weekly targets to keep you on track.

I also set a #theme for my whole year as when life throws up challenges, curve balls etc. and goals may have to amended or changed it reminds me of the bigger picture. 2016 was #learngrowbalance to highlight the amount of learning I wanted to do this year-tick! Grow to help me to grow as a person and a business-tick! And finally balance to remind me to take time out for myself and switch off-tick!

Despite my suggestion of #deadorprogress for 2017 in discussion with a friend I have decided on #nextchapter. This is due to my business entering a new chapter as I will be doing lots more things next year for people to get involved with and improve their fitness including Yoga for Equestrians!

But also very excitingly it is time to finally officialy get on board/in harness with my girls Pearl and PoppyMay next year! Having had Pearl for 4 years this has been a long time coming!

So, that’s got a 12 week plan too to keep me on track and make sure I keep doing the little steps that add up to a lot.

What are your riding/horse goals for 2017? What will your # be? Hit reply and let me know! I have diarised to follow up with you in 12 weeks to see how you’re getting on.

Also, it would be great as my readers if you could let me know what you would like me to write about. What do you need help with?

Hit reply and let me help you reach your 2017 goals!

In the meantime, Enjoy Your New Years Eve and I look forward to seeing you in 2017!

Improve your Partnership over the Christmas Downtime

Well I’m going to try and make this short as I’m sure like me you are ready to switch off for a well-earned rest over Christmas. For those of you that have to work I salute you and I hope you at least get a decent Turkey Dinner in!

For those of you that do have some time off and therefore hopefully some more time to spend with your horse why not take the time out to have a look at what are your current strengths and weaknesses as a partnership.

Go for a ride and don’t try and fix anything just listen to your horse and your own body. What do you do well together? Why do you do that well together? Did that come naturally or have you worked on it previously?

Maybe your horse has a lovely trot but your walk isn’t quite as good. Don’t worry about it right now just log it in your brain. Do you find you ride better on the right rein rather than the left? Do you think that is something that carries over into other daily activities i.e. how you sit, drive etc.?

Just note all the good points and perhaps reasons why they are your good points, then what are your not so good points. Then decide what steps you can take to improve it next year.

What can you do yourself to improve it? Do you have weakness; tightness etc. that needs addressing in order for you to be able to ride the particular element yourself better or perhaps to help your horse out a little bit more if he struggles too?
Whilst you may have some more down time than usual spend some time starting to work on those weaknesses so you will be already on track by January.

If you need any help then just hit reply and I can talk you through some programme options.

In the meantime, I hope you all have an awesome Christmas.

Time for a 2017 Breakdown

I know we haven’t done Christmas yet but I’m pretty sure already you may be thinking about your goals for 2017. I’m already making plans for my 2017!

Did you achieve your goals in 2016? Or is there a list of things still uncompleted?
Don’t worry life gets in the way sometimes and we can lose track of where we are headed.

For 2017 that’s not going to happen. We are going to employ new tactics.
Instead of writing a huge list of things all to be achieved in 2017, not having a clue where to start and rushing out to do everything in week 1 before getting overwhelmed and giving up at the first hurdle we are going to break things down.

In 2017 we are going to break down into 4 quarters. That way we are going to be working towards goals in 12 week periods. They can be the same or they can be a different goal that’s up to you and what you are trying to achieve.

I am going to use the Wobbleberries Challenge as an example for this. So anyone who is not familiar the Wobbleberries challenge is a group of riders who have agreed to take on the challenge of competing in a BE80 event by the end of Autumn 2017 in aid of the Willberry Charity set up by Hannah Francis. These are riders who are not currently out competing or have even not been in the saddle for some time-any of you reading this I take my hat off to you!

So, I imagine at the moment that seems like a pretty big task and you don’t know how you are going to get there.

Plan A: Panic, ride a bit, Panic you can’t do it, Ride and Panic a bit more….
Plan B: Break it down into sections of roughly 12 weeks. I think that gives you 3 sections.

Block 1 will be Jan to March. Although you will need to work backwards from you goal to make the steps once you have done that you are going to forget about them and just focus on block 1 for now.

What steps can you take in Jan to March that will help you reach your goal? Do you need to start a fitness programme for you and your horse? If you start slowly now you will both hopefully avoid injury and overwhelm giving you the best chance of succeeding.

Do you need to book some lessons with your instructor? You could also sit down with her/him and go through your 12 week blocks and put milestones along the way you can work on together.

It will really help if you have mini goals along your 12 weeks as these become you aim rather than the big goal at the end.

You may also find it useful to plan at the beginning of each week what you are going to do that week to help you reach your goal. Each week this gives you a marker to check whether you have made steps towards your goal, if you have that’s great; if not what can you do to achieve next week? This way you will never fall too far off the track.

This structure also gives you time to reflect on your progress as you go along. If you mark in your diary the 12 week blocks at the end of each one you can see how you’re getting on and review if anything needs changing. Have you reached target? If not why not? What can you do in the next 12 weeks to get back on track?

I’ve diarised to check in with you every 12 weeks next year so you will get a reminder from me too!

I’m using it to plan things in my business and my personal life next year to keep me focused for the long term goals I’ve got in mind so I’ll be with you every step of the way!

Hit reply and let me know what you want to achieve next year!

What Are We Doing In 2017?

I know we haven’t got Christmas out the way yet but I’m already busy planning both my business and my personal life for next year.

When I am planning business I like to have a look at what is going to be popular I fitness and nutrition for 2017. I don’t necessarily follow the trends if they don’t align with what I am interested in but it is good to be aware of them and actually quite often than not I’m already ahead of the game!

