Physical training: What about the rider?

Far too often, riders are not sufficiently attentive to their physical condition. Horse riding is a sport in the same way as the others and assumes that horse and rider are both in good shape. After mentioning the physical condition of the horse in our latest articles, let's talk a bit about ours...

Contrary to popular opinion, performance is not only owed to the physical preparation of the horse and to the training of the couple and we will see why below.

For 20 minutes of jumping training, a rider burns about 200 kcal. In comparison, 1 hour of running in a man weighing 70 kg leads to an energy expenditure of 600 to 700 kcal. These data show that our body is subjected to an effort when riding. It is therefore important to prepare ourselves physically for this effort.

The slightest tension will have a direct impact on your horse and will affect his muscular functioning and freedom of movement. A flexible and receptive rider with a good position will achieve performance much more easily.

Physical preparation prevents muscular and joint injuries. When riding, the musculoskeletal system of the rider is in great demand. The spine and pelvis absorb the majority of the horse's movement. In the sitting position, the lower limbs allow for lateral stabilization, especially thanks to the hip adductors, while rising, the leg muscles dynamically ensure the suspension.

The warm-up of the rider will aim to awaken the proprioception and the tonicity of the spine as a whole as well as the pelvis, loosen the shoulders and the hips and relax the 4 limbs. So always take a few minutes to warm up. We suggest below some exercises to practice on foot or on horseback.

1. Upper body warm-up

Start with the upper body: the shoulders, neck and arms. The upper body stretches will allow you to free your eyes and develop the elasticity of your arms.

Gently move your neck from front to back, right to left and rotate in both directions. Continue with some shoulders rotations in one direction then the other and then some torso rotations. Bring your shoulder blades closer by pulling your shoulders back. Then stretch your spine. To this end, roll down your spine, vertebra after vertebra, hold the posture for a few moments then gently go up, the head last.

2. Lower body warm-up

Then move on to the lower part of the body, i.e. the lower back, hips and legs. These stretches will allow you to better support the movement of your horse at three gaits and during jumps.

Start with the knee-chest exercise: with your back straight and abs tensed, lift your right knee and use your hands to squeeze it against your chest, hold the position for a few seconds and then do the same with the left knee.

Continue with quadriceps stretches: grab your right ankle and approach the heel to your buttocks. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and then change ankle.
Continue by warming your shoulder girdle: take a whip in both hands, stretch it over your head and have it circled around your upper body.

Finish the stretches with some pelvis and ankles rotations, then with forward and lateral lunges.

Once these exercises are completed, you can go for a quick brisk walk or do exercises by jogging (hit your heels against your buttocks, lift your knees, make bouncing leaps) to smoothly activate the cardio-vascular system.

"I've been practicing these exercises every morning for a number of years, all my former back, hip, and shoulder pains have disappeared, I've never felt so good in my body and in my head!", Michel Robert, French show jumper.

3. Warm-up on horseback

You can also perform some exercises on horseback while your mount is warming up.

Start by touching the ears of your mount, then the shoulders one after the other, the rump to the right and then to the left. Then make large circles with your shoulders in order to mobilize your shoulder blades. Continue with some torso rotations to complete the start-up of the spine. Do not forget the lower body. Lift the knees alternately and swing them back and forth to release the hips. Finish with some ankles rotations in both directions, flexions and extensions.

If you do not have time before your session, you can always perform a dynamic grooming to increase the body heat, activate the joints and muscles and increase the heart rate.
It is also advisable to reproduce these stretching exercises after the effort in order to relieve the tension and stress accumulated during the session, to facilitate the recovery and to avoid aches. It is also necessary to complete your practice of horse riding by other sports in order to prepare your muscles at best for physical effort. Swimming, biking, jogging, yoga, everything is good to develop your flexibility and your breath. Michel Robert, French show jumper, often points out the practice of yoga in the improvement of his horsemanship.

Do not forget that a good breathing control, a balanced and varied diet and a complete hydration also play a role in sports performance, especially in stressful situations and in competition.
See you soon for a new article,

The Seaver team

23rd October 2017