Are you strong when things go wrong?

When you’re thinking about your own rider fitness do you focus on your performance when everything is going right? Like how you manage transitions, a dressage test, a round of jumps etc?


What about how you perform when it’s not going right? 


How does your body respond if your horse wobbles, maybe trips, sneezes or spooks? How do you cope with a buck or a rear? 


What happens if you’re out on the Cross Country course and it goes awry?


If you ever watch the pro’s out on cross country when things don’t go to plan you will notice they react lightning fast and they stay balanced still riding the horse forward.


If you watch a really good rider as their horse bucks, rears, trips etc again they stay balanced and are able to ride forward. 


Have you got the strength and balance to do that?


It can be an absolute game changer. Not least because you fall off less! 


Of course most importantly it makes you less likely to injure yourself, as even if you stay on you can still give yourself whiplash from an impact you weren’t expecting.


Are you stable and balanced enough to stay with your horse if he zooms off sharply? Are you stable enough to keep riding and not be dragged forward if he pulls his head down or trips? 


When you can do this is you become more in charge of the outcome. 


But how do you get that?


This is where I believe Strength training comes in.  Being able to control more than your own bodyweight  is a great way of training your body to kick in with extra stability when needed on top of a horse.


When I train clients one to one or in my strength and conditioning class we work predominantly on big compound movements that require the body to work as a whole unit. 


For example whilst a Deadlift is used predominantly to improve posterior chain strength, it still requires good core activation, the chest to remain open and the shoulders to actively participate. You may have spotted some absolute bad ass ladies lifting some serious weight over on my social media. They didn’t start at those weights but they’ve put the time and dedication in to improve them and it’ s paying off in their riding with better stability and control. 


We work up to some Olympic Lifting movements that require full body coordination and fast reactions whilst moving a weight. Are you seeing how this might transfer to better riding?


Maybe it’s time to up the ante on your gym work, or if you want a coach to help you get there you know where I am…...


A positive WHY?

This week I listened to a great Podcast with Olivia Towers and Abi Lyle.


Abi was talking about exercising and eating well as an act of kindness to yourself. She discussed how often at the end of long days etc we often “reward” ourselves with junk food when in fact what our body needs is nutritious food to nourish and re energise it. Also how we can view exercise as a punishment to our bodies for the food we’ve eaten when it fact it should be a way of looking after our bodies and keeping it fit and strong.


I really like these concepts and definitely identify with them for my own training and nutrition and those that I try and instill in my clients. 


Often I ask my clients to identify their WHY for training and changing their eating habits.


This is super important as this is what makes people stick with their habits. This why needs to be a positive reason such as improving performance, improving how you feel in clothing etc. 


For me I feel like I have it easy in terms of motivation as if I train to be strong I am in less pain, I perform better for work, I ride better and generally life feels a bit easier. If I eat well I have less brain fog, less stomach issues and have more energy. These are some really strong WHY’s that definitely align with being kind to myself. As I don’t know why I would want to not train and eat rubbish when this would make feel crazy tired, brain foggy and leave me in a lot of pain? That would definitely not be being kind to myself. 


I want you to think about that when creating your own healthy habits. What are your positive reasons for doing them?


Will eating better give you more energy, so you aren’t as tired during the day?


Will going for that run clear your head?


Would some yoga relax you?


Whatever your reasons try and make them positive and come from a place of looking after your physical and mental health. You’re more likely to stick with them and actually feel good about them too.


“Look after your body it’s the only place you have to live.”


The riding wounded

Do you ever think about the amount of times you’ve been bashed about, stood on or fallen off your horse and just carried on regardless. You may have self medicated with some ibuprofen and a glass of wine but you didn’t fully assess the situation to decide if it may have a long term impact.


I imagine if your horse fell, had an injury etc he’d have the vet, possibly physio, he may have some time off and a rehab plan………


Can you spot the difference there?


I can’t emphasise enough how much you are a vital part of the performance of you and your horse together. If you aren’t functioning correctly then you aren’t pulling your weight in the team.


I see riders every week that have muscular injuries whether from a recent event or something that has been long term. Now these riders are dealing with the issue as obviously they are coming to me but what about the rest of you?


If one of my clients has had a recent injury I give them initial management advice-heat/ice, relevant stretches etc. If necessary I’ll book them in for a sports massage and we’ll review it in the weeks following in their 121’s or in class. 


I think this is why riders should regularly be having massage or physio alongside regular off horse training. Issues that you may initially brush off may have a lasting impact if not picked up on quickly. 


Building a stronger body makes it more resilient to injury and easing out knots and tightness in the early stages stops them from becoming a long term issue.


So use this as your cue to start taking your own injuries and minor niggles as seriously as you would take those things in your horse. 


Do you want access to an online workout site that will help you build strength and stability for riding and guide you through some stretching to eek out those aches and pains at the end of the week? My online programme is just £5 per month for access to a weekly body weight Pilates style strength workout and a yoga based stretch session all in a Private Facebook group & direct to your inbox.


Over come your own barriers

Do you ever tell yourself you don’t have time to work on yourself?


You know you should train yourself off horse, work on your imbalances and weaknesses etc because you know it will make you a better rider for your horse but………..insert appropriate excuses. 


If your horse needed extra feeds, maybe extra training or rehab sessions you’d find the time wouldn’t you? 


I find with most things exercise/performance related the time, money etc is not the issue it’s the mindset of the person that makes the most difference.


If you ask any athlete how/why they made it they will tell you two things 1) They made sacrifices elsewhere -not watching box sets every evening, no lie ins etc 2) Anything is possible if you want it enough.


I don’t buy the “I get home late argument” as I don’t consider 7-8pm late, I also don’t consider 6am the earliest time you could possibly get up if you needed to. 


I also don’t think the majority of horses need working every day at the expense of you spending a session focused on you.


Again it comes down to over coming your own barriers. 


No one said you needed to spend 2 hours in the gym every night, you don’t need to smash yourself up and then ride with severe DOMS for a full week afterwards.


However you do need to take some responsibility for your part to play in your partnership with your horse. You should want to be the best rider you can be in order to help your get you where you want to be.


Are you stable enough to support your own body weight and control it on top of your horse?


Are you aware of what your body is up to when you can’t actually see it? What do your shoulders do when you turn left? What is your lower leg doing in Canter?


And if it’s not doing what it should be… do you stop it?


These are things you can be working on off horse that will have a huge benefit to you and your horse.


You may choose to take up Pilates, Yoga, join a gym class or maybe work with someone equestrian specific like myself. They all have the potential to be of benefit.

If you want to improve your own performance enough you will make the time.


If you’re really pushed I’ve got an online twice weekly programme that is just 20-30 minutes per session, zero equipment and you can do it at home any time that suits you!