Riding With The Brakes On?

I imagine as a rider you have inner thighs of steel!

We use them for so much-forward, sideways sometimes for stability. We also by the very nature of sitting on a horse ask them to work in an extended position i.e. with the ends of the muscle furthest away from each other. Ordinarily when we want to work a muscle we contract it by bringing the origin and insertion (that’s either end) closer together –think bicep curl in the gym; the bicep is brought closer to the body to lift the weight.

When riding we elongate the adductors (inner thigh muscles) and then ask them to work in a static position there.

Then in our everyday lives we walk around with them typically in their shortened position as our legs are together. So we are contracting them to walk and then we ask them to contract when we ride-do they ever get a day off!

Now, many of us will have been led to believe that rock hard inner thighs are a good thing. Whilst a strong inner thigh is a good thing we also need to balance that with a relaxed inner thigh. This is because as mentioned we use them as aids to our horse so if they are always switched on…..you guessed it you are always giving an aid! Depending on a number of factors some being you and some being the schooling of your horse this can present in a number of ways. Most commonly you are riding with the handbrake on as you will lack a true lightness in your seat and will therefore be giving a very subtle slow down signal to your horse.  This then causes you to have to nag constantly with your leg and label your horse lazy.

It can also have the opposite effect on some horses as a grip on the inner thighs may mean “go” and this will be when you start to suspect you have electric jodhpurs as you swear you didn’t put your leg on!

To be honest the very nature of wrapping your legs around a horse means you will have good range of motion at your inner thighs they just need to learn to let go.

The first exercise I want to take you through is a technique called gliding. You will take the muscle to a stretch position and then move gently forward and back before increasing the stretch a little more and holding it. The stretch is passive as your hands are used to take your weight giving your body greater chance to relax into the stretch.

The second exercise aims to encourage opening at the hip joint but also stability of the pelvis. If we cannot open our hip with a stable pelvis this will affect our adductors ability to relax when we ride. I short it will become stiff to help stabilise the pelvis-so you are back to riding with the brakes on.

Begin standing with weight evenly spread between both feet. Then lift one leg and place the sole of the foot on the inside of the other leg-wherever it is comfortable there is no “correct” place for it to go. Place your hands on the front of your hip bones to ensure that the stay facing forward throughout. Now take the lifted knee out to the side keeping the foot on the other leg. Continue bringing the leg in and out for a count of 5. Repeat on the other side.

Don’t forget just two weeks until the Equestrian Bootcamp begins at Warren Farm, Formby. Places are limited so please secure your slot now if you want to join us!.

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