What’s the difference between being pushed in a buggy and ballet dancing? – Well, for riders, it is core stability and fitness for athletic performance.
I’ve noticed that most top riders advocate a fitness regime away from your horse both for aerobic fitness but also physical strength. Physical fitness and core strength are things which, will, ultimately, make a great deal of difference to your ability to ride a horse well. Being fit helps you balance and hold your own body (rather than asking the horse to ‘carry’ you).
The muscles of the trunk and torso act to stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle. From this solid, balanced base the limbs can be moved powerfully and under control. In fact before rapid movements of the extremities can take place, the central nervous system stabilizes the spine in anticipation (1). The rate at which the core muscles stabilize the spine may have a direct effect on the power of limb movement (2).
Core strength training differs from many traditional weight training routines by working both the lower back and abdominals in unison. The same is true for the upper and lower body. All athletic movements incorporate the core in some way. Very few muscle groups are isolated. Instead the whole body works as a unit and core strength training endeavours to replicate this.
What are the benefits of core strength training to the athletic rider?
- Greater efficiency of movement
- Improved body control and balance
- Increased power output from both the core musculature and peripheral muscles such as the shoulders, arms and legs
- Reduced risk of injury (the core muscles act as shock absorbers for jumps and rebounds etc.)
- Improved balance and stability
- Improved athletic performance!
Charlotte Dujardin and Laura Thompson both have a series of videos on UTube talking about their own fitness and the difference it makes to their riding. For show jumpers, event riders, jockeys and polo players it all sort of makes sense because they are very physical in their requirements but in truth rider fitness is key in training a horse well right from the off. Flat work and hacking and gridwork all require the rider to be balanced and able to aid the horse and direct using their own body in tension. This does not mean tensely it means carrying their own body in much the same way as a dancer and is particularly well seen in ballet and contemporary dance. Good dancers are fit…people who move around to the music and then sit down (well I think you can see where I am going with this one!)
There are some simple things you can do on your own like:
Download a 30 day abs challenge onto your phone and at beginner level. It is amazing how much difference it makes even at this low level. There are other advantages too….it makes your tummy flatter. Bonus!
Or you can try following these simple instructions.
In a face down position, balance on the tips of your toes and elbows while attempting to maintain a straight line from heels to head. This exercise focuses on both the anterior and posterior muscle groups of the trunk and pelvis.
Start on your side and press up with your right arm. Form a bridge maintaining a straight line from your hand to your foot. Rest on your elbow to increase the difficulty. This exercise focuses on the abdominal obliques and transversus abdominus.
Core s Supine Bridge
Lying on your back, raise your hips so that only your head, shoulders, and feet are touching the floor. The supine bridge focuses on the gluteal muscles. Stronger gluteals help maintain pelvic control.
Lie on your back with your legs bent 90 degrees at the hip. Slowly lift your hips off the floor and towards the ceiling. Lower your hips to the floor and repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.
Perhaps we should start a campaign and get livery yard owners to encourage all their clients to start running or swimming. …. Or maybe not. It would be a thought though wouldn’t it?
Never overdo exercise when you are not fit. Start small and work up, just like you do with your horse. If you are unsure then invest in your self and your horse and join a gym.
It will make all the difference to you when you are training or even just walking your horse up and down to the field.
Perhaps you could set yourself a goal. If I get to the end of 30 days and I have reached this target then I can…..
Have a lesson with …. (take your pick from Horse Scouts Top Trainers!)
Go Cross Country Schooling/have a jumping session at….(Loads of great equestrian centres to choose from on Horse Scout!)
Do you think this is shamless advertising? Well its more because we think that Horse Scout has a great range of trainers and equestrian centres listed and that you should know about them!.
Have a great day.