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Equestrian Advice & Guides Beginners Advice
Following on from my last post regarding attention to detail, I wanted to dive a little deeper into how you can make small changes in your daily routine with your horses, which will lead to big improvements overall.
So let’s start at the very beginning, before you even get in the saddle, with a pre-ride stretch.
Now, the majority of the time that I suggest this to riders, their first response is that they “don’t have time”. I fully appreciate that time is tight, especially now the nights are starting to draw in and you want to spend the little time you may have with your horse actually riding and enjoying him.
However, by taking 5 minutes off your riding time and instead spending those few minutes warming up and preparing your body for the physical activity you are about to take part in, the time you do spend in the saddle will be more valuable, meaning you will get more from your schooling sessions… far more than you would be able to achieve schooling a horse when you're cold and rigid in the saddle.
You would happily give your horse 10-15 minutes at the start of a schooling session to work long and low, stretch down over his back and down into the contact, allowing him to warm up before asking for him to perform any collected work. So why do we not allow the same for ourselves?
We as riders need to warm-up our muscles, lubricate our joints and prepare for physical activity, but we need to complete our warm-up before we get in the saddle and expose our horse to a tight, tense rider. If we get on the horse unprepared, we will be naturally more rigid, tense and less able to absorb the horse's stride through our seat; even a slight bit of tension in the seat can have a ‘closing’ or ‘holding’ effect on our horse's movement. Whereas, once our bodies are warmed up correctly, we become more flexible, relaxed and our muscles perform and contract much more efficiently, which also improves our reaction time.
Our horses are a mirror of their riders; if we are tense and rigid, this will be reflected in the horses’ way of going.
It is for this reason that I believe every rider should complete a pre-ride stretch before saddling up, and it should be seen as an essential part of your routine, especially as the weather starts to get a little chillier.
I have put together a 5 minute ‘pre-ride stretch’ that all riders can do to instantly bring value to their schooling sessions and get their rides off to the best start. Paying attention to the small details will improve the whole partnership.
Remember, the purpose of a pre-ride stretch is to prepare the body for exercise, lubricate the joints and warm the muscles up; this is not the time to be forcing cold muscles and joints into deep stretches – save this for post workout or development stretch sessions.
Complete the full routine twice before you get in the saddle!
Throughout this exercise, it's important to keep your torso and head facing forward, the only movement should be coming from the hip flexors.
This exercise is great for opening up tight hips and groin, and will strengthen your inner thigh muscles and your glutes.
Don't forget to do it all over again!