Five ways to become a fitter, better balanced and more effective horse rider, with advice from performance coach, Jon Pitts.
1. Loosen your pelvis
When we ride our horses, we communicate with our horse through our pelvis.
It connects us to the horse and has a key role in stabilising our trunk, which makes up two-thirds of our bodyweight.
Watch a top rider like William Fox-Pitt in action and it doesn’t look as though he’s moving, but that’s because he’s using his body and especially his pelvic area, to stay in balance with the horse.
As a rule, we’re far too sedentary, and lack of exercise and movement weakens our pelvis function.
This area becomes blocked and we can’t absorb the horse’s movement.
Regular pilates and yoga sessions will help to redress the balance and loosen your pelvis.
You could also ask your gym instructor to devise a programme of pelvic tilts and circles.
2. Learn how to breathe properly
If I’m teaching at a clinic, I always see a huge difference in a horse’s way of going once I ask his rider to concentrate on their breathing.
We tend to shorten and hold our breath when we’re riding and this reduces oxygen levels in the brain, which affects our co-ordination, balance and reactions.
Try getting into the habit of breathing deeply for a few minutes each day, either on or off your horse, and incorporate this into every warm-up session when you’re schooling.
3. Build your core musclesExercises to strengthen your core are separate to those that aid pelvic function, though
they still will improve the stability in your pelvis.
Sit-ups, abdominal crunches and dorsal raises to develop lower back strength are great for building core strength and, in turn, improving your balance when in the saddle.
4. Improve your balance
Your ability to balance alters on a daily basis depend on the chemical levels of your brain, especially if you’ve had a few glasses of wine!
However, you can ‘tune up’ your balance before you hop in the saddle.
I often work with top venters in the lorry park before they go cross-country, getting them to sit on a balance ball, catch a tennis ball… anything to sharpen their brain and nervous system.
5. Move your body
Riding can be quite intense, so you need to reach a level of fitness that means enough oxygen is getting to your brain to allow it to work under stress.
You shouldn’t get out of breath when you ride, and if you do your horse will feel it.
To up your fitness levels, simply get moving.
Anything that makes you slightly out of breath is good, be it interval training, running or bike riding.