Sing for the sake of your riding

This week I was talking to someone about listening to music whilst riding.


It serves a couple of different purposes for me and depending on the purpose depends on the kind of music I have on.


One of the main reasons I listen to music it that it helps me to breathe. I can be quite a nervous rider, which means I tense up and don’t breathe! This translates to my hips creeping my leg up, my hands get rigid and guess what…….my pony gets tense and I essentially create the scenario I was imagining in my head!


However the very act of singing forces you to breathe and secondly if you do it properly (a good ballad will ensure this) you will activate your Diaphragm which will enable you to release your hips-without even thinking about your hips you’ll just be singing your best Whitney.


Your Diaphragm is a muscle that sits under your ribs attaching both there and to your lower spine. As you breathe in this muscle should drop down to allow more air in, however if we are shallow breathing into our chest it won’t do this.


The shallow breathing can make us tense, as activating the Diaphragm also activates the Vagus Nerve which sends a message to our brain to relax. So, if it’s not activated our bain thinks their is a reason to be stressed.


Secondly, the Diaphragm attaches on on our lower spine at the same point as our Psoas muscle, which is the hip flexor at the front of our thigh. If the Diaphragm is pulled up into the rib cage it is also pulling the Psoas up-which is bringing your knee up and causing tension in your seat.


So, activating the Diaphragm encourages both relaxation of the brain and the hips in one go-both needed for effective riding.


So, back to the signing. If you suffer with nerves, you just forget to breathe or you have “tight” hips try singing when you ride (yes you will look crazy but it doesn’t need to be that load to be effective). To really use your Diaphragm I recommend a good ballad as to even sing it a little bit forces you to activate.

Personal recommendations are:

Amazed - Lonestar

Iris - The Goo Goo Dolls

All or Nothing-O Town


And something easy on the big notes but it has calmed me down enough with it’s signing rhythm so it doesn’t feel right not to include it…


Niall Horan-Slow Hands


As you can see from those selections I’m incredibly hip with my music tastes….


Have you got any songs that you would add to this list? Let me know and we could create a Diaphragm Breathing Playlist!


What’s with all the Ball Play?

You may have noticed on social media and across my classes we spent a lot of time “messing about” on gym balls. It’s great fun and everyone always really enjoys it.


However, is it really just messing about or is there some serious training going on here?


Well I’ll have you know there is actually a lot of rider specific work going on alongside all that falling off the gym ball.


The reason gym balls have become popular training tools amongst equestrians is due to them requiring good balance and stability to stay on one. Even just sitting on one with your feet on the floor can be a challenge if you are new to core training.


When we are riding our horse we are constantly making tiny adjustments to our stabiliser muscles to keep us in balance with the horse. This is exactly what you are doing on a gym ball. Whether you are sat on trying to lift your feet, kneeling 4 point or 2 point; the very act of trying to stabilise on the ball trains the muscles you are using to stabilise on your horse. So even if you can’t kneel up and juggle on the ball in perfect stillness (if you can please send videos!) the very act of trying to stabilise is still rider specific exercise in itself.


I know many of you will have a gym ball gathering dust somewhere, or you will have seen them in the shops recently for less than £10 and are thinking you should get one but you’ve no idea what to do with it.


There are in fact loads of exercises you can do with a gym ball, hence why I use them in my classes and with 1 2 1 clients. However let’s start simple and do what I call “getting comfortable” with the gym ball.


Start by just sitting on it as you would a chair. Breathe, relax and try holding a conversation.


Then start to turn your torso left and then right-is one way easier than the other?


Now try lifting one foot at a time.


Now try lifting one foot and turning the opposite and then the same way.


Both feet…..


Try all of this again but in more of a horse rider stance-straddle the ball as if it was a horse.


Honestly, I don’t mind you giving yourself a little hand by holding a sturdy table or windowsill to help you learn what “right” feels like until you can do it on your own.


Ok, crack on with that this week and let me know how you get on before we move onto the circus tricks.


Ps: Please make sure there is nothing you could hurt yourself on around you-walls to crash into etc. If you’re very accident prone wear your hat!

Diets and Detox

I wasn’t going to write about diet and nutrition today but as is customary around this time of year there was so much nonsense being posted on the internet about weight loss, detox etc. that honestly it drives me crazy!

I’m going to try not to make this into a rant but I fear it may be a little ranty so if you can’t deal with that look away now.

