If you've ridden horses for any amount of time, I'm sure you've encountered people saying things like, "Oh riding horses can't be that hard" or "horseback riding isn't a real sport" or "I’m sure I could probably do that!" from people who would be lucky to stay on a carnival pony. That's just how it goes.
If you've ridden horses for any amount of time, you also understand that riding horses can be really difficult, it is in fact a sport, and the majority of the population knows little to nothing about horses.
If I told you ways that you could improve your riding without being in the saddle, would you do be interested? Winter is coming, and let’s face it - we don’t ride as much as we would like to when our world turns into a frozen tundra. We can use this frigid season as a time to focus on staying in riding shape and we will be able to get a jump start on those spring tune ups! I've highlighted 4 simple exercises below that would be beneficial for any rider looking to improve their riding position; specifically their seat and leg.
When done properly, a squat is one of the most effective moves an athlete can do. Form is the absolute most important part of a squat, in order to strengthen the right areas and avoid injury. The speed throughout your maneuver should be constant - meaning use the same speed coming up as you did going down. From the side, when you are at the bottom of your squat, it should almost look like you're sitting in a chair. It is crucial to keep your knees from extending passed the front of your toes. As you're squatting, you want to force your weight down into and through your heels, so that you are able to wiggle your toes at any point during the move. Throughout the entire move, you need to brace your core to avoid back strain, and when you get to the top of the squat, squeeze your butt cheeks together. Then release your muscles, and repeat.
There are several variations available to make a great squat routine. Consider alternating the distance between your feet, your speed as your rise and fall, and the option to hold the squat at the bottom for varying lengths of time. Additionally, you can stop at any point in your rise and fall, hold for a couple seconds, and continue. This will correlate to a stronger leg in the saddle.
Planks can pack a real punch! Essentially you are bracing your entire core and holding it for as long as you can. Keep in mind, with almost any exercise the form is key. Your back needs to be straight, no sway backs! You don't want your butt in the air, and you need to hold your head and neck level with the rest of your body.
There are endless variations of planks to continue to challenge yourself - here is a list of 47 variations to try! >> greatist.com/move/plank-variations-for-core-strength << A strong core will correlate to a better posture and more secure seat in the saddle.
3. Core Stretches
In combination with working your core, you want to stretch it as well to increase mobility while increasing strength. There are three great poses highlighted in the article here >> http://ellavateyoga.com/poses/virabhadrasana-ii-warrior-ii-pose-2/ << that you should work into your nightly routine! Fitness magazine says it is an eight minute workout, I think you can squeeze it in! Cow pose; you're on your hands and knees inhaling while arching your back down and lifting your chin. Cat pose; you're on your hands and knees exhale while bracing your core and tucking your head down. Child's pose; you're starting on your hands and knees and you're going to shift your weight back to rest your rear in between your heels with your forearms on the ground. You need to do one of each pose, making it a set of 3, and repeat at least 5 times. These stretches will prevent you from becoming stiff and bracey in the saddle.
4. Warrior Pose
Yoga is known as a workout requiring a teamwork between body and mind. Pilates and yoga are both a great workout for any rider, however we’re focusing on the warrior pose, technically Warrior II, which is demonstrated here >> http://ellavateyoga.com/poses/virabhadrasana-ii-warrior-ii-pose-2/ << because it will help you to open up your hips and also stretch your hip flexors. This pose will correlate to a longer deeper leg, and a more relaxed, secure seat in the saddle.
As with any workout, be sure you are in the physical condition that allows you to safely complete these exercises. Gradually introduce yourself to any new workout routine, and take breaks as you feel necessary. You want to push yourself to be better, but you don’t want to injure yourself.