I’m sure you will have noticed that rider fitness is gaining momentum. More research is being done into the effects of rider symmetry on the horse, as well as rider weight and I’m sure more and more will continue to be done.
It is also now common place for the top riders in many countries to have team physios and fitness trainers.
As perhaps an amateur rider you may be thinking this isn’t really relevant to you, especially if you don’t compete.
However being fit to ride applies to every rider.
Firstly for the aforementioned research projects that have shown that rider symmetry and weight has a correlation with horse lameness.
Secondly though being “fit for purpose” as it were will prevent you becoming injured and developing the general aches and pains I see lots of riders deal with.
You see, being strong, flexible and with a decent level of endurance makes everyday tasks become that little bit easier -carrying a bag of feed no problem! So when something happens like that crazy catapult jump your horse threw in during your lesson your body is better equipped to deal with it. It’s not already knackered from the mucking out you do so it’s still got some extra left in the tank to help you out. It also makes the demand of just riding easier on your body. If from top to toe you are mobile, stable and balanced there will be less chance of compensatory actions happening and the wrong muscles being over worked whilst others are not working at all.
I think one of the most visual examples I see of body compensation is Dressage Riders (sorry guys). How often do you see someone going into a “big trot” and lean back as they do it? This is under the impression that it makes them feel more stable and better able to ride that trot. What it is actually doing is stretching out the front of the abs and therefore not recruiting them properly and putting all the work into the lower back now into a very short contracted position. Strangely enough many of these riders will complain of back pain………Basically neither front nor back is doing its best work. Also as a side note they are also behind the movement because they are no longer over the centre of the horse so it’s a lose lose situation.
Unfortunately if these riders then try to sit up with equal front and back and sit to the trot they will find it wobbly and will struggle to ride it. This is because they need to re learn the muscle balance and be able to work the front and back equally. This takes time and effort but if they do it not only will they get less back pain but they’ll also find they have way more riding to give that trot-which then transfers to more complicated movements such as changes, pirouettes etc.
It’s not just the Dressage riders that are guilty of this, that was just a very common visual I think you will be able to identify with. I also see lots of Showjumpers doing the reverse and over rounding at the shoulders both before and over fences, plenty of hackers slouched etc. Let’s be honest we are all guilty of falling into bad habits.
So, next time you are riding have a think about your position. Is it level at the front and back so you can use both sides equally? Of course then ask yourself if you are level left to right so you know you are less likely to be crooked.
If you find yourself lacking in some areas…...well you could come and work with me and we can iron those issues out!
Of course there are also lots of ideas for things to help you out over on my YouTube https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iJf8kAX4yTw
And my social media.
And of course all of the previous blogs over on www.equestrianfitness.co.uk