Tag Archives: pilates for horse riders

You won’t even notice it’s exercise

Ok, so last week we talked “Car aerobics”

This week I am continuing the theme of things you can do off horse to improve your alignment and body awareness on horse without really doing any “proper” exercise.

I think the easiest way to incorporate sneaky exercise in is to make it fun and easy to fit in.

For this I recommend some props though.

Most popular with riders is a gym ball.

I know it can be a bit cumbersome but having one all blown up and ready to go at home means you can hop on for 5 mins whenever the mood strikes you.

If you work from home using it as a desk chair is a super-efficient way to use it. I actually find it way more comfortable than an actual chair now, and it means I fidget constantly whilst I’m on it.

You can just sit on with your feet on the floor. This in itself makes you sit up straight and use your core muscles. You can try lifting one foot at a time or if you are really strong both feet!

I also like to sit astride it (as if sat on a horse in a dressage saddle) to stretch the front of my hips out-absolutely glorious when they feel tight.

You can of course do all of these things watching TV. So you can pop your favourite soap, drama whatever on and spend say half an hour watching it whilst sitting on a gym ball trying to lift your feet and stay balanced or, kneeling on all fours or kneeling up (carefully! You don’t want to explain your concussion injury was as a result of falling off a gym ball in your living room!)

All of this will massively improve your body awareness and over time your alignment (when it’s good you will stay on) and your core stability.

Slightly less cumbersome to have around the house is a wobble board. These can be bought fairly cheaply online and don’t take up much space. Just standing on one requires good alignment and stability. Try taking phone calls or sending texts/emails whilst stood on it, when you get really good try standing on one leg. Do squats on it during the ad breaks. Get your partner involved and throw a (soft) ball to each other stood on them.

These can all sound like kind of daft suggestions when you compare it to the strength and conditioning programmes you may see event riders doing, but unless heavy weight training is something you want to do then that kind of training isn’t going to work for you.

Just trust me on this one and try some of these out for yourself and watch your body awareness and core stability improve massively without you even noticing you’ve taken up an exercise programme!

 

Riding Life Hacks and Car Aerobics

Isn’t it frustrating when life, the weather, missing shoes or lameness get in the way of you regularly practicing that riding issue you’ve been determined to crack.

 

A while ago I read a book called ‘The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle. In it he talks about how people gain the skills to perform activities such as kick a ball or play an instrument. It is all down to something called Myelin. In simple terms Myelin is the fibres that attach to our nerves to make them send the messages to the muscles to make them do what we are asking. So in order to kick a ball like a premiership footballer you would need to repeatedly kick the ball with the aim being to gain the same power and accuracy in order to build up the necessary myelin fibres to be able to do it.

 

Now I can hear you thinking “well that’s the point, I was practicing every day and then I had to go away for work, or my horse lost a shoe….” well here comes a little life hack-Myelin doesn’t actually know if you are on your horse or not, it just knows what muscles you are trying to move where.

 

So inspired by my friend who is a regular at life hacking riding practice into driving the car and work meetings-(or she might just have worms) here are some things to think about that you can do whilst doing other every day activities.

 

Whilst driving the car or sat in a meeting

  • Can you feel both your seat bones equally?
  • Is your front and back equal length?
  • Are you equal left to right?
  • Are your upper shoulders relaxed?
  • Can you feel a slight retraction of your shoulder blades supporting your arms as they hold the wheel?

These are all postural requirements of riding that you can train your body to do when you are not on a horse, then when you are back on board it will be second nature!

 

Give it a go this week and see if you can feel the difference when you ride from all that extra practice!

 

Asymmetry

As riders symmetry is a huge deal for us. Any asymmetry in us will show up in and our (and of course vice versa). Now in reality no one is ever going to be 100% symmetrical but we should at least always be striving to be pretty darn close.

In order to do that we need to address how we got our asymmetry in the first place.

I often get asked by riders why certain muscles get tight, restricted or underused and the answer is simply “life”. That is our everyday actions and habits that we do over and over again usually in the same way each time.

Think about what some of those actions might be. You brush your teeth with your right hand, drink your coffee with your right hand, you carry your bag on your right shoulder, and then you muck out scooping to the right……..

Then you perhaps drive your car hunched over the steering wheel, you sit at a desk hunched over the keyboard and then you push your wheel barrow hunching forward over it……………….

Do you see what’s happening here? You repeat the same action with the same muscles time and time again, even though the activities themselves maybe different the way in which you use your body is not.

Obviously for different people these repetitive actions will be different but they are essentially the same-repetitive actions.

This can then present itself in numerous ways in your body but most commonly.

· “Tightness in the overused side
· Soreness in the underused side
· Stronger aids on one side whilst riding
· Sitting crooked or tipped to one side.

There lots of other weird and wonderful ways that overuse can present itself in the body (the human continues to delight, surprise and baffle me!) but these are the most common issues I get from riders.

Depending on the severity of the imbalance depends on how much treatment in terms of physical therapy, rehabilitation exercise etc. is required but a really simple way to help yourself with this is to change up the way you do things.

So, let’s try over the next week or so to do things with your opposite hand! Try brushing your teeth with your non dominant hand.

I’m going to report back on my social media about how I get on so I’d love you to do the same!
Also, if you are struggling with issues potentially caused by asymmetry why not book in for a Biomechanics, Stability and Flexibility Assessment with me at the studio and receive feedback on where your issues lie along with a programme to help you correct them. Cost £50 for approx. 1 ½ hrs.

Just 1% at a Time

When we set goals or start new things they can often seem insurmountable.

Perhaps you have started learning a new movement with your horse and you can’t even do it at all at first and you just think you are never going to get it.

 

I have this a lot in my classes and with my one to one clients. Using the gym ball as an example, I have had loads of people who couldn’t even sit on the gym ball with their feet on the floor without wobbling never mind lifting their feet or kneeling on it.

 

However each time I saw them we would repeat the exercise. Just sitting on the ball trying to sit in balance, we might focus on what their hips were doing or perhaps their shoulders and eventually they would be able to sit balanced with their feet on the floor. Then we would start to lift the feet just one at a time and begin the process again. Before they know it they are sat on the ball feet lifted, talking, using bands etc.

 

These improvements didn’t happen overnight but each time they practiced they would make tiny 1% improvements that week by week added up to achieve their overall goal.

 

So if you are struggling with something don’t think you will never get there, just focus on achieving one small aspect of it at a time. Just aim to improve 1% each time you do it.

 

If it’s something with your riding you are struggling with ask yourself one day.

 

How could my hands be better at this? Then you just focus on improving your hands until they are more correct.

 

Then you move onto how could my legs be better at this? And so on until bit by bit you start to ride a little bit more like someone who can do that movement.

 

Just aim to improve 1% at a time and those 1%’s will soon add up to make 100%.

 

And hey I’m pretty sure 1% better has made some huge impacts on dressage competitions!