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Exersize for Riders
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Let's Get Fit!
With the harsh winter weather finally departing most of the country, riders of all levels are taking back to the trails and/or outdoor competitive arenas. I bet you have done your best to take care of all of your horse's exercise, grooming, training and nutrition needs during the winter season.
How about yourself?
Most riders, no matter what discipline or skill level, consider the horse as the "athlete" and they pay little or no attention to their own fitness level. Most riders feel that just doing their regular riding routine is enough to be fit, however, in most cases this is not the truth. If you want to achieve the ultimate goal of every rider and reach that feeling of 'oneness' with your horse, you should really be looking at your own physical, mental and emotional well-being. When we speak of 'oneness' with the horse we are talking about that feeling every rider strives for, that ability to be on the same wavelength and have the same coordination, balance and unspoken communication necessary to keep going in the same direction. An unfit rider, no matter how hard they try, cannot really get to this level of performance.
The first step in reaching the feeling of "oneness" is to recognize that you too are an athlete and as an athlete the best way to achieve optimal results is to perform a "sport specific" exercise program. As a certified fitness professional I have seen athletes who participate in a variety of different sports benefit from a sport-specific program. These types of programs consist of exercise routines that are targeted at improving a particular set of skills crucial to performing the sport. The beginner and low-level rider benefits from such a program because it alleviates many of the aches and pains experienced in the beginning, as well as helps prevent injury. Riders returning to the sport after a long hiatus, such as going through a winter season, benefit because the routines help you rapidly regain those important body movements and get you back to the level you were at prior to the layoff. For the expert rider, a sport-specific program assists in refining your skills and improving your strength, resulting in reduced risk of injury.
My studies of the equestrian athlete led to identifying five critical elements that all riders share.
Balance is a key component to any rider. A strong sense of maintaining your center of gravity allows any rider to hold that "half-seat" or "galloping position." By performing exercises on the ground, you can improve your sense of balance while being in consistent motion on an unstable surface, such as a horse. With an improved sense of balance you will be able ride longer with less fatigue, adapt to any position instantly and adjust to a position needed to save your horse when his/her balance becomes unstable.
Flexibility is an area that is often overlooked, but is key to ease in mounting and dismounting. Improving flexibility will allow you to move your leg over the horse without excessively rounding out your lumbar spine and tilting your pelvis. Having limited flexibility in these movements can lead to problems in the back, hip and other joints.
When we talk about strength most people think of being able to lift large amounts of weight or having bulging muscles. But when talking about an equestrian athlete, strength means being able to effectively control a large moving animal by applying force through stirrups, saddle and reins. In the horse world strength is essential and must be combined with improved flexibility and balance.
4. Mental/physical independence
Mental/Physical independence is something most equestrians take for granted. These components enable riders to act and process information simultaneously through the legs, arms, shoulders, back, seat and head. If you have to think about performing separate movements in your arms and legs it detracts from overall performance and oneness with your horse. The ability to easily and automatically manipulate each hand and arm is a very trainable skill.
Improvements to aerobic fitness will enable you to sustain an activity for long periods of time with minimal fatigue. This skill is crucial for any rider, especially long distance and jumpers. The routines in our program will help improve your aerobic fitness level, especially when combined with walking, jogging, running, biking and/or swimming.
Another component that is very much overlooked by many equestrians is nutrition. Many horse enthusiasts will make sure their horse has the best feed available, but will live on diet soda and fast foods. Maintaining a balanced diet that ensures development and repair of bone, muscle, ligament and tendon fiber is just as essential to achieving oneness as increasing your fitness level
John J. McCully is co-author of "The Rider's Fitness Program" and co-founder of Riding High Fitness ( www.ridinghighfitness.com ) and the Director of Sales and Marketing at the highly regarded Aspen Club & Spa.
Kathy Moretti, a lifelong horse enthusiast, is a Communications Professional with experience in authoring articles, newsletters, press releases, brochures and other documents on diverse topics and interest.
For more information on The Rider Fitness Program, please visit www.ridinghighfitness.com
The Rider's Fitness Program is a 214-page book, published by Storey Publishing and retails for $19.95.
The Rider Fitness Program is a totally interactive book consisting of 74 exercises and 18 workouts specifically designed to improve the strength, flexibility and endurance of the equestrian athlete. The book provides detailed written instructions and graphics on exercises that can be performed at home or in the gym. It also provides a pull-out progress tracking card so you can record the number of sets and repetitions of each exercise performed.
Whatever your level or discipline of riding, this unique 6 week fitness regimen in The Rider's Fitness Program will help you get in shape, physically, mentally and emotionally.