Getting Un-Stuck

You’re STUCK!stuck-in-a-rut

You just can’t seem to get the timing for that flying change right, you can’t seem to quite make that jump from First Level to Second Level, you can’t quite see the striding for a 3′ course, but you can jump 2’6″ just fine, or you just can’t stop feeling anxious about the canter transitions, and your horse subsequently tenses up and bucks every time you ask for one! We’ve all been there, and will likely find ourselves there again at some time in the future, but how do you get UN-stuck? Read on, because I’m going to give you some powerful suggestions to help get you unstuck when you’re “in it”!

What does being Stuck mean?

Let’s say you have been polishing your 1st level Dressage movements for a couple of years now, and your instructor is encouraging you to start working towards 2nd level, but every time you attempt a shoulder in, you get tight, your horse braces against your hands, and you end up in a tug of war. No matter how much you try, you just can’t seem to get your body and your horse’s to cooperate for that all-important introduction to collection. You’re so frustrated that you’re about ready to resign yourself to staying at 1st level for the rest of your life.

Or maybe your horse bucked in a canter transition and got you off a few years ago, and now every time you ask for the canter depart you unconsciously tighten up, no matter how hard you try to relax and “go” with the transition, and your horse, sensing your tension gets tight in his back and it feels not only awful, but it make you anxious, and if you’re really honest with yourself, you’ve actually stopped looking forward to your rides.

That’s being stuck… when something physical or mental is diverting you from having enjoyable and successful experiences with your horse, and you don’t see a way to work through or past it.

So how can you get past what seems like a hopelessly impossible obstacle to your advancement in your riding, and continue developing a joyful partnership with your horse? Well, first, it’s really key to identify the “thing” that is keeping you stuck. Is it physical? Is it mental? Is it a missing piece of your training? Is it a combination of these? Let’s explore what your thing might be, and see which ones resonate with you.

Being stuck due to Physical reasons

Let’s say you had an injury at some time in the past, and it’s left you with low back pain, which you guard against when you’re riding. It doesn’t really seem to affect your riding all that much, you can still do the basics as competently as you ever did, but when you ask for certain movements, it starts to twinge and you can’t quite commit your body fully to your horse’s movement. Over time your horse has gotten more and more sour about being ridden, but vet exams haven’t uncovered anything that could be causing your horse’s issues.

Or, maybe you have one leg that’s shorter than the other, and you can’t feel one of your seatbones, so that every time you try to ride a shoulder in or leg yield, you can do it really well in one direction, but it totally falls apart going the other direction.

Yet again, you might have gotten stiffer and stiffer with age, and you just don’t move the way you used to when you were younger, so you think there’s only so much that you can achieve now that you’ve reached a certain age.

If you’re physically stuck, I have some really good news for you. No matter what your challenges, YOU DON’T HAVE TO STAY STUCK! There are exercises that you can do that will improve your body for riding no matter how injured or tight, or uncomfortable your body is in the saddle. What are these exercises? They are riding sport-specific exercises that you can learn by downloading one of the free exercise guides on the Ridefit home page.

Being stuck Mentally

If you’ve ever had an accident on your horse, you know how it can affect your mind. You may not even be aware of feeling anxious, but when you come close to whatever you were doing when you had the accident, your body might tense up all on its own. Your mental state may be anywhere from unconscious tension to full-blown panic or dread. This can leave you seriously stuck and unable to fully enjoy your riding for a really long time, if it’s not consciously and energetically addressed.

How can you get unstuck mentally? I think these types of issues require a two-pronged approach. By working with a qualified sports/performance coach, you can learn mental exercises that will help you work through your level of anxiety, and by working with a riding fitness coach, you can build muscle memory into your body that can reduce the amount of physical tension your body will unconsciously create, by training it to relax in movement. Because of the unique nature of the riding sport, training the brain AND body together is a really effective way to get unstuck fast!

Being stuck because of Gaps in your Training

If you’re moving up to 3′ Hunters, and you can’t quite see your distances, taking a step back to cantering poles to train your eye for distances for a few weeks could really give you the bump you need to get unstuck.

Or, perhaps you aren’t truly bending your horse correctly before you ask for a shoulder-in, and that’s why your horse is bracing against you when you ask. Taking a step back to perfect riding a truly round and steady 10 meter circle might just give you the feel you need to make your shoulders-in successful.

If you feel stuck even when you’re taking lessons from your current instructor, maybe taking a clinic with someone completely different will give you some light-bulb moments that you can bring back to your regular lessons and “unstick” your progress. That different perspective can be all that we need to find breakthroughs.

If you’re anxious and nervous or tense when riding your own horse, borrowing a friend’s “packer” for some fun rides will most likely allow you to relax and enjoy the rides, which is sure to boost your confidence and give your brain the ability to relax again when you get back on your own horse. Taking lessons on a school horse can help, as well.

Don’t Stay Stuck!

Whatever the reason you are feeling stuck in your riding, you don’t have to stay there! There are many ways to “un-stick” yourself, if you are willing to get creative and think outside the box a little. For more ideas and tools for getting unstuck, a one-on-one strategy session can get you on the right track. You can schedule a free one-hour session here. We love helping riders break through their limitations and start reaching their goals!

Until then, ride fit!

~Tammy

Founder of Ridefit

Sidelined? Don’t Let Your Riding Suffer!

We all get sidelined from riding, from time to time.

Handwalking HorseWhether it’s because our horse is on the DL, or life happenings coming to bear, we all have those times when we are unable to ride due to circumstances beyond our control. During one such layup, I remember thinking that if I just had 2 horses, then I could ride one when the other one got sick or lame… until I had 2 horses, and they were both out of commission at the same time. It can be so frustrating and discouraging to be sidelined from riding, especially if you have made great progress and you are facing a sudden step backwards due to unforeseen challenges.

Whatever your reason for not being able to ride right now, you do NOT have to lose your forward momentum. By incorporating the right exercises into your daily non-riding routine, you can ensure that your body will be balanced, coordinated, stable and appropriately relaxed and mobile when you get back in the saddle.

How is this possible?

There are exercises that move your body in similar ways to how it Side crunch on ballmoves on the horse, creating and maintaining muscle memory and neuro-muscular pathways that your body uses for riding. By doing these exercises, you can keep your body primed for riding activities, even though you aren’t currently riding. Balance training will maintain or even improve your inherent sense of balance when you’re back on the horse. Coordination training will improve your ability to multitask when you are finally able to mount up again. Stability training will keep your core muscles toned and ready to go when you get back in the saddle, and Mobility training will prevent your joints from tightening up so that when you are back in the stirrups, you can feel relaxed, confident, and move easily with the horse.

Not only can you maintain your riding ability off the horse, you can also improve on it! Everybody can improve their riding, and these same exercises that maintain balance, coordination, stability and mobility, challenge your body to become even more proficient at these things… likely resulting in you coming back to riding after your time off an even better rider than you were before! What could be better than that??

