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Archive for the ‘Equestrian Fitness’ Category

RidersPainFreeBack-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Charles Hilton.

Apparently, equestrians played a key role in popular bar design. Never mind the obvious (sometimes a horse girl needs a drink)—theory has it, back pain, likely related to hours in the saddle, was the key influencer in this equation.

Riders Pain-Free Back-pb

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“Back pain affects four out of five people at some time during their lives,” explains retired neurosurgeon and horseman Dr. James Warson in his book THE RIDER’S PAIN-FREE BACK. “It is the leading cause of disability for people between the ages of 19 to 45. Back pain is second only to the common cold for causing adults under 45 to miss work. Furthermore, as we age, low back pain becomes more and more common—affecting half of the population older than 60 at any given time.”

Uplifting, right? But the kicker is, whatever causes the back pain—be it sources outside or within our equestrian pursuits—it ultimately affects our ability to ride, as well as our enjoyment of it. And that, my friends, would surely drive a man to drink.

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So what does all of this have to do with bars?

RidersPainFreeBackpin-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Charles Hilton.

“A posture characteristic of people who have spine problems or pain is a tendency to flex the hips and knees somewhat,” says Dr. Warson. “This takes traction off the nerves—particularly the sciatic nerve—and makes them a little bit more comfortable. Extending the back—especially when standing with a straight leg—may irritate the nerves. This is why people who have severe back problems tend to bend forward somewhat, as well as flexing their hips and knees, in order to get some relief.

“In the ruins of Pompeii are a staggering number of saloons, bordellos, and bathhouses. Each of these entertainment places featured a long, low, stone step that ran in front of what was the equivalent of the bar. Since most of the people who rode horses in that era were either soldiers or politicians, and since the proprietors of the various establishments wanted to keep their elite clientele happy, the low step encouraged the power players to gather around the bar. Riders were generally wealthy and worthy of courting as patrons. Long hours in the saddle, however, contributed to a host of chronic back problems. The low step allowed clients to flex the hip and knee. It would alleviate their pain somewhat, enabling them to stay at the establishment longer—and spend more money.

RidersPainFreeBack2-horseandriderbooks“The bar owners knew that the people who rode in on horseback were probably hurting. They also knew that flexing the hip and knee would make them more comfortable. People standing at the bar could rest their feet on the step and ease some of their chronic pain. If the patrons were feeling no pain, they would tend to hang around longer, and they’d tend to drink more.

“Later on, especially in Europe, the stone steps were replaced with a brass rail, which is commonly seen and still used today at the base of bars almost everywhere.”

There you are, folks…a rider’s reason for that foot rest at the bar. Party people everywhere have equestrians to thank for their hours of comfort, belly-up.

Cheers.

THE RIDER’S PAIN-FREE BACK is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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RidingintheCloud-horseandriderbooks

I’m guessing I’m like a lot of you–a job, a family, a gym I try to frequent, friends I try to see, books I try to read, promises I try to keep, and oh yeah...horses.

Needless to say, the above list is not compiled in order of preference.

So how, when one is so dang busy, does one actually become a better rider? Obviously, I think books are a pretty great means of continuing an equestrian education…but I’ve recently tried something else that is an awesome fit for those who want to feel closer to the individual imparting the knowledge. I’m taking TSB author Janice Dulak’s Pilates for Dressage® Ridermanship® Course. She calls it a “Clinic in the Cloud” as it is (mostly) all virtual, but at no point do you feel like you are floating or alone! Janice has constructed the course so not only do you feel fully engaged with her–and even other students–but you have plenty of reminders to help ensure you don’t forget that you are working to improve yourself…and that’s not just for you, that’s for your horse, too.

Janice’s course platform is seamless and very simple to use. Everything is laid out in progressive steps and there are interactive checklists that update your experience and allow you to move on when you are ready. Moreover, all the myriad pieces of the course (video instruction, worksheets, audio lessons, chats, and live phone calls) remain archived and easily accessed if you need or want to review at any time.

RidingintheCloudPin-horseandriderbooksSo what are you learning, exactly, up in the Ridermanship cloud?

A former professional dancer, Romana’s Pilates Master Instructor Trainer, and USDF Bronze medalist, Janice specializes in the integration of Pilates concepts and riding. She has created a vocabulary with both the instructor and the rider in mind that is meaningful, and she helps riders understand their bodies and move them differently so they can do what the instructor is asking.

“In Ridermanship,” Janice adds, “you’ll learn to create self-carriage in your body, and practice correct biomechanics to ride your horse with greater feel and harmony. Lessons and exercises will train you how to develop your physical self, so you will know what you need to do in your body to help your horse perform—and the partnership with your horse will be complete.”