Firstly, Detox…………….There is absolutely no need whatsoever, no matter how much you ate drank in December to need to drink green juices or take special supplements in order to rid your body of toxins. You have a liver and kidneys doing that right now just fine. If they aren’t doing that effectively then you need a hospital not a green smoothie! Of course you can make their lives a little easier by minimising your alcohol intake and making your diet up mainly of fresh, whole foods but other than that, trust me your liver and kidneys are just “detoxing” away 24/7.

Second up-Weight Loss.

It is of course completely fine to want to drop a few pounds you may have added over Christmas or indeed if you would like to lose some weight to become a lighter, more athletic load for your horse, that’s great and I completely support that. However, dieting, quick fixes, shakes, pills, body wraps and whatever other nonsense the internet has told you is the answer is really NOT the answer. The diet industry is worth billions and the reason it is worth billions is because people don’t just buy into it once, they buy into it, fail, blame themselves, buy into again……rinse and repeat. The problem with diets is that unless you can live on that diet for life then eventually you are going to eat differently and if that “differently” isn’t conducive to weight loss or maintenance then you are going to put the weight back on.

Don’t be disheartened by this, I’m not saying you can’t lose weight, but what I am saying is you need to make permanent lifestyle changes that in short put you into a calorie deficit to enable you to burn the fat you’re trying to lose. Then when you hit goal weight you just keep eating as you have been the entire time which is now your normal way of eating.

Take this advice from someone who has lost around 2 Stone and it did come off slowly, but it has also stayed off without it feeling like at any point that I was hugely depriving myself. I still ate chocolate every day, I still had meals out, and I still spent lots of time drinking Lattes in Starbucks and I didn’t spend every day in the gym running miles on a treadmill.

No matter what the internet, the celebrities and the people trying to sell you shakes and supplements tell you, the Science still stands up that weight loss is based on Calories in vs Calories out = Simples.

If you would like more nutrition focused emails let me know what you want to know and I will do my best to cater.

New Year Goals

I hope you’ve had a lovely Christmas and New Year and perhaps had a little time off to spend with your horse.

This time is probably one of the very few times throughout the year where I really do try to slow down and let my work brain rest a little.

I also find it’s a great time to do a little more research on things I’m interested in for my own ponies so that I can get inspired for the coming year.

I am an avid goal setter within my business. I am also a goal setter within my personal life and in particular my ponies but I tend to make these smaller. Not because I am “unambitious” but because I have a very busy schedule and don’t have a massive desire to do anything huge with my ponies other than enjoy my time with them. That doesn’t mean I don’t make plans or have goals it just that they don’t necessarily have anything to do with competitions. I looking forward to getting on with the first Canter on PoppyMayand hopefully getting  out and about with Douglas both driving and possibly some Pony Ploughing (yes really!).

I do however have some lovely clients who have bigger ambitions with their horses than me. These aren’t all professional riders, they are people like you and me who have full time jobs, partners etc. who have that burning desire to succeed in their chosen discipline. We’ve got those aiming to qualify and compete at Dressage Regionals and possibly Nationals, Show riders aiming for HOYS and some aiming to do their first ODE or move up a level at Eventing.

Whichever camp you are in though both levels of aspiration require the same method of planning and then following input of work.

New Year is a great time to look forward to what you would like to achieve in the next 12 months. What would you like to be doing with your horse next summer? Is there a competition you would like to compete at? Maybe you would just like to hack through the forest or ride on the beach?

Sit down with a diary, a notebook whatever now and write that goal down.

Is there a time limit on it? For example if it is competition based. If so, work backwards from that date and plan what you need to be doing at each point to get you to that goal-make sure you have some wiggle room for inevitable days/weeks off due to work, weather, lameness or illness.

Does your horse need bringing back up to fitness first? Do you need bringing back into fitness??

Will you need checks from Saddlers, Physios, and Dentists etc? Do you need to have a conversation with your trainer so that they know what your plans are and can help you work towards them?

Write all of this down and map it out.

Then start to plan the training schedule. I don’t want to discourage you but be realistic. If thus far in your horse ownership to date you have never consistently ridden 6 days per week most of the year don’t imagine you are going to start in 2019 unless you are prepare for the dedication and sacrifice that this will take. If it’s more likely to be 3-5 times per week make your plan based on that.

If like me you have more ground level, less time dependant goals the theory is the same but the time element does not need to be there. I still write down my training plan however the steps are not time dependant and are more in the nature of achieve step 1, once this has been done move on to step 2.

If you think you need to up your game with your riding fitness in 2019 get in touch I would love to help you achieve your goals!