Get fit with Equicise!
Equicise is a new exercise initiative from Wimbledon-based Carol Andrews, aimed at improving your fitness and revolutionising your riding.
Being fit is a must for any type of endurance riding where your heart rate is up. If you school or event with your horse regularly, you probably have a good level of fitness, but try these exercises to make sure you keep on the top of your game.
Find out more about Equicise at www.equicise.co.uk
A strong core is a must for any horse rider to help with balance, as well as moving in and out of positions over jumps.
Begin on your hands and knees and slowly crawl your hands forward, so that your forearms are resting on the floor. Stretch your legs back, coming up onto your toes so that your body is suspending using only your forearms and toes. If you struggle with this, try with your arms straight out in front of you.
This is a tough exercise and really helps to tone your midsection. Try and hold this pose for a few seconds to start to see where your fitness level is. Gradually try and build this up by practising every other day. Don't worry if you can't hold it for long to begin with, remember to set yourself realistic goals and you'll soon be planking like there's no tomorrow!
Skaters are a great form of cardio and also work on building the strength and tone in your thighs.
Skaters are essentially a jump to the side, landing on one leg. The degree of difficulty will depend on the amount of effort you put in, i.e. the longer and higher you jump, the harder this exercise will be.
Stand up straight, with your weight equally distributed in both legs.
Keep facing forward, but jump to your left side, landing on your left leg, while your right leg swings slightly behind you. If you struggle with balance, you can touch your right toe onto the floor behind you.
Now you need to go back the other way. Using strength from your left leg, jump side ways to the opposite side, landing on the other leg.
Try doing this for 30 seconds, and build up as you see your fitness improve.
Practising kicks to the side helps to build and tone the muscles in your hips, legs and side abs.
It can also be a good exercise to improve the flexibility in your hips, which will help you move in a better rhythm with your horse in the saddle.
Try kicking to the side 10 times, before repeating with the other leg.
Having a strong lower body can really help with your balance in the saddle and will give you the confidence to power over a show jumping course. The added cardio in this exercise will also get your heart pumping and really help to get your fitness levels up.
Start in a squat position, with your thighs parallel to the floor. Remember to keep your back straight and try not to lean forward.
With all your power, push yourself off of the floor and jump as high as you can. You need to land back in the squat position, so remember to keep your knees soft.
Try this exercise 10 times initially, building this up as you notice your fitness improving.
Improve your flexibility and strength
Try these exercises and see if you can improve your flexibility and strength in the saddle with Equicise.
This exercise stretches the hips and quad muscle, which often becomes tight when riding.
Practising the pigeon pose every other day will improve the flexibility and mobility in your pelvis, allowing you to become more synchronised with your horse. It also opens up your seat, allowing you to sit deeper in the saddle.
Begin by bringing your right knee behind your right wrist, and sit back with your right leg bent in front of you. Make sure your hips are square to the mat, lengthen your spine and extend your left leg straight out behind you. Walk your hands forward until your head is resting on the mat. Hold this pose for one minute, gradually building up to three minutes as you become used to the exercise. Repeat on the other side.
Practising the clam primarily works your inner thighs, gluteal muscles and hips and is a great exercise for dressage riders to practice as it can increase the range of motion in your hips and legs, making transitions seem easier and more balanced.
To perform the clam, lie on your side so that your hips and shoulders are in line. Bend your knees slightly and breathe in and out to engage your core muscles. Rest your head on the arm that is closest to the ground and put your other arm by your side or rest it on the ground in front of you for extra stability.
Now, slowly bring your top leg away and move your hip outwards. This will really help to work the muscles in your hips and encourage a more fluid movement in the saddle. Bring your leg back down and repeat for as many as you feel comfortable. Try starting with ten reps. Don’t forget to repeat this on the other side.
This calming posture helps to bring external rotation in the upper leg. There is a lot of internal rotation of the upper leg when riding and this exercise can help to counter this. Practising this exercise will open your hips and bring space into the lower back, while easing stiffness. It is also a very calming posture and could be practised before riding to help reduce feelings of anxiety.
Start by being sat on the floor bringing your feet together in front of you, with your soles touching each other and so that your knees are bent out to the side,.
Exhale and gently fold forward, being careful not to overstretch – only go as far as you feel comfortable.
The crown of your head should be facing towards the floor, allowing your head to feel heavy.
This pose is ideal for building muscles in your core and will prove invaluable to improving your balance in the saddle.
Sitting on your bottom, gradually lift your legs, bending your knees. Gently place your hands behind your knees and bring your shins up so that they are parallel to the mat. Push through the balls of your feet, flexing the toes back towards you.
To finish, try and take your hands out and hold the balance for two to five breaths, increasing this as you get stronger.