Tell me more…

It doesn’t take hours, and it doesn’t even have to be every day. Using the unique, sport-specific exercises created just for equestrians, in the Ridefit program, you can maintain and improve your riding no matter how long you or your horse are sidelined. Don’t waste that time, get started with one of our completely FREE exercise guides, which you can learn more about here. Or, we can create a personalized program just for you, with 90 days of exercises and accountability, if you seriously want to keep yourself riding fit! Choose from a self-directed program or a Ridefit Instructor-led program, and not only maintain your riding fitness, but take advantage of your time off to make a big change in your riding.

So, sidelined or not, don’t worry, we’ve got what you need to ride fit!

~Tammy

Holy Hamstrings!

Do you suffer from tight hamstrings?

It has been well established in the medical community that tight hamstrings are a primary contributor to low back pain. So, it’s critically important for riders to address these tight hamstrings and build greater mobility into our lower bodies.
 
Let’s take a look at why tight hamstrings can present such a problem for riders. The “hamstring” is actually a group of three muscles that stabilize the knee joint and allow for the extension of the leg behind the body (as we must in order to propel ourselves forward in walk). These muscles attach at the base of the pelvis, with the larger of the three muscles running down and attaching to the outside of the knee, while the other two attach at the inside of the knee.
If these muscles or the attaching tendons become shortened or lack normal mobility, it puts both the pelvis and the knee into tension, contributing to a tilted pelvis with reduced mobility through the entire lower back region. An individual may compensate for this tightness by bending over at the waist instead of from the hips, putting the low back under abnormal strain.
Add to this the complication that we sit on the actual muscle attachments at the pelvis in a chair, and we set ourselves up for a congested hamstring/pelvis attachment area, with reduced blood flow and nerve activity likely if you sit for long periods of time. This results in both weakness and lack of flexibility in these muscles and joints!
 
Why is this so important? Because as riders, we must be able to allow the movement of the horse to flow through our hips, pelvis and low back. Tightness in these areas will result in tightness in the horse’s back, and an inability on his/her part to move in a relaxed way while carrying us. Ideally, the every-so-slight momentary “holding” of our lower body (aka, half-halt) should act as a communication aid to the horse, so it’s got to be something we can also release or the horse will stiffen against the tension and lose its balance.
 
So how does one ensure that one’s hamstrings aren’t contributing to a tight seat in the saddle? By focusing on increased mobility of the entire lower body, including light static stretching of those muscles specifically. Too much static stretching of this area is not advisable, but any stretching through movement (such as during the “Crescent Pose Flow”, or the powerful “Hip opener” exercise) will be most effective for releasing tightness in the hamstrings. Fortunately, there are numerous exercises in the Ridefit program that address this tension and bring these joints into mobility. You can download some of these exercises here in our FREE exercise guides.
 
Pay close attention to your form during those exercises to ensure that you are getting the maximum benefit to those hamstrings! I’d love to hear from you what changes you notice in your hamstrings – and general lower body mobility – once you’ve tried out the Ridefit exercises. Release tension in those tight hamstrings, and ride fit!
~Tammy

Why Riders Need Fitness Training

 

Barn choresI’m a professional, so I stay fit by riding all day.

Between feeding, cleaning stalls, turning out horses, blanketing, grooming, bucking hay & shavings, and working around the farm all day, I stay plenty fit.

I take lessons to ride better and get more fit.

I play recreational sports on the weekends, and that keeps me plenty fit for riding.

These are just a few of the reasons I hear regularly for why people don’t cross-train for fitness off their horses to improve their riding. They all sound really logical and rational on the surface. So the question becomes, “why should I cross-train if I’m doing all this other physical activity?” This is a common question that I’d like to examine with you, today.

In nearly every other sport, the athletes cross-train their bodies. Think about it, football players don’t just do ball handling drills and run plays, they do tons of cross-training; wind sprints, agility drills, and weight training. Cyclists don’t just ride their bicycles, they run, lift weights, and work on coordination exercises off the bike. Swimmers don’t just swim, they train their bodies for optimum cardiovascular, strength and flexibility out of the pool in order to give their best performances in the pool. No matter the sport, no matter the level of play, if it’s organized and competitive, athletes have cross-training routines that enhance their performances when they are on the court, field or mound.

I could go on and on with all the various sports, but you get the picture. And yet, we riders as a whole, continue to believe that it’s not really necessary for us to do the same. Or, even if we do believe it’s important to our overall health and well-being, we don’t necessarily prioritize it as part of our riding training. Why is that?

Perhaps the reason riders are quick to dismiss athletic training off the horse is because riding is such a coordinative, proprioceptive activity. Many of the best riders seem to be naturally gifted with an incredible sense of balance and coordination, and because of that seem to spend very little physical effort in effectively riding many horses. They don’t really see the need for a lot of additional fitness training to stay at a high level of skill, so they don’t tend to promote that to the riders who follow their training methods or take lessons from them.

This, however, is a very important point to understand, because the vast majority of us are NOT gifted in that way. Yet we are basing our need for fitness cross-training on the advice of riders who are far more physically capable than we are, by the luck of the draw (genetics). For the average rider, that is about as effective at helping us achieve our goals as taking lessons from a “gifted” rider who has never had to develop a full awareness of their body on the horse, and just does things instinctively, while we struggle with figuring out what body part to use to elicit the same responses from our own horses. The results are frustrating for both rider and trainer, at best!

The danger in not cross-training, for even a very gifted rider, is that none of us are actually perfectly balanced or perfectly symmetrical. Just like our horses are fundamentally crooked from birth requiring us to train them to be evenly developed from left to right, we are also all just a little crooked… to varying degrees. We don’t think twice about the fact that we have to cross-train our horses, to develop ever more stable balance, strength, cardiovascular fitness, and even emotional stability. But many of us never think to do the same for ourselves.

To understand why this puts riders at such a disadvantage, we must first understand what cross-training provides. There are a few very key things cross training does for athletes:

It gives us a “fitness cushion” to draw on.

A fitness cushion means we have physical reserves – more strength, more cardiovascular capacity and more flexibility than we may actually need in order to perform at our optimum level in our chosen sport. This is very important for several reasons:

It gives our bodies protection from injury, since it is conditioned to greater stresses than it would typically experience in the course of normal play. This allows for longevity in physical endeavors – it allows the athlete to “play” at a high level without breaking down.

Second, it allows for a higher level of precision. A body that is quickly fatigued loses fine motor control – something critical for riders. A body that is conditioned beyond what it needs to perform optimally can maintain that high degree of precision for longer – the whole game instead of just half of it, or the warmup and two classes instead of being pooped after the first 10 minutes of the warmup…

When the chips are down and we need to push ourselves to our limits, we can! If you have prepared for a competition all year, and when you get to the show grounds and come down with a terrible cold or don’t get a full night’s sleep, your performance is NOT going to be what it would if you were healthy. However, if your body is conditioned and in optimum shape, you WILL be able to put in a better effort than you would otherwise, because you have physical reserves to draw on that you otherwise simply would not have. Not to mention, if you are in top physical condition, you are less likely to contract that cold in the first place…

Cross training balances out our asymmetries.

