Tag Archives: rider fitness merseyside

Are you arguing with the right party?

Classic scenario you ask, don’t get, you keep asking, getting annoyed and applying stronger aids.

Are you arguing with the right party?

Is it your horse not responding or are you not actually asking accurately?

When you’re riding and it’s not going to plan how often do you tune in to what you’re doing that’s not working?

Not riding a straight line? Are you stacked up in a straight line?

Not achieving impulsion, collection or softness? Is your body energised, collected or soft?

If you change your body position, tension level or just your energy how does that change your horse?

Being fit to ride is not about hitting strength numbers or timed runs, it’s about the ability to tune into the different parts of your body and be able to adapt or change to create change within your horse.

Next time it’s not going right, instead of trying to make the change in your horse, tune into yourself, make a change and see what happens.

Also, I’m really bad at doing this regularly so I would be super greatful if you have worked with me in any capacity could you write me a review? Either hit reply and email straight back or go to my Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/equestrianfitnessnicola/reviews

I would really appreciate it!

All on or off?

Most riders I see don’t need extra range in their inner thigh, if you’re able to get on your horse you’ve got all the range you need-admittedly how much range that is depends on what you’re riding-Cobs aren’t the same as Arabs!

Either way, you don’t need to be able to do the splits to ride better.

I also find most riders have plenty of strength in their inner thighs, however what I do find is a problem is the ability to control how much “On” or “Off” they have.

It’s either all on or all off.

My riders have found it helpful to work on dialling up and dialling down their inner thigh muscles. Then when you’re riding you can give only the amount of the aid required and if you’re really cool, inner thigh aids independently!

In the classic inner thigh exercise – Side lying lifting the lower leg, we often tense the leg, make it rigid and lift from there. Classic all or nothing!

Try the same exercise and make the leg soft, make it feel as light as possible as you lift it up and down. Try upping the inner thigh activation without creating tension in the leg, can you dial it up and dial it down?

Sitting on a gym ball can you turn your body left and right without at least one of your thighs clamping on or increasing in tension? Of course, you may need to increase activation of your inner thigh to perform a movement but if you are aware of how much or how little you are applying those aids will be much more accurate and clearer to your horse.

Next time you ride, can you take your inner thigh completely away from the saddle. How softly can you apply it? Can you apply one whilst fully removing the other?

In your on and off horse training start to bring awareness to your inner thighs and start to use them with more of a gear system as opposed to an all on or all off system.

New Ideas

I had a discussion with a client earlier this week about embracing new ideas.

It’s sadly often seen in the Equestrian world that people have rigid beliefs of how things should be done and no other way should be considered. This is a closed mindset.

I believe the best horse people I know have a growth mindset. They embrace new ideas, there is no set programme of how things should be done. Each horse and rider are unique so there is no “one size fits all approach.”

If you’ve never tried it how do you know it doesn’t work?

As long as something is ethical and not inherently dangerous I’m willing to try it if doing what I’ve previously done isn’t working.

This week I’ve tried Qi Gong to help me tune into and relax my body a little to help me stay soft whilst riding. It’s not my normal style of exercise as I usually prefer to sweat but someone suggested it could help me manage the tension in my muscles created by my hyper mobility. Bits of me have a tendency to latch on when I ride even if I’m not feeling tense at all. I’ve only ridden once this week but I was definitely more aware of and able to release the “tense for no reason bits”.

This week I implore you to try something new.

Something not your style at all, out of your comfort zone and a different approach to deal with your horse/riding/body issues.

Have a think and let me know what that could be?

Or need some inspiration? Tell me what you need help with and we can brain storm some alternative ideas for you to try out!

Train Your Hip Flexors

Often riders will say they have tight hip flexors and feel the need to stretch them. Whilst I absolutely agree due to sitting down at desks all day, driving etc we should lengthen those hip flexors back out to maintain their natural length; this won’t necessarily improve the feeling of tightness or how they perform when you ride.

To improve the hip flexors functionality they need to be stronger, which means we need to work them.

When we ride our Hip Flexors form part of our pelvic stability.

