Keeping on track for Chri…….

Ok, it still feels a but early for me but I’m going to mention C word…..

Yep, December is racing towards us which means many of you will be off into a tail spin of Office parties, parties with friends, family etc. 

Add into that cold, dark nights, maybe rain, wind, ice…...and it can be hard to get motivated to do anything!

Which means your riding and your riding fitness can go out of the window.

Lots of people also just give up and say they’ll get back on it in January, as there is just no point with all the upheaval.

To that I say horsesh!t! Well you’ll probably still be shovelling it so you may as well keep on track with the good bits!

The thing is firstly accepting that yes you may not be able to put in a perfect performance with your riding and fitness in December but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.Think about how much harder it will be to get started in January if you haven’t even kept the habit up! Not to mention the extra work you’ll have to put in when it’s still wet and cold to get you on track for your spring and summer goals.

Get your diary out now and slot in all your socialising and then plan your riding and your fitness around it. 

Maybe you’ll have to shorten your sessions but 20 minutes of schooling can be hugely beneficial as can 20 minutes of exercise whether that is Cardio, weights or yoga. 

Whatever it is you plan to do to keep yourself ticking over make a plan so when you’re a bit frazzled you don’t need to then plan your schooling and exercise sessions as well!

Maybe you could book into for some Christmas fun rides, fancy dress Dressage or Pole clinics to keep you on track.

I’m taking on a walk 50 miles in 12 days challenge to keep me exercising when busyness threatens to over whelm me.

I’ve also got an even better idea that will cover both your schooling and your exercise motivation-why not sign up to the OnForm Equestrian Advent Challenge! 24 days of schooling and exercise sessions with weekly check ins to keep you on track and help you along the way if you get stuck……..all for only £24! Head over to our page to sign up -https://www.facebook.com/onformequestrian

Challenge Your Coordination

One of the key things in riding is coordination and quick reactions. 

The whole inside leg, outside rein, steer, change gait all whilst being on top of an animal with a mind of it’s own and your body’s reaction to all of that; it’s a lot huh!

Your reaction time isn’t just relevant for the oh sh!t moment’s, it’s the whole ride with your body adjusting and adapting to the horse underneath you. A quick reacting rider can prevent a horse falling in or out, they can react to an unbalanced horse and help him out or deal with any change in tempo.

One thing that is super interesting about children that do lots of different sporting activities whilst they are young, is that as adults they find it easier to pick up new sporting activities even if they’ve never done them before. So those kids that did football, hockey, tennis, skied etc. then go to the gym as adults and take up something technical like Olympic lifting and they are more likely to pick it up quicker than someone who only did one sport.

This is because the nervous system is primed to respond to lot’s of different patterns, not just one pattern of movement.

Which tells us that in order to improve our coordination on horse we do not necessarily need to make it riding specific. 

So, just have fun with it!

If you want to start adapting to movement underneath you, sitting on a gym ball is a good place to start. You can just sit with feet on the floor then once you’ve got that you can try lifting your feet. 

If you want to try improving your coordination, you can start simply with throwing and catching a ball-you could do that on the gym ball if you fancy a bit more of a challenge.

You could try a funky shaped reaction ball, that when you bounce it fires off in a random direction.

You could also do exactly what the kids do. Try a different sport! Kick a Football, try a dance class whatever you like. 

In order to be a better Equestrian Athlete you need to be a better all round Athlete.

PS. Keep an eye out for an exciting upcoming partnership with Stephanie Dootson Veterinary Physiotherapy starting out with an Advent Challenge designed to improve both you and your horses performance across 24 days with help and support along the way.

Glutes for a good seat

We’ve been talking booty’s a fair bit this week! 

Not for aesthetic reasons; although a solid peach is no bad thing! The Glutes are the biggest muscle in the body and are a huge player in stabilising the pelvis and the spine. That means they are a huge player in managing pain and injury in these areas and also an absolute necessity for a stable position whilst riding. 

If your glutes are able to work effectively, absorbing the movement of the horse underneath you they take the load off your joints, in particular your spine. This is hugely beneficial for back pain. 

Also, if your glutes are conditioned enough to work well without becoming over stressed or tense this gives you a much better chance of having a stable but relaxed seat.

Basically building a booty is an absolute key element for riders.

So, rather than sell you on it’s benefits just trust me and let’s get to it!

Here’s a little circuit I’d love you to add into your routine 2 - 3 times per week and you can start ti feel the benefits building a booty can bring!

Bridge-Harder option put your feet on a bench or gym ball

Squat

Hyper Extension -Harder option do on a gym ball

Training for Pressure

I spent Wednesday listening to a talk by Charlie Unwin and Jason Webb. Charlie said some interesting things about athletes during a game, about to start a race etc still being in a stressed state but being able to think clearly and perform well. 