Over time with repetitive movements of any type, our natural asymmetries, strength and flexibility imbalances tend to become exaggerated until they become real barriers to our continued improvement or advancement in our chosen sports. Cross-training not only can make us aware of those asymmetries, but helps to even them out so that we aren’t having to constantly fight against our natural tendencies.

Cross-training counteracts accumulated injuries and aging…

The reality is, not one of us can trick time. Over time our bodies’ repair mechanism, which is powerful when we are young, inevitably slows down. Every small strain, fall, yank by a naughty horse, misstep on uneven ground, and ache of the back from lifting hay, adds up to eventually substantial loss of function. Scar tissue builds up, which limits mobility and range of motion. Aches and pains result in guarding and spasming muscles, causing undue tension in joints and corresponding restriction of our horse’s movement. This is just how our bodies work, and though we think we can ignore the signs when we are young, we all inevitably pay the price in the end…

Anytime we do sustain strains, injuries, or just over time with age, wear and tear, our bodies need more support, conditioning, and frequently rehabilitation, to stay strong, supple, and fully functional. All of these things lead me to the following conclusion: Not cross training is the worst thing a rider can do for the sake of his/her long-term riding capability – especially since we tend to do much more than riding that is hard on our body, such as the above mentioned hard physical labor involved in keeping and managing horses.

What is a rider to do?

Over the past 20 years or so, we have started to see a positive trend towards training for high level athletic performance at the top levels of our equestrian sports. Many countries have started requiring riders who qualify for their national teams to engage in fitness training to stay at their peak riding levels for as long as possible. However, this training is not just your normal CrossFit or Pilates training. This training involves specialized endurance, balance and coordination training, along with mental performance training, developed with the unique requirements of riding sports in mind. Countries like Great Britain and Germany have developed really targeted programs based on extensive biomechanical study of the rider’s body in movement with the horse. They have made it easy for the top riders to train their bodies AND minds for peak performance.

Unfortunately, in the United States, as is the case in many of our riding related endeavors, we have stayed behind the curve in the area of rider fitness. Many of our top riders do cross-train, but they have either developed their own personal programs, or they are using several fitness program modalities to accomplish their goals, such as pilates, weight training, running and yoga. They know, without a shadow of doubt, that in order to stay at the top of their game, they MUST keep their bodies in top shape off the horse.

The degree of importance and priority these top riders have placed on keeping their bodies in peak physical condition has yet to really trickle down to the masses of riders that are not competing at that international level in this country, and so it has been very slow to catch on. There simply has not been the kind of national effort to educate riders about the need for fitness cross-training, nor the programs developed so specifically for riders, like other countries have developed.

That is the purpose of the Ridefit program, however. We have developed, and continue to refine and improve our fitness programs to address the fitness needs that are unique to riders. We are taking a great interest in the research coming from our European counterparts, and are very excited to start making this high-performance rider training available to the average rider, at affordable prices, and with convenient options that can fit into almost anyone’s super-busy schedule, no matter where in the country you are.

Whether you are an amateur simply struggling to sit your horse’s trot or find your balance over fences, or a professional with international competitive sights, a rider-targeted physical cross-training program is going to help you get there faster, with greater ease, and with reduced risk of injury. Barn chores aren’t going to do it for you. Specialized fitness training will!

Until next time, ride fit!

~Tammy Prevo, creator of the Ridefit program

If you’d like more information about the Ridefit program, and program options, feel free to e-mail us at info@ridefitnow.com, or call us at 206-713-6761.

Three Tips to Letting Your Body do the Riding!

Happy Rider and HorseWhat would you say if I told you “Your body rides better than you do!”?

You might say, “Say what?! How can my body ride better than I do? That’s silly. I *am* my body, aren’t I?”
Well, let’s take a look at it, shall we?
First, for clarity, let’s define a few different mental concepts:
  1. Your Brain – the physical organ that, through chemical and electrical impulses, controls your voluntary and involuntary nervous system.
  2. Your Mind – the part of your brain that synthesizes thought – conscious and unconscious, instinctual and rational.
    • Your Unconscious mind – the accumulated collection of experiences, thoughts, feelings and triggers that your brain uses to filter, categorize and respond to external stimuli.
    • Your Conscious mind – that part of your mind in which you rationalize, use logic, think consciously about external stimuli.

I’m going to use these terms to differentiate between the various ways your physical grey matter can function.

Let’s look at a scenario where your Mind can sabotage your Brain, and ultimately your Body:

You’re totally relaxed and confidently riding your horse down the arena wall, and you notice that you’re coming up on the corner of the arena where he (or she) *always* spooks. Your unconscious mind collects this data, remembers that this is where the horse is likely to spook, and immediately turns on “Protection Mode”. Your brain then sends out the signal “Danger, Will Robinson! Defend! Defend!” in an effort to protect you from potential harm, and your breathing becomes shallow and quick, and your body tenses up in preparation for having to “hold on”. Your horse, feeling your muscles tense up around him, starts looking for the danger, spots the corner, and… spooks!

Your body responds to your brain, and your brain controls every impulse that your nerves, joints and muscles receive. Your *mind* (conscious/unconscious, id, ego, whatever you want to call it) can muck up the works by holding on to fear, tension or stress. And, we all know that horses respond to our “intention”, which is the same as our mental state, and that’s where a lot of things can go wrong. It doesn’t matter how fit or balanced or relaxed you can be on the horse, if your brain takes over and jumps into a fight or flight mode, you have no chance! So, let’s talk about how you can train your mind right along with your body, so it doesn’t sabotage your relaxation.

How do we prevent the above scenario from happening? By training our minds (both conscious and unconscious) to stay in a state of equilibrium while we are riding, so our bodies can stay relaxed. Here are 3 strategies that professionals use, and that you can start doing TODAY to achieve that mental state:

Learn to Breathe

Have you ever noticed that you hold your breath while you’re riding, or that at a certain point in your ride you start panting? That is a sure way to make your body tense, and your horse to start looking for monsters! Go to a yoga class that focuses on the breathing practice (pranayama). Get good at your yoga breathing and bring it to your riding. As you are warming up your horse and/or taking a walk break on a loose rein, practice breathing.

Once you’ve become really comfortable with that, start bringing that breathing practice into any situation that you think might be scary or that you might normally tense up in anticipation of. It’s impossible to hold onto tension and fear when you are breathing really deeply. It physically changes your brain chemistry. You will be amazed at how your horse responds to just that one change!

Talk to Yourself

You read it right… your unconscious mind has been programmed by years of experience and the influences of other people in your life. When the chips are down, it takes over and uses its full complement of experiences and negative messages to protect you from whatever you fear – failure, pain, injury, embarrassment, etc.