The main hip flexors are

  • Psoas. It originates in the lumbar spine and passes through the pelvis, inserting into the thigh bone. This is the one I think many  riders are familiar with as it has many other functions in riding along with stabilising your back.
  • Illiacus. This lies deep within the pelvis, again connecting through to the thigh bone. It works in conjunction with the Psoas to flex the hip joint.
  • Rectus Femoris. This is one of the quad muscles on the front of your thigh. It crosses both the hip and knee joint so it does both hip flexion and knee extension. Often when riders have non joint knee pain it is this muscle causing the problem.
  • Sartorius. This is the longest muscle in the body running diagonally across the front of the thigh. It helps in flexing and rotating the hip.
  • Tensor Fasciae Latae. This small muscle is on the outside of the hip. It helps to stabilise the hip as well as aiding in flexion.

So how do we train them?

Band March-Great way to work them fairly isolated but whilst still having to work your glutes, hamstrings and core to maintain the bridge position.

Seated Leg Lift-Again , fairly isolated aside from  the back and abdominals working to keep you upright, but if you can’t stay upright you know you’re cheating!

Standing Pull Through-Similar to march, or it can be made into a split squat march combo, and for extra points really adding some oomph can bring a power element to your hip training.

Feeling inspired? Let me know which one’s you’re thinking of adding to your regular routine.

Do you train your back

Often missed in riders off horse training is their back muscles. Yet a strong back is fundamental to a stable riding position, as well as being a major player in preventing back pain.

If your back is strong, it is better able to withstand the forces you put it under such as yard work, sitting trot etc. So many riders suffer with back pain, is it any wonder with all of the things we put it through yet never give it the training to make it stronger. Having a strong back can both improve existing back pain and prevent further injury.

Your back is a part of your stability and effectiveness whilst riding. It operates as part of your core; it’s required to be strong yet pliable as you ride and needs to be able to remain stable and in control as the limbs attached to it move to give aids. Your spine and the surrounding, supporting musculature absorb the force of your horse’s movement underneath you. Your ability to do this effects how well you stay with the movement and in balance with your horse and how clearly you give aids

There are lots of back exercises you can do depending on where you are in your exercise journey and the equipment you have available.

No Equipment: Back Extension -arms up or with a W Pull down

With a Band-Band Pull Apart, Band Pull Down, Bent Over Row/Single Arm Row

With Weights-Bent Over Row/Single Arm Row

Barbell- Deadlift, Good Mornings, Bent Over Row

I’ll post some videos to social media this week with some examples of these for you to try out.

Your lower leg

So many posts on lower leg stability. 

It comes from the hips.

If the hips aren’t stable the legs aren’t stable 

Yes as you move down the chain if there are issues within the knee or ankle they will absolutely affect the lower leg but you should always start at the hip. 

Focus on your hip stability-what creates hip stability I hear you ask? Great question!

Think about the big muscle groups attached to the pelvis.

The Glutes, The Quads, The Hamstrings, The abdominals and the lower back. They all work together to create stability in the pelvis. So all exercises to train this should include movement and cooperation between these muscle groups. 

Some examples: 



Single Leg Squat 

Single Leg Squat 

There’s tons of things you could do these are just some of my picks. 

If you think your actual lower leg may be the problem adding in exercises such as a Front leg raised Split Squat can help you to improve both mobility of the ankle and stability of the knee whilst loaded/absorbing movement. 

Keep an eye out on the socials for some videos of these exercises! 

Are you progressing?

If you look back, are you riding better than you were last year or 6 months ago?

I see lots of riders that have stalled in progress and deem it because their horse isn’t capable of progression. Yet if you as a rider haven’t progressed your skills how on earth can you expect your horse to.

You may have been having regular lessons but much as your trainer can give you the tools if you aren’t able to utilise them you aren’t going to get better. If you are still working on the same things as you were 6 months ago ask yourself why? Are you existing in that space where you keep carrying out the steps like having the lessons and riding in between but you aren’t really pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to achieve those next steps.

Guess what?

If you have stalled in your progress it’s time to step things up and get out of your comfort zone.

Try something different, dial down and really assess what’s stopping you from stepping up.

Often I see riders that are struggling to progress when in fact their problem lies in the execution of the basics.

The seat is not as stable as it could be, the aids are not as precise as they could be, the rein contact is well…….not actually a proper relaxed contact and there’s probably asymmetry in there too!