This makes sense as anyone about to go into a competition will have a level of adrenalin and that is not necessarily a bad thing, but you need to be able to perform with that high state of arousal and not let it overwhelm you.

This gave me some ideas for training this in the Equestrian without having to continuously go out competing. 

As I predominantly work with riders off horse I thought of some fun ways this skill could be incorporated into a gym session.

Here’s some ideas I’m thinking of testing out with my clients.

Reciting Dressage tests whilst doing something else.

On the Rower-Row to a point at which you start to breathe fairly heavy but can still talk, continue rowing whilst reciting a Dressage test. If you can keep an eye on your stroke rate try and keep it the same!

You could use any cardio I’m just basing this around what I’ve got in my gym.

Performing stability and co-ordination exercises whilst reciting a Dressage test. So, maybe standing on balance pods or kneeling on a gym ball, throwing and catching a ball. 

It doesn’t have to be a Dressage test it could be a jumping course you talk through or a X Country round you memorise and talk yourself through the flow of the course, the striding etc whilst doing something else taxing.

Obviously these activities won’t necessarily create the same adrenaline but going full Squid Game seems a bit harsh! 

Have you got any other fun ideas for incorporating this into gym work?

Are you going to have a go at one of these?

Connecting to your muscles

Do you ever try to do something with your body when you’re riding and you just can’t seem to connect your brain to your body part?

Sometimes you can send the message from your brain and it just doesn’t make the muscle move.

I’ve mentioned before that exercise; whether that is Yoga, Pilates or Weightlifting can help with your ability to activate muscles specifically.

However I’ve got another little tip for you that you can try to help you switch on those tricky bits of your body.

Breathing!

You can practice this off horse first to get the hang of it.

Start with the easy bit so consciously sending breath to your rib cage. Then try sending it to just one side of your rib cage.

Continue doing this around your body.

Send breath to your left waist, to your right hip…….your right leg, left ankle. Wherever you want.

Try it out, play around with using deep slow breaths, short fast breaths and see what works for you.

Then try it when you ride.

Want to tune into your left elbow? Send breath to it! Try it wherever you need it and see what happens.

Will the Gym help?

I’ve come across a couple of professionals in the Equestrian sector recently who are of the opinion that gym work and/or weightlifting is not useful or indeed could be detrimental to riding. The problem I have with this is that the people saying this are not exercise professionals, ( as in they are not Personal Trainer, Strength and Conditioning coaches or Sports Scientists) and they are basing their opinion on people they’ve seen who for whatever reason have issues that may not have been helped by their gym training. There is no mention of how these people moved or felt before or whether they were working with a professional in their workouts. 

The thing is I’ve seen plenty of people who aren’t riders go solo in the gym and end up finding themselves in more pain and/or injured because they had no clue what they were doing. It’s not the gym equipment that was at fault, it was the application that was wrong.

The thing is as riders it’s not just the riding we have to be fit enough for. It’s all the other stuff! 

A bag of feed weighs 20kg so do we really think that there is no benefit to someone get stronger so that, that 20kg feed bag isn’t such a big deal anymore. To be trained to carry that bag of feed with good technique and have the strength to move it without being worn out means your less likely to be injured and you’ll have more energy for the rest of your jobs and the riding.

If you’re fit enough that you can muck out your stable, do any other yard work, fetching and carrying then ride without being overly fatigued you will not only feel better day to day, you’re also less likely to injure yourself in the process. You’ll also of course ride better because you aren’t knackered!

I think the belief that weight training is bad for you comes from seeing it done badly. None of my clients over the last 10 years has gotten stronger but less flexible in the process. In fact they’ve all moved better, had less pain and better body awareness as a result of their training. 

That’s because we don’t just focus on how heavy they lift or how much they sweat or if they’re crawling out of the session at the end and unable to walk for days. That’s not productive nor beneficial to an Equestrian. 

A well balanced gym programme could have some heavy lifting in there, but it will also have some lighter accessory work to build weaknesses and balance out asymmetries as well as some conditioning of the heart and lungs (that’s cardio but not necessarily a long run!) 

We warm up and prepare with mobility and activation exercises and we deal with any niggles that might have occurred in the past week-there’s often something when a horse is involved!

So, if you do train at the gym in a bid to improve your performance riding, or to help manage pain or injuries bear these things in mind when planning your sessions.

And if you’d been put off because you thought it wouldn’t help…….my cocky answer is “you’re wrong!” but in all seriousness if you plan it well and if you’re able to; work with a professional who truly understands your needs (might be one you’re reading now……) you absolutely will get results. 

End of mild rant!

Check in with you feet

Do you ever check into your feet when you ride?

Do you think about how they feel in the stirrup?

Do you press down into them or are they lightly placed?

Are they equally weighted each side?

Are your toes facing forward or out to the side?