Problem is, it’s always responding to the PAST. Your body is no longer the same as it was 6 weeks ago, so your unconscious mind needs an update! So… talk to yourself! Whenever you are looking at a scenario where your horse might do something that, in the past might have unseated you, or scared you, consciously give your brain a message:

“Hey, brain! Listen up! My body can move with the horse better now, I’m NOT going to tense up and risk falling  just because 2 months ago I might not have been able to recover from a spook, so let it go! Just breathe, and everything is going to be perfectly fine! It’s a beautiful sunny day on the beach… somewhere! Let’s be there, right now!”

Do this every time you come to any situation that might make you feel even remotely anxious, and eventually your subconscious programming will start to shift.

Ride The Next Stride

This might sound like anticipation, and it is, but it’s anticipation of the perfect stride, not a spook! So, here’s what it looks like: Look ahead, somewhere other than the scary place, and ride the next stride as though it’s going to be the perfect, most balanced, relaxed stride you have ever ridden. You’ll be setting your brain, and your body, and your horse up for success instead of failure.

In fact, don’t just do this when you are anticipating something scary, do it every stride! Let your imagination run wild with how beautiful, relaxed and joyful every stride on your horse can feel, and then keep that in your mind every single moment of your ride. Your brain will send *those* signals to your body, and your body will communicate *those* feelings to your horse. It’s a win-win, and will give you many more balanced and relaxed strides than tense, unbalanced ones.

Your body is capable of whatever your brain allows it to do, so start controlling your brain by controlling the mental process that trigger it into action, and let your body do what it’s learning how to do best!

Until next time, Ride fit!

P.S., if you haven’t been training your body to move freely with the horse in a relaxed and balanced way, then get on it! If you’re not sure how to start, go ahead and schedule a FREE 60-minute strategy session with us, and we can help you not only map out your path to success, but offer you some really simple, yet powerful strategies to get started, and stay on track! There’s literally nothing to lose, and everything to gain!

A Bit about Balance

Are you a “balanced” rider?

Have you ever gotten left behind or fallen forward when your horse changed gears suddenly or unexpectedly (or expectedly)? Have you ever been told that you are sitting or leaning to one side or the other, or have trouble with uneven stirrup leathers? Gotten “jumped” out of the saddle? Then you have met the Rider’s Best Friend “Balance” – or at least the lack thereof!

What is balance, really? Balance, or “Equilibrioception” is a result of elephant-balanceyour brain comparing sensory data from your skeleton and muscles with those of your eyes and inner ear in relation to the gravitational pull of the earth. It processes these data faster than you could possibly be aware, and then sends signals to the muscles, tendons and joints to adapt to changes in speed, angle, elevation, direction, etc. Since our brain is the processing center for all the information as well as the transmission center, it behooves us to ensure that it is as healthy as possible. It is critical that we keep the communication pathways strong and clear, so that our muscles and joints don’t miss those extremely important signals! This is why balance training is so very important for riders.

Why is balance so important, anyway? Well, there are many very good reasons that you may not have thought about, such as:

  • Your balance directly affects your horse’s balance. Horses being prey animals have a very keen instinct to keep themselves in balance. Horses that are out of balance are vulnerable to predators, and therefore tend to feel fearful. It is not uncommon to see a horse feel completely secure and confident under a very balanced rider, but get worried, upset, spooky or even dangerous under a very unbalanced rider. People often assume this is because the former rider is also the more skilled rider, but it has much more to do with the balance than the rider’s skill. A completely novice rider who has excellent balance will instill much greater confident in the horse than a very skilled rider whose balance is compromised.
  • Your brain controls your balance, and if your balance is weak or unstable, it is a clear sign that your brain is not properly communicating with your body, and both need training.
  • One out of every three adults age 65 or older falls each year. And 1/5th of those falls result in serious injuries. As we age, and especially if we have had previous injuries, our balance is compromised more and more each year, unless we actively work to counteract that trend. Balance training is critical for overall quality of life, not just riding!

It is equally important to ensure that our inner ears and eyes are healthy. Congestion from a cold or chronic infection can completely upset our brain’s ability to manage our balance appropriately – the brain will process the data, whether it’s right or wrong, and will make incorrect adjustments based on the flawed data. For this reason, if you are an individual who often suffers from vertigo when you are sick, it is safest to stay off your horse during those times. Support your immune system by eating a “clean” diet full of fresh vegetables and fruits and lean sources of protein, avoid allergens which can cause inner ear congestion, and stay well hydrated in order to support a healthy equilibrium!

One final thought on balance. Balance is your body’s position relative to the ground – or the gravitational pull of the earth. Balance on the horse is no different than balance on the ground. Many people think that they must stay in balance “with the horse”, but this is a misconception that results in many a rider leaning with their horse, collapsing in their bodies, and further upsetting the horse’s own balance. The rider must “move” with the horse in order to stay in balance, but balance is ALWAYS relative to the ground. If the rider remains in balance with the ground, the horse will have a much easier time of balancing himself, and in fact will learn to “stay with” the rider, as much out of a sense of self preservation as because it is simply easier and more comfortable.

So, train your balance! Appreciate the challenges you experience as you do so, knowing that in this way you are helping your horse, as well as your own body!

‘Till next time, Ride FIT!

When Saddles Attack!

My job as an equestrian fitness trainer is to do more than just make a rider more physically fit. It’s also to make the rider’s body more balanced, more stable, more mobile, and more athletic. To understand exactly what that means, read last week’s post. This week’s post is all about what happens when the rider’s body reaches that state where the neuro-muscular pathways have been created or re-connected, and the rider’s body is now in a state that it*naturally* wants to stay in a balanced position… only to find that the saddle is interfering with that naturally balanced position.

Large Thigh blocks

This saddle creates a “channel” for the rider’s leg with large thigh blocks, but sits the rider behind the horse’s center of balance, removing the rider’s ability to adapt to changes in longitudinal balance along with the horse.

Let’s take a step back and talk about saddles… dressage saddles, specifically. Other types of saddles have their own issues that we can talk about in another blog, but Dressage saddles have traditionally been designed to allow a rider to sit comfortably, in a relaxed and perfectly balanced position, and move freely with the horse. Their seats used to be somewhat flat, knee rolls and thigh blocks virtually nonexistent, and flaps were angled slightly in such a way that the rider’s back could relax into a neutral position without tension on the lumbar spin or the hip flexor, without sliding over the front of the flap.

