Horses are athletes that try their hearts out for us every time we step into the stirrup. Their effort inside the show ring and out is admirable, and as riders, it is only fair we try our best for them, too.
There are several practices riders can incorporate into their daily lives to become stronger in both body and mind. Consistency is key in these practices, and doing them will lead to stronger, more balanced, and thoughtful riding!
While successful horseback riding is often thought of physical achievement, many top-level riders have mastered the mental side of the sport. The mental side of riding horses is similar to sports psychology, which includes goal setting, development of self-confidence, concentration, and performance imagery.
You can read this blog about nurturing your mental space HERE.
Whether you’ve got a competition on the horizon or you’re going for a casual ride, visualizing how you want the future to play out actually strengthens neural pathways in the brain, making your path to success more natural. Take time to visualize detailed future plans, incorporating your five senses into the mix to make things more real.
There is a science to setting good goals, and the steps include:
Most things in life are about perspective. When the circumstances around yourself or your horse aren’t ideal, it’s easy to get down and begin doubting. Finding positivity in these moments and focusing on the things you can control can ground your mind. Journaling will allow you to get any doubts on paper and make them more concrete, allowing you to make a game plan while maintaining a positive attitude.
Yoga is a practice stretching back more than 5,000 years and is rooted in creating deep relaxation, self-reflection, and meditation. Yoga can increase balance, coordination, and posture in riders with as few as two sessions per week. The practice allows riders to check in with their bodies in ways that aren’t felt in day-to-day walking, sitting, bending, and riding.
The top yoga poses for riders are:
Strengthen the Core
Staying balanced in the saddle comes from the seat and posture, which are both heavily influenced by the core and the core’s strength. Imagine riding successfully without the help of some of your major core muscles!
Doing 15 minutes of core exercises twice a week can strengthen the body, and as you grow stronger the sessions can become longer and more frequent. The best core exercises for riders are:
Starting in a push-up position, place your hands squarely beneath your shoulders. Contract your abdominal muscles and concentrate on keeping a flat back. Start with 30-second planks, gradually working your way up to 1-minute holds and beyond.
Planks can be modified based on skill level. Placing the knees on the ground in the plank can make the movement easier while lowering to the forearms and keeping a straight body is more difficult.
Starting on your back, raise your arms to point towards the ceiling and legs into a tabletop position parallel to the ceiling. Keeping the core engaged, lower one leg and the opposite arm. Alternate the legs while counting reps. 20 reps is a good starting point, and you can rest before doing another round of the exercise.
Laying on your back, bring your legs up to point at the ceiling. Keeping the core tight – and this is a hard one – gently lower one leg at a time before bringing it back up. Avoid using momentum to swing the leg upwards. If needed, hold onto the legs of a chair to keep the upper body grounded. Start with 15 reps of this exercise and gradually build.
Becoming stronger as a rider both in mind and body isn’t easy, but the work done outside of the barn will reap rewards in the saddle.
BONUS TIP: Check out THESE OPTIONS to help you recover after these recommneded exercises.
Why do horses have the stamina to run for extended periods? Horses can accommodate great oxygen demands with a specialized circulatory and respiratory system. This means they can provide the oxygen their muscles need during exercise. While the respiratory system transports oxygen, the equine circulatory system is a bit more complex.