So, I think the Equestrian Fitness world has bubbling and slowly growing for a few years now. The likes of Lindsay Wilcox-Reid of EquiPilates and Jon Pitt from RideSmart have been teaching the benefits of riding for several years however in the main this has been to the Professional Riders rather than Joan and Elsie the happy hackers at your local yard-or indeed you!

Mary Wanless was ahead of her time in teaching how very subtle movements and/or imbalances in our body could affect our horses way of going and knowing that in order to improve we must work on correcting this and being better able to control finite movements in our own bodies.

With this in mind, you will now see the Equestrian Magazines including the odd fitness based article (Yours truly has so far been in Northern Horse and Carriage Driving Magazine) as well as various Equestrian Centres holding classes and workshops for fitness and/or EquiPilates. So, I think Fitness is finally going to come to the fore in the Equestrian World in 2017.

However, what I think will be really cool is the Equestrian Specific classes. Don’t get me wrong if you enjoy going the gym lifting heavy stuff, or sweating it out at a boot camp that is cool and being fitter does help your riding, but what I am really interested in is the specific stuff that seems very little but makes a huuuuuge difference. I’m talking about the stretch that stops you collapsing at the hip, the gym ball exercise that helps to perfect your turns and all the other stuff that they won’t teach you at the gym. Perhaps mixing that with some other fitness stuff could turn you into the all-round Equestrian Athlete!

With this in mind 2017 is the year I want to really get out there and work with the Equestrian Community, so hit reply and tell me what your riding problems are!
What do you struggle with when riding?

What problems do you have when it comes to exercise? Do you like the gym? Can you make the time to commit to an exercise programme?

Would you like to train at the yard as a group with your friends or in your own home?
Let me know what you want to see in 2017 and I will do my best to deliver through my blog, through my online programmes and through workshops and/or classes.

Health Benefits In Your Feed Room!

Well it’s that time of year where seemingly every other person has got a cough, cold or something more sinister for the unfortunate. For some people one illness a season is not enough and they can continually bounce from one illness to another. As Horse Owners this is basically very inconvenient! Who’s going to muck out the horse whilst your laid up in bed?

To be fair most of us are pretty robust but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give our selves a little extra TLC – think of it as your insurance policy!

We already have the advantage that we get outside in the fresh air every day which is great for our immune system. But what else can we do?

Our diet has a huge factor in our immune system, as it is fairly obvious that eating a healthy diet filled with lots of vitamin filled fruit and vegetables will make us healthier than if we ate lots of processed, high fat, high sugar foods. So that’s your first step try to eat as many different coloured fruit and vegetables as you can. It’s also great to try and eat seasonally to stop you getting into a rut, so currently carrots(you can share with your horse!), parsnips, squashes, sprouts and cabbages are on the menu alongside the classic festive satsuma and pomegranates.

Ensuring your Gut Bacteria is up to scratch will give your immune system a huge boost. . Your digestive tract contains around 60 percent of your immune systems cells. This makes it extra important to maintain a healthy gut. This can be done with either a tablet probiotic or with a live culture such as Kefir. I bought a course of Kefir from and whizzed it up in a smoothie with coconut milk and some fruit every day-convenient breakfast option!

Good news for the Carb lovers is Oats are on the menu as they are rich in selenium and beta glucans which are nutrients that support your immune system. Oats also help to control healthy bacteria in the intestine which again supports your immune system. And I don’t think there is a better way to start a cold, wintery day than with a bowl of hot porridge and some berries-yum! And I will let you in to a secret……..Ready Brek is totally fine-ssshhh! You could also buy the pre made pots and just add water to warm you up at the yard.

We also need to ensure we are eating plenty of protein alongside those carbs. Protein is used to make cells in our body so making sure we eat enough ensures we are able to build extra cells to fend off the bugs-there is a more scientific way of explaining that but you get the idea. So eat plenty of eggs, lean meat and fish or beans and pulses if your veggie to keep your body’s builders working.

Then there are herbs and spices such as Garlic and Turmeric that have anti-bacterial properties so add them to your dishes to add flavour and extra health benefits. Your probably borrowing that from the tack room too aren’t you…….

A Bone Broth either drank on its own or as a stock for soup and casseroles is a great way to pack in loads more vitamins but also a boost to your gut bacteria. It’s basically nature’s medicine! You can buy it prepared but if you want it in the purest form it’s better to make it yourself.

Bone Broth

Last but not least get plenty of sleep. Ensuring you get a good 6-8 hours a night will give your body its best chance to fend off any illness.

So raid the feed room and stay healthy Folks!

Stick A Ball In Your Bum!

Stick a Ball In Your Bum Before you get on!
So in the third and final email in our Sciatica focus we are going to go through an exercise to do to release your Sciatic Nerve and also an exercise you can try before you get on and ride.
So firstly, Sciatic Nerve Flossing-I know it’s as sexy as it sounds!
Sciatic Nerve flossing helps to stretch and release any areas that the Sciatic Nerve may have become stuck . I’ll be honest start gently with these and only do 8-10 per leg per day for the first week and work up to 20 as if your Sciatic Nerve is really stuck it can get quite upset!

• Sit in a chair with the feet flat on the floor.
• Straighten the one leg and tuck your chin into the chest.
• Lower the leg and look up towards the ceiling.

Now finally we are going to do a little exercise you can do at home as part of your routine, but I also like to do it just before I ride to help relax my Piriformis (the muscle next to your sciatic nerve). Riding with a tight Piriformis can make it difficult to have a light seat.

So you are going to take a ball (either a spiky physio ball, hard lacrosse ball or a tennis ball) and sitting on a hard chair or the floor place it under your bum cheek. Then you are just going to roll around on it to help release the muscle –sometimes you feel a pop so don’t be alarmed if you do! Then take it out and before you go to the other side see how different the sides of your bum feel-weird huh? The do the other side so you are even.

Let me know if you try this and if any of these exercises have helped!