With the influx of amateur riders into the Dressage sport over the past 50 years, it became clear that without a natural (or trained) balance for riding, riders were struggling to keep their legs in place and keep their seats in the saddles, and so saddle companies started making the seats deeper and deeper, to help stabilize the riders’ pelvis. Then thigh blocks came into the picture, to help secure the rider’s leg so it didn’t slip around quite so much. Then, even blocks at the back of the thigh were added to further prevent the rider’s leg from slipping out of position. Amateur riders around the world have hailed this as an advancement in saddle fit, and love the secure feeling they can get from these saddles. Until they meet me…

We previously talked about what it means to be a fit rider, and so keeping in mind that we are talking about creating that “natural” balance in a rider that has previously not had it, guess what happens when their bodies have started to make that adaptation, become more capable of sitting on a moving object in relaxation and with greater self-stability and tremendously greater mobility, and then are put up into a saddle that is intended to restrict that mobility. Suddenly, the saddle is the restriction keeping the rider from balancing naturally with their horse.

The unfortunate reality is that these large thigh blocks are often coupled with a saddle that is fitted behind the horse’s shoulder in such a way that the deepest part of the seat is behind the horse’s center of balance, making it impossible for the rider to ever sit in balance with the horse, and if they manage to sit in balance with gravity, their legs are back about mid-ribs on the horse, not “at the girth” where the horse is naturally narrower, and which the legs will always attempt to migrate back to (causing a chair seat). So, the catch-22 for these riders is to either ride in actual balance, fighting the saddle, or ride in the balance the saddle sets them up for and never be properly balanced.

It is exciting to be able to help riders find a natural neurological balance when they have never felt that before on a horse! And, equally distressing to help a rider make such amazing changes in their body only to have to tell them, “Well, you are going to have to put your leg in an incorrect position in order to maintain your balance in this saddle.” or, “Unfortunately, you are not going to be able to balance in the way your body has now become capable of, in this saddle, because the thigh blocks are preventing you from finding the correct alignment.”

Saddle buying can become a nightmare, with the saddle fitting both the horse AND the rider becoming Relaxed Rider Seat with Perfect Alignmentan elusive mirage when saddle after saddle doesn’t fit quite right. But, as much as it is a dreaded thing to look for yet another saddle, I encourage riders to consider your saddle choice very carefully. If your goals include becoming a more skilled rider, look for saddles that will allow your body to develop, not just the saddle that makes you feel comfortable and secure right now.

Stay away from the saddle that makes you feel like you’re sitting on your pubic bone, because that one will ultimately prevent you from riding in that relaxed, tension-free position. Especially avoid the saddle that “locks” your leg into position, because that one will prevent you from developing proper neuro-muscular control of your body. A really good idea might be to do some Ridefit mobility and stability exercises BEFORE you sit in a potential saddle, so that your body is optimally balanced and you can truly feel what the saddle is going to do for you or against you. It only takes about 15 minutes if you use our Rider Warmup video.

You CAN ride better, and a properly designed saddle will allow that to happen much more easily!

Becoming a “Natural” Rider

Helen LangehanenbergWe’ve all seen them: those beautiful riders that just seem to naturally “flow” with the horse. It seems to require no effort for them to stay perfectly balanced on top of big moving horses and over crazy jumps that everyone else struggles with, making it look easy. Their horses never seem to fall on their forehands because the riders just instinctively keep them steady. These are the so-called “natural” riders… riders that have never known a moment of imbalance on their horses’ backs. Riders that, either through natural talent or years of training, seem to have been born to sit on a horse. Definitely not anything an average amateur rider could ever begin to achieve… Certainly those of us not born with this innate talent could never actually develop it, could we? It’s “God-given” talent, not skill… or is it?

Before we can answer that question, we must first explore what it is that makes these “natural” riders different from you and me. What is it about these people that makes the movement with the horse seem so easy, and why are so many of these types of riders good at nearly every sport they try? The simple answer is, neuromuscular coordination. That basically means these folks are more coordinated, and with a better brain-body connection than others of us. It’s not a special talent, it’s how the brain and body were intended to function. Little is known about why some people are seemingly “born” with greater athletic facility than others, but there is one thing for certain: all babies are born uncoordinated, and must learn to crawl before they can walk. Which means, that seemingly natural “talent” was DEVELOPED, not inherent. These riders’ brains simply developed better, faster, and more effective connections with their muscles than some others’ did as they were learning to crawl and walk.

Jumping horseIt’s not that these riders are somehow “gifted”, although it may seem so. It is simply that their neurons are functioning optimally, while the rest of us have minor disconnections or miscommunications. If you’ve ever felt like you can trip over your own feet, walk into doorways, or fall up stairs, you know what it feels like to have sub-optimal neuromuscular motor control… You understand the feeling of being left behind in the saddle one moment, and falling forward the next, as the horse’s balance changes. What hope could we possibly have of riding in a relaxed, balanced way, when our bodies are in this state? Turns out, while there is certainly a genetic predisposition at work in our neuromuscular development, there is also a lot of hope for those of us who didn’t develop into super-athletes on our own!

The brain is an unfathomably powerful machine. It is constantly processing through billions of signals and communication pathways every second. It runs your entire body, and yet it still has the capability of growing and learning. Research has shown that even the brains of stroke patients with significant permanent damage can create new neural pathways and re-learn motor function that should have been permanently lost because the parts of the brain that normally control motor function have been completely destroyed! This should give the uncoordinated, unbalanced, and less than perfect riders everywhere hope.

The truth is, “natural” balance can be LEARNED by the brain! Coordination can be significantly IMPROVED! Exercise is a powerful brain booster, and special exercises that target the brain’s function can take neuromuscular coordination to a heightened level that we previously thought was limited to people “born” with it. No matter how old you are, or how uncoordinated, your brain can be induced to create new neural pathways and regenerate pathways that have become damaged through injury or disuse.

This is the difference between being generally fit, and being riding fit. Being riding fit means that your brain and body work together to balance and stabilize themselves automatically, without special conscious effort — a sense known as proprioception — while also having the physical capacity (strength and flexibility) to maintain that state. Ridefit was created to address not just cardiovascular capacity, muscle strength, and flexibility, but to actually address these brain/body connections that allow for a smooth integration between the horse’s movement and the rider’s balance. The effects are powerful, and sometimes surprising to riders who aren’t used to feeling that sense of natural balance.

Our bodies and brains are inextricably connected, and Ridefit has put the pieces together in a whole body/brain workout for riders. What are you really capable of? Are you ready to find out? Contact us and find out.

Break Through Your Limitations!

What’s stopping you from reaching your riding goals? Tammy Prevo, creator of the Ridefit fitness program for riders, talks about how you can improve your riding despite some common limitations faced by many riders. You don’t have to stay stuck, even if you can’t ride regularly!

Do You Ride Asymmetrically?

Every horse is naturally somewhat asymmetrical, and as riders we are always working to help the horse become more symmetrical in its own body. But, what about our own body? Are you actively working to make yourself more symmetrical, or are you unwittingly making your natural asymmetry worse? Find out as Tammy Prevo, creator of the Ridefit fitness program for riders discusses the ways we can improve our natural asymmetry on a daily basis.