Her Ridermanship Course provides guidance and exercises that lead to posture improvement and an independent seat and legs, that refine your seat and enhance your rider influence, and that ensure your overall continued development as a rider. There is no lack of substance–the sheer volume of information provided is impressive! But it is so neatly packaged in friendly and easily consumable parts like video lectures and short workouts, you don’t really notice…until you see it is almost the end of the week and you are only halfway through your checklist of action items! Luckily, Janice keeps the virtual experience a flexible one, and the course automatically adjusts to your busy schedule. You might miss a live call with Janice and your Ridermanship group, but you can listen to the recording after the kids are in bed and ask any questions on the Facebook group page, still getting the help you need almost in real time.

JaniceDulak-horseandriderbooks

Janice Dulak can help us find balance, in and out of the saddle!

It has been such a pleasure to feel that the rest of my busy life hasn’t interfered with my desire and ability to improve as a rider and horse person. Having an option to “fit it in” as best suits each day or week, to do a little or pour a glass of wine and absorb a lot, to practice an exercise with Janice’s guidance before committing to the full workout, and to feel I have her support throughout it all, has been terrifically affirming.

Thank you, Janice. When I’m next in the saddle, I’m sure my horse will thank you, too.

For more information about the Ridermanship “Clinic in the Cloud,” CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE for Janice Dulak’s books and DVDs.

-Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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MovementQuizFB

Can you tell which movement this rider is “riding” from the correct position in the left photo above, and the common mistakes depicted in the middle and on the right?

When correctly positioned (left photo), the rider is looking to the inside, her shoulders and pelvis are likewise turned to the inside and aligned. The left leg (when on the left rein as shown here) drives sideways and the right leg is guarding the horse’s hindquarters.

Common mistakes when riding this mystery movement include: collapsing to the left in the waist with the weight shifting too much to the right, with the shoulders and pelvis lower on the left side (middle photo); and leaning to the left away from the direction of movement, the rider’s weight on the left side as she pushes the horse away, and crooked shoulders and pelvis (right photo).

Which movement is she riding?

 

shoulderin

 

The answer is the shoulder-in!

In the shoulder-in, the horse’s inside hind leg and outside front leg are on the same track (as you can see here). The rider’s upper body is turned slightly toward the inside of the arena without collapsing or succumbing to the other common mistakes mentioned above.

In classical dressage authority Anja Beran’s new book THE DRESSAGE SEAT, she breaks down the physical requirements of the rider’s seat on the horse, as well as its responsibilities during various movements—from the gaits and paces to lateral work, lead changes, piaffe, passage, and pirouettes.

Watch the trailer here:

 

THE DRESSAGE SEAT by Anja Beran is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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neckmuscles

 

Many riders have neck and shoulder tension, which derives from the body’s reaction of “turning on” the trapezius muscle (see illustration above) in their daily lives. When there is a neuromuscular “highway” to an unproductive area such as the trapezius, there will be an almost automatic physical reaction, collecting tension in that area, regardless of what the rider is trying to do. Shoving tense shoulders back during a ride only makes the problem worse: Exertion used to “fight” a tense muscle area creates additional tension.

The answer is not to fight the muscles that are involuntarily tense, but to reduce tension with a) extensive stretching, and b) to learn to use the muscle’s “off” switch, which is found by training the body to make better use of other areas.

Believe it or not, stretching your neck muscles makes a difference. Stretching your neck actually stretches the elevator scapula as well as the trapezius muscles, in addition to neck muscles. If you carry tension in your shoulders and neck, this exercise is especially important, but if you are relaxed and supple, doing quick neck stretches on a regular basis can just be part of healthy spine maintenance.

Holding your arms down to keep your shoulders down, tilt your head from side to side, bringing your ear toward your shoulder with a deep breath each time.

 

neck stretch

 

You can also tuck your head forward as if looking under your armpit on each side.

Do not roll your head back because this compresses your neck vertebrae. If you have a lot of tension in your neck and shoulders, you can help release it by taking a free hand and squeezing your trapezius muscle or pushing down on it gently as you lean into the stretch. Do not hold the stretch very long before switching to the other side. These stretches should be done slowly and rhythmically.

A rider with shoulder tension can make a habit of doing this stretch, holding it longer, at the end of the day. When doing a deep neck stretch (any stretch can be turned into a “deep” one by holding it longer), it is important to use your hand to help raise your head afterward, since a deep stretch in the neck muscles will stretch the fibers and you can strain something by trying to lift the weight of your head using the same muscles that you just elongated.

For more from Certified Fitness Trainer and Riding Coach Heather Sansom, check out her bestselling book FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS!, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

 

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.  

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