I’ve recently been sharing some rider exercises on my Facebook page. I thought rather than let them slowly disappear on that page I should gather them every few weeks and include them in a blog. Each exercise has an accompanying audio download to talk you through it. The audio will go into much further details of each exercise than what’s included below. Simply click on the links provided to listen.
The first exercises I’ve featured on the page focus on body alignment and the ability to isolate specific muscle groups. As riders we’re all very aware of how our own body position when we’re on our horses influences how our horses actually travel. How many of us are active about checking in with our own alignment when off our horse as well as actually doing something about it if you do detect a lack of strength or an unevenness in ourselves? If we detect an unevenness in our equine companion we’re very quick to ensure it’s treated appropriately. Ourselves? Not so much! By making sure our own bodies are aligned we can actually help our horses and hopefully help them become more even as a result!
These three exercises all have a first impression of being quite easy. If you listen to the accompanying audio for each one you’ll realise to do these exercises correctly can actually be quite challenging! We spend so much of our lives being very busy and we often don’t take the time to just be still and breathe and check in with what’s going on with ourselves physically.
Rider Exercise #1
In our first exercise you’re simply going to stand. Place your feet hip distance apart, let your arms hang softly by your side and just be still and focus on your breath. Inhale over a count of five, pause, and exhale over a count of five. Whilst remaining still check in with your posture. Is there equal weight in each of your feet? Are your knees, hips, shoulders and eyes level? Is your pelvis in neutral. You’ll notice Joanne in the photo has markers on the front of her pelvis so she can double check she’s even in a mirror, this is easily done with some masking tape and I really recommend using a mirror to check you’re aligned for these exercises, particularly as you start.
The second part of this exercise is to lift the arms to over your head without upsetting your body alignment. Inhale and on the exhale you’re going to float your arms from your sides to palms together above your head. As you lift your arms face your palms forward so they face when your arms are reaching above you. Once again, run through your checklist of evenness and alignment, double check your pelvis has remained in a neutral position. Draw your shoulders down your back, keeping your neck long. Inhale, exhale and float your arms back down by your side.
This exercise should assist you to become more aligned and bring an awareness your posture both in and out of the saddle. The next time you get on your horse take a moment to check you’re even, your feet in the stirrups, seatbones in the saddle, elbows by your side, your shoulders, even your eyes.
Exercise #1 – http://tinyurl.com/RCExercise1
Rider Exercise #2
This exercise is going to again focus on your alignment and also include the isolation of a muscle group. Remember the game we did as kids of patting your head and rubbing your tummy, how it looked pretty funny when your grandparents did it but was in fact quite challenging to do yourself? Well, this one’s kind of like that!
Again, we’ll start by just standing, in alignment and breathing deeply and evenly. You’re now going to take your hands and place one above your belly button on your upper abdominals and one below your belly button on your lower abdominals. The photo shows Joanne with her hands in the correct position. Now inhale and exhale and engage your upper abdominals, ensuring your lower abdominals are still soft. Keep them tight for an inhalation, exhale and soften. Now inhale, exhale and engage your lower abdominals, keep them tight for an inhalation and on the exhale release.
This exercise can start out quite challenging but with concentration becomes much easier. Once you find yourself able to isolate each muscle group standing try it in other situations. I like to practice this one in the car, at traffic lights whilst you’re still at first and then as the car’s moving. Be careful it’s only your abdominal muscles you engage and not your back muscles. As riders you know why this is!
Once again, the audio download covers this exercise in much more detail.
Exercise 2 – http://tinyurl.com/RCExercise2
Rider Exercise #3
This is an exercise to again, check in with how even you are, assist with core stability and how even you are in both hips. This exercise is performed laying on the ground, so, lay on the floor. Ensure you maintain a neutral pelvis and have your hips level whilst you’re laying there. Take a moment to move yourself around and feel for neutral, it may feel a little different to how we’ve been finding it whilst standing. Let your arms lay by your side with palms facing the ceiling and focus on your breath.
As you’re laying and continuing to breath bring your knees up and the soles of your feet together. Now let both knees open and fall towards the floor, like frog legs, keep your eyes looking to the ceiling. Check in with your hips, do they fall open evenly? Check in with your pelvis, does it remain in a neutral position? Does that correlate at all with things your horse may find more challenging? It may not be that the horse finds something difficult it could be you’re not allowing a movement through something blocking in your own body. If you find one side is tighter than the other it may be time to seek out specific exercises, classes to assist and/or your preferred health professional to address the cause of your unevenness.
Using your adductors, your inner thigh muscles, and engaging your pelvic floor muscles and lower tummy muscles, inhale and on the exhale bring your knees together and feet flat to the floor. Remember, the aim of the exercise isn’t to get your knees on the floor, it’s about going as far as you can whilst remaining neutral. Over time you’ll be able to stretch further and maintain a neutral pelvis.
If you’d like to increase the difficult of this exercise lift the arms above the head, maintain a shoulder width apart and have the palms facing together. Again, if you can’t maintain neutral bring the arms back down. This is a really nice stretch after a strong core workout as well as being an opportunity to check in with your body alignment.
Exercise 3 – http://tinyurl.com/RCExercise3
I hope you’ve enjoyed this work. I am not a qualified body worker of any sort so if you feel any pain over and above normal stretching in any of these exercises please check in with your preferred health professional. That goes for those of you who’re carrying existing injuries also. Talk to your health professional about how best to modify exercise to work around any existing injuries you may have.
Many thanks to my friend Joanne who’s my model for these photos. She’s a dancer who’s a little afraid of horses. She’s recently said I’m allowed to put her on a horse at some stage, but it’s not allowed to move! I look forward to bringing you more exercises soon.