Barn Chores and Rider Fitness

Does working hard at barn chores make you fit enough for riding? Find out why you may not be doing yourself or your horse a service by limiting yourself to just barn chores for exercise!

Healthy Rider, Healthy Horse

Rider with VeggiesAfter being heavily involved with horses for nearly 30 years, I have long noticed a disturbing trend: when it comes to the horse’s health, we horse people will do just about anything – suffer any inconvenience, pay any price, use any equine specialist, buy any hay/grain/supplement, special saddle pad, saddle, boots, bit, bridle, training, lessons, boarding, etc… to maintain and/or improve our horses’ health. Yet, when we are asked about our own health, we “don’t have time”, “can’t afford to”, or “don’t have the energy” to take care of ourselves. Say what?!

How can we, as the caretakers of these magnificent athletes, justify not taking care of ourselves? Who’s going to take care of the horses when we get sick? How long do we really think we can keep up with the horses if we aren’t physically fit? Entropy is a law of nature: “Use it or Lose it” is just as much reality for we horse riders as for every other human being on the planet. And, injuries? They are part of the territory, AND they have significant consequences for the long-term sustainability of our equestrian activities. Even the fittest individuals can be taken down by injuries.

Top riders nearly always have a health and fitness program beyond simply riding – even though they  may ride 8 to 10 horses (or more) a day! They understand that in order to stay at the top, their body must perform at its absolute best. Improper nutritional (fast, cheap food) and lack of cross training just won’t cut it. They recognize that their own physical conditioning is just as important as that of their equine partner’s.

What about when our health impacts the horse more directly? Every weak, unstable, crooked, out of balance step we take on our horses directly impacts their physical health just as surely as if they aren’t eating the right food, getting proper shoeing, or wearing a properly fitted saddle. If we ride with pain, our bodies automatically “guard”, creating imbalances we may not even be aware of. Over time these imbalances create compensations in the horse’s body as they try to adapt to our weakness, injuries, lack of mobility, or guarding behaviors. Ultimately, we may end up treating them for lameness that started with our own lack of physical fitness. How insane is that?

The reality is that we all have the same amount of time. It’s up to us to prioritize our own physical health right along with our horses’. It is in the best interest of ourselves as well as or horses to maintain physical fitness and health/well-being, so that we are the best riders and caretakers for our equine companions. After all, if we aren’t healthy riders, our horses will never be truly healthy horses!

Start taking your own health and physical fitness seriously today! Ridefit can help. Contact us to find out how!

“Word” to Your Back!

Rider Spine ImageAccording to the US Department of Health, 75-80% of all adults will experience back pain. Indeed, low back pain is the leading cause of disability in adults under age 45.(1) Due to the concussive forces inherent to riding and the potential for falls from height, equestrians are particularly susceptible to back pain and injuries. Incorrect riding posture and postural weaknesses most certainly are contributing factors to riders developing chronic back pain. To complicate matters, saddle type and stirrup length can play a role in increasing the potential for back pain.(2)

The body’s natural response to pain is to protect the area that hurts and compensate by relying on some other muscle or joint to take up the slack. This not only upsets our ability to ride freely and without holding in our bodies, but also sets us up for secondary pain in the compensatory muscle or joint. It can be assumed that if the rider’s body is compensating and not evenly seated on the horse, the horse’s back is also going to experience negative effects.

So, how do we riders prevent back problems before they begin? And what do we do if we already have back injuries or pain? Here are some strategies to prevent back injuries and strain, improve or alleviate already painful backs for riders:

Strengthen, Strengthen, Strengthen
Every rider needs a stable core to ride correctly. Even more importantly, a strong core protects the back. Many fitness programs do a lot of work on abdominal muscles, but only some directly strengthen the back. For greatest core stability, choose a workout program that has the following elements:

  • Addresses the low deep abdominal, psoas and hip flexor muscles, as well as the muscles of the lower and mid-back.

  • Incorporates balance exercises where core stability is challenged – on a balance ball, for example.

  • Includes whole-body core exercises such as planks rather than targeting individual muscles for high burst-strength training.

If you have a current injury, work with your doctor or chiropractor to develop an appropriate physical therapy plan that will bring you back to full function before starting a workout program.

Mind your Ps and… Rs
Posture and Relaxation are critical elements in not only protecting your back, but also in riding well. In some Western riding disciplines you might see professionals slouching in presumed total relaxation, but if you ask them, they are often riding with back pain. It has become quite popular in the Hunt Seat as well as the Saddle Seat rings for the rider to be “posed” with a hollow back, a recipe for future back pain. Event riders often show a rounded (often called “roached”) back during the cross country round. This is a symptom of fatigue, which will ultimately result in back strain without greater strengthening.  For all disciplines, good posture with relaxation is critical to protecting your back from strain. A strong core allows for both good posture and proper relaxation.

According to Dr. Jason Ablett, Doctor of Chiropractic in Kirkland, Washington, yoga is the most effective spine health habit one can practice. As it turns out, yoga is also extremely beneficial for riders in many ways, and will help protect the rider’s back from strain while riding. It has the added benefit of developing great riding posture. We have incorporated some of the most powerful yoga poses for spine health into the Ridefit program, making it a fantastic whole-body workout that is perfect for helping riders protect and improve their back health!

None of us should have to suffer pain while riding, especially pain that can be as debilitating as back pain. Fortunately, it is possible to improve your spine health and reduce, eliminate, or prevent back pain while riding. Here’s to your back!

1 Source: Bigos S, et al. Acute Low Back Problems in Adults, Clinical Practice Guideline No. 14. Rockville, MD: U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, AHCPR Pub. No. 95-0642, Dec. 1994.

2 Quinn, S., & Bird, S. (1996). Influence of saddle type upon the incidence of lower back pain in equestrian riders. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 30(2), 140–144.

What’s Stopping You?

img01Through the years I have often heard that the only way to become a better rider is to ride more. I never questioned that statement, because it seemed completely logical and rang of truth. However, as an amateur rider with a full-time corporate job, home and family to care for, and struggling just to have the time and energy to ride my one horse every day, it was also a terribly depressing thought. Even riding every day wasn’t always possible, much less riding more than one horse! My finances certainly wouldn’t support owning (boarding) more than one horse, sometimes two, but unless I gave up sleep, there was no way I could make the time to ride regularly and consistently. So I despaired of ever becoming the rider I have aspired to be my entire life.

During this time of my life I had the opportunity to audit a clinic with the German biomechanics specialist, Eckart Meyners. He spent an entire day watching rider after rider for about 2 minutes in walk, trot and canter, had the riders dismount and perform a couple of very simple exercises, and then had them mount up and ride again. The differences in the way these riders rode after the 5-10 minutes of exercise was nothing short of miraculous to my eye. I believe the riders also felt much the same. The exercises were so simple, and seemed completely unrelated to riding, and yet they had an enormous impact on the riders’ ability to move with the horse without tension, and ultimately ability to influence the horse’s way of going.