If you want to progress your riders yours and your horses foundation needs to be solid.

Get in control of your own body, be aware of and in charge of which muscles are switched on and off and how this is affecting the aids you're giving. 

Analyse how your body moves day to day and how moving one part affects another. 

How well can you breathe and move parts of your body in opposing directions?

Become a master of your own movement patterns and see how that makes your riding look in 3, 6, 12 months time.

Snack Size

I’ve been trying to add more strength training into my routine, however my body generally feels better if i do some cardio most days - x trainer, spin class, swim etc which means it’s hard to add in without over training.

Instead I’ve been doing snack size resistance workouts alongside my cardio.

I pick one 1 Upper Body exercise and 1 Lower Body exercise, or a couple of core exercises; then in a spare 5 or 10 minutes between clients I’ll do 10 of each aiming to do this 3 or 4 times across the day. 

This means I can fit in the equivalent of one big workout across the week without the overtraining feeling.

Perhaps you could use this to add in a workout across your day. I use weights but only because I have them nearby, you could do without my weights or using whatever you have to hand.

Some suggested pairings to get you started, but do whatever works with the space you’re in at the time.

Squat - Shoulder Press

Press Up - Forward Lunge

Plank Twist- V Sit

Side Lunge - Plank up down

I know it’s uncomfortable

People assume my clients are all fit, athletic folk……..98% of my clientele is already laughing reading this!

They aren’t. They are all amazing human beings though.

So many of them were completely new to my form of exercise other than riding! Some of them aren’t even currently riding for various reasons. 

Yet, that hasn’t stopped them from stepping outside their comfort zones and starting their journey’s to becoming more comfortable with exercise. 

It’s about getting started. 

It’s about working with someone who gets it

I know what it feels like to be intimidated walking into a new class or a gym.

I know what it feels like to not be able to do something, to struggle getting your body to participate. I understand that “rest in Downward Dog” is the words of a lunatic for a while in Yoga. 

Once upon a time you couldn’t do rising trot, I bet you barely get into trot now without just rising automatically-change your diagonal though…..

So, if you’re reading this and you’re thinking you should probably be trying to up your game to be the rider your horse deserves but it feels too far out of your comfort zone just take the first step.

Go to that new exercise class, join that gym, or close the curtains and do some squats in the living room. If you can just keep making that one step I promise it starts to feel more comfortable.

Also, lots of people on that class or gym will be feeling exactly the same as you do right now but like you they were brave enough to show up.

If you’re not the exercising out of the house type then my online programme is suitable for all levels, all you have to do is sign up and press play!

New Beginning?

April marks the end of the first quarter of the year-Eeeeek! Which of course also means it’s the start of a brand-new quarter!

Springtime and Easter naturally lend themselves to new beginnings with the Farming community losing sleep over lambing and calving right now, and if you don’t have an Apex Predator Bella Cat at your yard then there will also be tiny hares hopping around your fields at dawn and dusk.

New life season means if you aren’t currently happy with the way yours is heading you can take this second quarter to act and re set those goals!

If you set goals at the beginning of the year, firstly look at those now.

How are they going?

If things need to change on those and they need to be reset start there.

If you still want to achieve those goals but you haven’t taken enough steps towards them, ask yourself why? Have you made excuses about lack of time, the weather etc?

Time to decide whether you really want to achieve it and if the answer is yes, it’s time to put in the work.

Ask yourself whether you could get up earlier, skip an episode of that box set or just be more efficient with your time at the yard-less talk more tacking up!

Do you need to work smarter not harder? Do you need to do 5-6 similar, vaguely planned schooling sessions with your horse or would 3-4 quality sessions give you better results in less time. Those spare evenings/early mornings could be spent working on yourself……

If those original goals are no longer right for you, let’s set some new ones.

Where do you want to be in 3 months? 6 months? 12 months plus?

What does it look like?

How will it feel?

What daily actions will you need to take to achieve it?

What changes will you need to make?

What will be your obstacles and how will you overcome them?

Do you want some help and accountability?

I’ve got a couple of spaces for online coaching where we can set your goals and keep you accountable every week to take action towards achieving them, navigating your obstacles, and celebrating your achievements with you along the way. Message me to get started and let’s see where you are by the next quarter!