Ok so it’s been a couple of weeks with parties, eating, travel and resting. Just getting the horse care chores done in the midst of all that was enough but now we are almost into the pre-competition season and it’s time to get back in the saddle. I’m not just talking to competitors here either - you recreational riders get stale too!
Ugh, that first ride! Muscles have contracted and contorted and to stretch and get supple again, you need to regain some strength, balance and relaxation up there. The body will resist!
Horse-time can be a solitary and lonely time. If you have your horse at home or go mid-day to the stable you could be missing out on the social aspect of horse-ownership. When you are always alone there is no support or conversation and the motivation can be stalled - no pun intended.
A couple answers to these obstacles to my progress are coming together this month and I hope the ideas will help to get you stimulated in the off season.
First: Call a few friends and plan a get-together a couple times a month. Brainstorm ideas and share them with each other. Research a horsemanship program and target a sticky area your group members commonly encounter. If you choose to stay warm and meet at someone’s home, have everyone bring their laptops and view a variety of DVD’s addressing the chosen topics. Follow-up by meeting at the stable with a mini-plan and apply what you learned. It will also make sessions more interesting for your horses!
Second: I took a new look at some the exercise DVDs in my collection. After sweeping off the dust, I started on the simplest and lightest workout, really paying attention to my body’s response and being careful not to overdo it. Sure age is just a number but now I know that age is an unforgiving multiplier on recovery time.
What I did notice about some workouts is that not every one was beneficial to improving my riding. Yes it was good for strengthening and stretching but for our sport the wrong muscles were being developed. So, I modified some things. For example, instead of bicep curls when doing squats, I will vary my arm movement to simulate riding arms. When curls would be demonstrated to close as legs straightened I opened and pushed my arms as legs straightened which mimics what our arms do in rising trot. Check the rotation of your fists, make your thumbs stay on top. Also, try some punches both rhythmically and varied. I do jabs, cross punches and upper cuts in a variety of counts while doing squats. I have found this helped to make my arms move independently, kept my shoulders and back muscles loose which also affected the abdominals, creating increased core stability and strength.
Squats are a terrific thigh strengthening moves but commonly, glutes and hamstrings tighten and push as the legs straighten. Your quads are the primary muscles that facilitate a soft, supple rising trot because they are the “pistons” for the movement, try to isolate them as the working muscles set and become aware of the others, hamstrings, glutes and calves remaining relaxed. Do not tilt the pelvis at the top as so often is part of the workout. This thrust is not a good motion to habituate for riding as it also tightens the wrong muscles. Be aware of your feet too. Make them flat, feel the floor. Toes can be stretched up instead of gripping, and notice if they rock or clench for balance and correct that.
If you implement some of these ideas I’ll bet you get more motivated, more interactive with friends and your horses and find that you come into the pre-competition season more positive and prepared for progress this year.