Why should you do Anti Rotation Training

As part of my clients training programmes I often include Anti Rotation or Anti Tip training.

This entails a movement that uses one side of the body which would encourage it to twist but instead you must resist those forces and stay straight ahead.

Why is this helpful for riders?

If your horse is asymmetrical it’s you as the riders job to assist with making him more symmetrical. So for example if your horse twists you to the right it’s your job to ride straight and encourage the horse back underneath you. Can you imagine how much easier this is if your body is already trained to resist an external pull and remain straight ahead anyway.

This also comes in useful when things go awry. If your horse shoots sideways unexpectedly your body is better equipped to maintain it’s balance under external forces.

Exercises I like to include to help with this are:

Plank Shoulder Taps

Landmine Single Arm Presses

Forward, Back or Side Lunges with the same side arm loaded.

Single Arm loaded Squat

Single leg Deadlift

Nail The Basics

As an Equestrian life can be pretty full on; yard jobs, riding, work, family etc all take time and energy. So much so that feeling constantly tired seems to be an accepted norm.

Yet, there are some people who seem to have boundless energy and possibly even thrive on this constant busyness.

From my experience of working with people from lot’s of different walks of life I’ve noticed some familiar patterns in those that seem to cram in an abundance of things into their life whilst still having the energy to sustain it long term.

They nail the basics.

That means they eat well, exercise and make switching off and getting enough sleep a priority.

Eating a diet filled with good quality protein, fruit and vegetables along with good hydration has a huge impact on your energy levels day to day and how your body feels in general. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated but making the effort to have proper nutritious meals throughout the day and drinking more water instead of surviving on caffeine and mars bars will not only improve your energy levels but will also improve your body’s ability to perform and repair-read ride better and injure less!

If I’m not going to have time to sit and eat I use protein shakes and fruit to get me through a day. Otherwise it’s porridge or granola, maybe a salad or soup at lunch then salmon or chicken with vegetables or rice in the evening. I take hydration tablets in my water and I have herbal tea in place of caffeine from lunch time onwards.

I think it’s finally getting main stream that riders should exercise off horse to improve their performance on horse. However there are multiple other benefits to fitting exercise into your life. If your body is stronger it will find your every day tasks easier, meaning those yard jobs won’t seem such an effort. You will to move better so you won’t be feeling quite so stiff and achy all the time which again boosts your energy levels. Exercise can also boost your mental health, so when you’re having a tough horse day having another outlet can really help. I mix up strength training, with cardio and yoga preferring 5-6 30 minute workouts per week rather than 3-4 heavy sessions but it’s trial and error to find what works best for your body.

Rest can be an interesting topic to tackle with people, often what people can perceive as switching off isn’t really having the desired affect. So many people spend hours staring at a tv, whilst scrolling through a phone thinking that’s down time. The blue light from devices can disrupt our sleep patterns, often it means we struggle to go to sleep or if we do sleep we don’t get the deep REM sleep we need to fully recuperate. Aiming to get 5-6 hours of good quality sleep can be much more beneficial than 8-9 hours of restless sleep.

Switching off also doesn’t have to be just sitting down doing nothing. For me, taking the dogs for a walk clears my head, listening to a funny podcast – Buck off Banter …… So you could be combining the exercise and the switch off maybe with a Yoga session. You’ll find what works for you.

I have a wind down routine that involves listening to something light-hearted on my drive home to take my brain out of work mode, then putting my phone away as soon as I get in so I’m not tempted to scroll. (that’s why you get ignored if you’ve messaged me after 9pm!)Then I shower and go to bed, pretty much out like a light! If I skip some of this routine or maybe do something on my phone it’s definitely harder to get to sleep so the system works!

I think this can often sound like a lot to fit in, yet I can assure you the busiest people I know are doing this (myself included) and it’s what enables them to be on the go from 5am to 9pm every day without hitting burnout.

You don’t need to be quite so full on in your own life, but I guarantee if you start to nail the basics of nutrition, rest and exercise whatever the demands of your life they’ll start to feel a bit easier.

What are your feet doing?

Lucinda Green MBE shared a great tip to stop you pushing off your stirrups whilst jumping as this puts you in front of the movement. She suggests jumping without stirrups then retaking them and jumping exactly the same way.

What I found great about this is that very often even during flatwork people are pushing into their stirrups which causes tension in the lower leg, and can encourage the joints to try and lock out; which sends your lower leg forward.

I think many people are doing this because they have misinterpreted the “weight in your heels” instruction. They then try to push their weight down.

As a rider you need to focus on being in your own self carriage. That means you aren’t excessively pushing or pulling in any direction. Any push from your body should be equal front to back, left to right-Symmetry!

So, what should you do with your feet?

You want a connection with your stirrups, that means equal weight in your feet, but that weight doesn’t push down it supports itself. You should be able to feel the stirrup across the whole width of the foot and be supporting your heel and aware of it’s position.

This is why I like to do exercises that improve the connection to the feet.

Bringing awareness to the feet can be done a number of ways depending on where you are in your exercise journey, and how connected you are to your feet already.

An initial awareness can be brought by rolling your foot on a ball, either a smooth ball or a prickly physio ball. Standing on the floor barefoot after this will give you new sensations and connections to your feet.

When doing regular exercises such as squats, tuning in to whether you have equal weight in both feet, whether you have your full foot in contact with the floor can all help to increase your awareness of your feet.

Working on unstable surfaces such as balance pods can give you an extra insight to how equal your weight is. Are you tipping one way more than another? Maybe your toes tip forward or your heels drop down -fine as long as it doesn’t tip your whole weight back.

Transferring this to your riding, now you have more awareness do your feet feel equal in the stirrups? If your horse drifts left or right can you correct it by gently increasing the connection to your opposite foot?

Our feet play a bigger part in our riding than we realise and it’s not about force or big efforts, just by  improving our brain body connection and awareness to them we can make big changes.

Exercise for Meditation

I was listening to a podcast about Yoga this week, and the Yogi in question talked about how Yoga isn’t necessarily about Yoga, it’s about allowing and controlling movement through your body. It’s about connecting with how it feels, focusing your brain and fully immersing in the practice. And then being able to carry that flow state throughout your daily life. Flow State is when you effortlessly focus on what you’re doing, sort of like meditating with movement.

This can be said of other forms of movement too. Any high level athlete of any sport will tell you that in the moment they are fully immersed in their body in tune with it’s movement and how it feels. This then transfers to other areas of life or indeed other sports.

This is why I think different forms of exercise can be beneficial to your riding.

Taking part in exercise that encourages you to become fully immersed in your body whether that is Yoga, Dance, Weight lifting, Boxing or whatever else you fancy will help you to become more aware of your body in general. Being able to do this without the extra distraction of the horse with you allows you to fully immerse and find your flow state.

Once you’ve got a little more mastery of your body, you’ll be able to transfer that awareness and control to your riding and maybe all the stars will align and you’ll find your flow state there too. When you do it's Magic!