Rider Wellness: Functional Fitness

Are You Typical, or Atypical?

If you’re a typical horse person, I’m willing to bet that you would go to any length to ensure your horse is taken care of. For example, recently my friends and I were lamenting over how we have “nothing to wear” this winter, yet each one of us had just purchased brand new, top of the line winter clothes for our horses. I have no doubt that this altruistic behavior is typical among horsewomen of all disciplines. As a whole, we’re spending time, energy and money caring for our horses, while pushing our own needs aside.

IMG_4705_feb15_rider_wellness.jpgAnswer the following questions honestly: When was the last time you opted to purchase a massage for your horse and not yourself? For that matter, when was the last time you even had a massage? When was the last time your horse saw the chiropractor? Did you? When was the last time your horse saw the farrier? How long has it been since you had a pedicure? How much do you spend on feed, supplements and hay each month? What was the last thing YOU ate? How often do you opt to put your horse’s physical, mental and emotional needs over your own? Chances are you’ve even had personal relationships suffer because you put your horse first. After all, you love your horse and he or she may be the most valuable and cherished relationship in your life. Trust me, I get it! Now, this may come as a shock: Stop. Yep, you read that correctly. Stop putting your horse’s needs before your own.

It’s time for all the typical horsewomen to become atypical horsewomen. As much as I’d like to tell you that I put myself first solely for my own well-being, that’s not the truth. I do it for my horse Titan and it’s been the absolute best decision for both of us. Focusing on my own fitness and health has transformed me from a mediocre rider into something much more. Granted, we are certainly not the best, if you measure success in blue ribbons, but I have no doubt that focusing on my own fitness has directly resulted in significant improvements in my horse. For example, I found that correcting my own muscular imbalances, such as strengthening my weaker right leg, corresponded with improvements in Titan’s muscular imbalances ( e.g. developing muscle in his hollow right side). This resulted in not only a more attractive topline, but more pleasant and enjoyable training sessions for us both. My hope is that our transformation will inspire others to focus on fitness. If for no other reason, at least do it for your horse. We expect them to perform their best, so don’t they deserve the same from us?

Perhaps you’re saying, “That’s great and all, but exactly how do I do that? I don’t have the time or energy.” Well, think of other sports (football, track, cheerleading, etc.). Each team has its own strength and conditioning coaches because of the unique and specific demands placed on the athletes. In other words, sports require discipline-specific training, and riding is no different. It actually has the additional demand of requiring the athlete and “equipment” to be fit. Not to mention our equipment comes with its own opinion of how things should go. This is where I come in: your very own sport-specific strength and conditioning coach.

I’m going to teach you about the multiple components of fitness and how to train to improve each aspect without ever setting foot in a gym—I promise! This is a focus on functional fitness. We all know that horsewomen don’t have the time or energy to care for our horses, ride and then hit the gym. That’s just not practical. So, until next time when we discuss cardiovascular fitness training for riders, I challenge you to try out one of my all-time favorite exercises: Jockey Whip Rolls. They are quick, easy, and you never have to leave the barn. Insert 4705

  1. Grab a whip (or stick, manure nugget, whatever’s nearby)
  2. Get in a plank (or modified plank) postition.
  3. Continuously roll the whip from one hand to the other (work up to 90 seconds beginning with 15-second increments). Repeat 4 sets with 10 second rest intervals.

Variation: Pick up the whip in one hand and place it by the opposite hand. Repeat 3 sets of 15.

by Emily Beasley


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