At the time I wished desperately that I could go to Germany and work with Herr Meyners, but alas, my personal situation was such that it would have required a sacrifice I was unwilling to make at the time. After all, I had a job and a horse, and pets that I couldn’t just give up and leave to pursue this crazy dream…

Fast forward at least 10 years, and I found myself at a crossroads in my life, my riding, and my career. I had spent many years working out to be stronger and more fit, finding that while it helped my riding tremendously to be fit, it didn’t really make me a better rider – I still had the same issues with one side being stronger than the other, a pelvis that seemed permanently tilted and slightly twisted, tension still crept in at the slightest provocation, my body still didn’t move as fluidly with the horse as I would have liked, and I still couldn’t influence the horse in the harmonious way that I dreamed of being able. I knew there had to be something more that I could do off the horse to improve my riding.

So on sort of a whim, I decided to pursue certification as an Equi-Yoga instructor. That act opened up a whole new world for me. I realized that what was missing from my fitness routine was all the exercises that actually would improve my body for riding, in a way that I actually could look forward to. I studied the work of people like Eckart Meyners, Suzanne von Dietze, and Mary Wanless.

It finally hit me that I had all the pieces to allow me to create the Ridefit program. And that is what I set about doing towards the end of 2014.

The more I teach the program, the more effective it becomes, as I find and try new exercises to add to the program. Recently, I had the opportunity to instruct a shortened Ridefit session during a clinic, in which a local Dressage trainer offered herself up as a “guinea pig” to try out the program for the first time. The clinician didn’t join in, but he observed very carefully all the exercises that we did. After the workout, the trainer got on her horse for her clinic ride.

Several times during her ride, the clinician came over to the spectators and made a note of some way the trainer was using her body on the horse, and pointed out which exercises we had performed on the mat or the ball that had mobilized or simulated that exact way of moving. Towards the end of the trainer’s ride, the clinician asked her how she felt in her body. Her answer was that she felt like she was riding her second horse of the day, instead of just the first – the Ridefit class had warmed up her body in the same way that a ride on another horse would have. This was precisely my intention when I created the program. I have finally realized my dream of being able to help riders become better RIDERS, even without more time in the saddle.

Just one Ridefit session will result in noticeable improvements in a rider’s body, but as with every fitness program, the truly lasting benefits are in the consistent repetition. There is literally nothing to stop any rider from breaking through the amateur “glass ceiling” and taking a giant leap towards becoming a better rider. The tools are all here, now all it requires is you to make a commitment to yourself and your horse.

Are you ready for the ride of your life? What’s stopping you? Make a choice today, to ride better tomorrow!

The Hardest Part is Getting Started!

Committed to Get FitIt’s the beginning of the new year. Show season starts in a few months. You have goals and ambitions, and you know you have to step up your game to reach them. Your trainer is asking more of you in each lesson. Your back is sore, your body aches after each ride. You know you need to lose that 10lbs you gained over the holidays so you can fit into your show clothes. But, your job has gotten more demanding, and your already limited riding time is getting more limited. It seems impossible that you could possibly add time to go to the gym. How do you get off this roller coaster and really focus on your true passion – riding?

Here are a few strategies that can help you get out of a rut and get on track to reaching your goals for this competition season.

Start gently. Health and fitness experts agree: diets are temporary fixes, and exercise must be consistent over time. Diets do work if they are adhered to, but once they are “over” the weight usually returns within a year, if not sooner. Workout programs rev up your metabolism, increase lean muscle mass and lower body fat, but jumping into a rigorous workout often ends as abruptly as it begins. Workouts hard enough to effect health are painful at first. If you are sore for two days after each workout, you are not going to be motivated to continue for the long haul. The only sustainable way to lose and keep weight off is committing to a true lifestyle change. But, lifestyle changes can be daunting. So, start gently.

Bring your diet into the 21st century slowly. Switch out one unhealthy item in your diet for a healthier alternative each week. Keep in mind that “low fat” foods and “sugar free” and sweetened with artificial sweeteners are NOT healthy alternatives. Healthy alternatives are fresh fruit instead of a blueberry muffin, chocolate Yerba Mate tea instead of a Starbucks mocha. Eat protein at breakfast instead of carbohydrates like cereal or a bagel. Choose organic, non-GMO, and locally grown whenever possible – especially for corn, wheat and soybean.

Many of us eat reasonably healthy, but simply eat too much, so strategies to help reduce caloric intake can be quite useful. Drink an 8oz glass of fresh clean water before each meal to reduce your appetite and make you feel fuller, so you are less likely to overeat. Eat vegetables before you eat any meats or starches. Vegetables contain more fiber and can make you feel fuller than starches and meats, and help you control your portion sizes when you do get to those foods.

There are many ways to reduce your calorie intake and eat more healthfully that can be incorporated into your daily routine, without upsetting your life balance or causing hardships. Start experimenting, and before you know it you will start noticing that it’s easier and easier to make healthier choices.

Find a fitness program that is fun and challenging, but not so difficult that you can’t walk afterwards. You can build up to a tougher workout over time, but start slowly so that you can sustain the momentum long-term. Remember that a rider needs cardiovascular fitness, core stability, balance and a great deal of flexibility.

Be careful of programs that over-strengthen the large muscles of the legs and arms. It is common for riders to rely on those muscles to compensate for losses of balance on the horse – which prevents the rider from really learning to use their stabilization muscles correctly. You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to ride well… in fact, bodybuilders are often too inflexible to move freely with the horse. Programs like Crossfit are not recommended for riders either, as they can put one at risk for fatigue related injuries.

Zumba is a fun workout that really turns up the heat on your cardiovascular fitness. Pilates is a good strength training program for riders, as it focuses on isometric strength and stability rather than short-twitch/explosive strength. Flexibility and freedom from restriction in the joints of the hips, shoulders and spine are critical for riders. There is a saying that you are only as young as your spine is flexible. Yoga is a powerful practice for maintaining your spine health; something riders often take for granted until they start experiencing back pain while riding. Yoga also provides great balance and proprioceptive benefits, as well as being a great way to release the tensions and stresses of the day before going to see your horse.

If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of having to do three different kinds of fitness programs to reach your riding goals, the Ridefit program might be your best choice. Ridefit addresses all four areas of full body fitness critical to a rider performing optimally on the horse — strength, flexibility, cardio, and balance/proprioception – in one fun workout that can be done at the barn, in your riding clothes, with minimal equipment, and it’s GUARANTEED to improve your riding. Learn more about the Ridefit program here.

Putting it all together: It doesn’t take a drastic overhaul of one’s diet and exercise to make sustainable changes that will ultimately result in dramatic improvements in your health and wellness. If your riding is being limited by your current health and fitness, try making small changes over time. Be willing to experiment, try new things, and have fun with it. Small changes consistently practiced will allow you to reach your riding goals in 2015!

I Hate to Exercise!