We know that our horses feet can have a huge impact on his soundness and performance, but what about our feet?

Firstly, your feet should be placed lightly in the stirrup, they don’t bear your weight your thighs you be doing that. If you press down into your feet you will pop yourself up and lock your knees. They should be relaxed to allow the ankle to absorb the movement.

Having equal, light weight in your feet is a great step for ensuring your symmetry so checking into this should be a regular check in when you first get on.

If your toes are facing forward this gives a good indication that your thighs are gently on the saddle.

Commonly I see a lot of toes turning out which means the hip stabilisers are not working and the hamstrings have taken over. I’ll write more about this another day.

For now try bringing some focus to your feet.

If you have trouble connecting with them, try doing this off horse.

Roll them over a ball and see how it feels You might find tense bits, maybe bits you hadn’t really checked into before and a heightened sensation or feeling of grounding.

Then next time you ride, check back in and see if you can have them light, equal and facing forward throughout. If not…….you’ve got stuff to work on.

Simple but Effective

Last week I talked about planning your winter training. Clearly just in time as the weather changed almost overnight to solid wind and rain!

Following on from that I wanted to give you some really simple starting points for your training.

So I’ve put together 3 routines of just 3 exercises.

One for at home with no equipment.

Another that can be done with a Dumbbell or Kettlebell either at home or in the gym

A third with a Barbell, so for those of you who either have a home gym or train at the gym and are happy using a Barbell.

You can do 3-4 sets of 8-10 of each exercise as a base of your workout then add in other work around it that may be some cardio, maybe some specific stability work or whatever else you want to focus on. Or of course it could be done as a stand alone workout for short and sweet that covers the whole body. Simple but Effective!

Here they are then:

  1. No equipment – Squat-Press up-Thread The Needle. https://youtu.be/Zqyn_qRy0jE
  2. Split Squat-Bent Over Row-Windmill https://youtu.be/sP6GOPToFu4
  3. Lunge-High Pull-Landmine Up & Over https://youtu.be/KCV7L1dp6l4

If you want more help with your training I’ve got a little space for 1 2 1 in person and Zoom Personal Training so send me a message if you’d like to know more!

How Are You Training in the Dark?

It’s been dark when I’ve been starting and leaving work this week, which means Autumn has finally set in. I’ve already started to think about how I’ll fit in training my ponies over winter and how I will fit that all in around the lack of daylight, weather changes etc.

That also means I need to consider my own training.

Once the weather isn’t so nice we tend to not be outside on the go as much and prefer to spend evenings and weekends snuggled up on the sofa, usually with snacks!

However winter onset is no excuse to slack on your fitness regime. In fact if you’re riding less that’s even more reason (and time) to focus on your own fitness.

But I get it, going out for a run when it’s dark, wet and windy doesn’t seem so appealing.

Of course there are certain forms of exercise that I think would be more beneficial to your riding than others. Including some resistance training and some body awareness would be top of my list. However, in reality any exercise that you will actually turn up and do consistently is beneficial.

If you like a social element why not join a class (There’s space in my classes if you’re interested…..)

If you really want to do that run, walk or cycle outside buy yourself some good warm and waterproof kit so it doesn’t feel so grim- I reward myself with a hot bath and a hot chocolate if I do this!

If you want to make time to commit to the gym you can be really tactical at improving your riding performance with weights and cardio equipment available.

And if you really can’t face leaving the house there are lots of online workouts you can do. Just a hint I’ve got an online programme that’s only £5 per month….

So, there are lot’s of options to keep yourself in training alongside your horse through the darker months. You’ve just got to find something you’ll stick to and remember that 2022 season you will thank you for your efforts!

Forward Hands

I’ve been creating some extra content for my online programme these last couple of weeks to work on our rein contact.

We started with stability work to ensure we had a solid base from which to hold a rein contact from.

Then we’ve moved on to “Forward Hands”.

Often when I watch my riders, they’re working really hard with their legs and seat but their horse still isn’t quite travelling through from the hind end to reach into a proper contact.

Then we check into their hands and sometimes it is really subtle but it’s enough; their hands are pulling back. So, asking for go with their legs and saying no with their hands! 🙈

If you think this might be you here’s a little exercise for you to try.

Sitting down, preferably on a gym ball but a chair will do.

Hold a weight out in front of you with both hands. First with straight arms and see how it feels, which muscles are working?

Then bend your arms as if you were riding. Which muscles are working now?

Hopefully with bent arms you can feel your abdominals switch on. This is where you should be feeling it when you’re riding too! Your abdominals should be supporting your hands with your hands feeling like they are pushing forward against a resistance-which is what stops you just throwing your hands forward.

So back on your horse you visualise holding that weight, your abs will kick in to support it and your hands will push forward against a wall. Keep your hands up, together in front of you and see how your horse responds……..

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