Stretch and FLEX­I­BIL­ITY

Writer and pho­tog­ra­pher DUSTY PERIN and sports phys­io­ther­a­pist STACEY LINGMAN team up to take ex­er­cise out of the gym and into the sta­bles, to help rid­ers make fit­ness part of their eques­trian life­style

NZ Horse & Pony - - Rider Fitness -

Many rid­ers spend many long hours train­ing their horses to get them fit and flex­i­ble, yet they in­vest lit­tle ef­fort in their own per­sonal fit­ness.

The most com­mon ex­cuse is a lack of time. We think that we get plenty of ex­er­cise just rid­ing, but that is not al­ways true. You do get some ex­er­cise trot­ting and can­ter­ing, but it is not al­ways sus­tained and con­tin­u­ous. When you are con­di­tion­ing a horse, the trot seg­ments might be less than 10 min­utes, then you walk, and do other tran­si­tions. The horse is get­ting fit – af­ter all he is car­ry­ing you around – but the rider ends up with tight mus­cles from do­ing short bursts of ex­er­cise.

Mus­cles that are worked have a nat­u­ral ten­dency to tighten; stretch­ing is the only ex­er­cise that will loosen them.

Be­ing loose and flex­i­ble is the first build­ing block of de­vel­op­ing good rider fit­ness. Sup­ple­ness in your spine and hip is as im­por­tant as re­laxed shoul­ders and a heel that can stay down.

Novice rid­ers es­pe­cially tend to get tight in the inside thighs from grip­ping, and their spines suf­fer when learn­ing to sit the trot. In­struc­tors take note: in­still­ing good fit­ness habits in your stu­dents now, will im­prove their rid­ing for years to come.

New Zealand phys­io­ther­a­pist and per­sonal trainer Stacey Lingman an­swers some ques­tions about the im­por­tance of stretch­ing. Stacey also has also de­vel­oped a quick and easy pre-ride warm-up and af­ter-ride stretch. There is def­i­nitely de­bate as to whether stretch­ing pre­vents in­jury.

The no­tion that stretches must be per­formed be­fore and af­ter a given ex­er­cise is now be­lieved to be out­dated. But stud­ies have shown that a warm-up pro­gramme prior to ath­letic per­for­mance will de­crease in­jury risk by 50%.

With this in mind, I gen­er­ally pre­scribe for my clients a dy­namic warm-up pro­gramme.

The ben­e­fits to warm­ing up in­clude in­creased blood flow to mus­cles, cir­cu­la­tion, nerve re­cep­tor sen­si­tiv­ity, range of mo­tion, de­creased stiff­ness of con­nec­tive tis­sues and en­hanced cel­lu­lar me­tab­o­lism.

Af­ter the ride, static stretches can be com­pleted to en­sure ad­e­quate re­lax­ation of the tis­sues that can tighten up with re­peated work­loads. For your warm-up, fol­low a sim­i­lar type of ex­er­cise that you would do while rid­ing.

Walk­ing briskly be­side your horse should be enough to get the blood flow re­ally go­ing.

Try to en­gage as many of the mus­cle groups as you will be us­ing dur­ing your ride. For ex­am­ple, a few squats will trans­late well to warm up the mus­cles you use for ris­ing to the trot and jump­ing.

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