Hate Exercise ball“I hate exercise just for the sake of exercise.”

How many people can relate to that statement? Maybe you’ve said that yourself, from time to time… when someone asks you if you exercise aside from riding your horse. That was my excuse for 20 years. I loved “activities” – team sports, working in the yard, riding horses – but the pain and discomfort of exercise was too much to deal with when I had nothing else to think about except the pain and discomfort of the exercise! And to bore and torture myself for an hour a day? Forget it! I’d much rather go groom my horse!

One day, though, I could no longer escape the hard reality: despite my riding and horse activities, without a regular exercise program my lack of exercise was very quickly going to become a medical condition. I was depressed, 20 lbs overweight, hypoglycemic, in constant pain (fybromyalgia), and suffering from adrenal fatigue. Perhaps just as compelling for me as a rider, I knew that my lack of fitness was not only affecting my riding skill, but was actually making it dangerous for me to ride. I simply did not have the fitness to deal with a riding “mishap” and could have easily been injured if the chips fell the wrong way. My life circumstances brought me to the point that the pain of not exercising was becoming greater than the pain of exercising, and I made a long-term commitment to my personal fitness.

I could tell you that it was wonderful, I felt great, and I’ve not looked back since, but that would be a lie. It took SIX months of nearly daily workouts before I ever experienced the feeling of being energized from working out. It was excruciating for those 6 months, and I vowed never to allow myself to get that out of shape again.

Yet, a few years later I moved away from the gym where I worked out, and, too busy with my new home to bother finding a new gym to workout at and not wanting to spend the money, I let my fitness go to the back burner. I had at least 10 great excuses why it was ok for me to let it slip. Within a few months I had gained 20lbs back and become so out of shape that I sprained both my ankles tripping over a rock in the driveway, and another month later suffered from a more serious ligament tear in one of the ankles stepping wrong off a step. My body was telling me that it couldn’t protect itself without help!

So, back to “exercise for the sake of exercise” I went, painful as it was.

Now, I am absolutely certain that I am not the only person in the world with a love/hate relationship with exercise. In fact, I’m sure that there are more people in the world who hate to exercise than there are who love it. That is clearly visible in the show ring, as I have watched professionals riders/trainers who ride many horses a day becoming heavier and heavier each year. And riding breeches are being made in Plus sizes as the norm, whereas 20 years ago you’d have to have your breeches custom-made to get them in plus sizes. Our entire society hates exercise, and we are paying for it with our health across every ethnic, social and economic boundary.

It is because of my love/hate relationship with exercise that I created the Ridefit program. I wanted a workout for myself that didn’t feel like a workout. I wanted it to be conveniently located at the barn, where I was going to be anyway to groom and/or ride my horse. I wanted to not have to change clothes in order to ride, and I wanted the workout to actually IMPROVE my riding at the same time. It wouldn’t just be exercise for the sake of exercise – it would be exercise with a purpose that I am already 100% invested in. And that is exactly what Ridefit is: a workout that works for everybody’s fitness level, convenient to where we already are, and with the added benefit of making us better at what we love to do already.

Does it get any better than that?

If you’re a rider who hates exercise, but you know that you are going down a dangerous road by avoiding it, or perhaps you already are experiencing the effects of years of exercise avoidance, give Ridefit a try. You may just find you learn to like exercise after all!

Let Ridefit help you look better, feel better, and RIDE better in 2015!

To find or schedule a Ridefit session near you, check out our News and Events page, or e-mail info@ridefitnow.com.

Rider Fitness is All About the Horse

TCH_Horse_Rider_Sunset_We are horse riders.
Call us what you will. We are passionate, persistent, perceptive, obsessed, perhaps a bit mad… We think about our horses first thing when we wake up in the morning, and last thing before we fall asleep.
 
We spend thousands of dollars on boarding, care and vet bills, hundreds on shoes that have to be replaced every 5-6 weeks, thousands on riding lessons and training, and we find hundreds of details to think and worry about in ensuring our horses’ comfort and safety. We work ourselves to exhaustion sometimes to master the skills needed to work with these amazing creatures. In the end what we have paid for in money, time and energy boils down to the emotional experience we have when we watch, ride, and interact with our horses. We certainly aren’t in it for the money, or glamour, or fame (most of us, anyway).
 
Yet, often times as we progress in our chosen riding discipline, what starts out as a pure and joyous wonder and delight in this amazing creature gets twisted and warped into something far less joyous – for both us and the horse. Lessons may become a struggle against the horse instead of a partnership with the horse. We may struggle against our own physical inadequacies, asking our horses to carry us around against tension and crookedness in our own bodies. Our horses may become sore, sour, or even develop injuries from compensating for the physical constraints we riders are asking them to work through.
 
What if we could turn that around? What if, instead of feeling hopeless that we will never quite “get it” when we ride, we could actually start to change our bodies off the horse in a way that makes them work more harmoniously on the horse? What if we could make our horse’s job more comfortable and enjoyable, and get back the sense of joy we once had?
 
Unfortunately for us, there are three realities that work against us:
  • First, just riding does not make us the best riders we can be. Regular riding certainly makes us better riders, but eventually our bodies develop ingrained patterns and habits that we become unaware of, and our innate crookedness becomes habitual if we aren’t actively addressing it off the horse.
  • Second, there is no other sport that has the same physical requirements as riding, so even if we do exercise regularly – whether on our own or with a fitness coach – we may be over-strengthening muscles that actually prevent us from riding our best. Or, we may be unaware of tension building up in the joints that must move freely for a safe and comfortable ride – for both rider and horse!
  • Third, at the end of the day many of us have a choice: go to the gym, or go see the horse? For we horse riders, that choice is more often than not a “no-brainer”!

Most riders struggle with similar issues:

  • Difficulty staying with the horse (getting left behind or leaning forward)
  • Sitting the trot (and/or riding bigger gaits)
  • Natural crookedness and one-sidedness
  • Tension in neck, shoulders, back, hips or legs
  • Back or neck pain
  • Old injuries leaving joints less flexible
  • Loss of confidence

Even professional riders who ride many horses a day and “natural” riders whose bodies just seem to naturally move with the horse in the right way may experience injuries over time that leave lasting impacts on their ability to move fully with the horse.  Age and injuries become insurmountable challenges, and can result in loss of riding time, loss of income and potentially end riding careers.

A regular and consistent rider-specific fitness program can address and improve all of these challenges by increasing range of motion, reducing riding-related pain, and improving stability on the horse, which will translate to greater confidence and relaxation while mounted. All of these things will also translate into more relaxed and confident horses. And, a fitness program we can do at the barn in our riding clothes takes away the choice between caring for our bodies or caring for our horses’ – we can do both at once!

Because in the end, it all comes back to the horse. Are you doing everything you can with your own body to help keep your horse’s body healthy and sound into old age? If not, consider giving the Ridefit program a try. Your horse deserves it, and so do you!