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Posts Tagged ‘cross-training’

fit2ridebackside

It’s the point that comes in contact with the horse and the saddle (and sometimes the ground)…the part of our bodies we eye with disgust in the tack shop mirror when trying on breeches…the area we want the fringe on our chaps to accentuate when we’re young and camouflage when we’re…not-so-young. Our bottoms, our backsides, our glutes—the butt can’t be an afterthought, as much as it might trail behind us. Its shape and its state of “flab or fab” matters—to our riding and to our horses.

In her new book FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! certified fitness trainer and riding coach Heather Sansom explains that the rider’s “backline” includes the gluteals, hamstring, and calf muscles, and all of these are necessary to a balanced, straight, and supple equestrian who can communicate clearly and efficiently with her horse.

“Due to our seated lifestyle,” says Heather, “these muscles are often undeveloped, causing them to be short and tight, which has a negative impact on the rider’s position and her ability to have tension-free, full body usage.”

So does this mean we have to ramp up our rump work? Heather says it isn’t just about conditioning this area of the body, it’s about doing it the right way for riding.

“The large muscle on your seat, the gluteus maximus, is a primary muscle responsible for powering human movement,” she explains. “It needs to be strong and powerful for nearly all sports because you cannot run or transfer energy or motion up through your body without strong glutes. It is common for exercise trainers who are not riders to think that posting is just the same as performing squats, lunges, or pliés, and that the engine of the motion is in the rider’s leg and seat as it would be for all other similar looking movements where the rider is springing from her feet. In actuality, the energy from posting only partially comes from the rider’s leg and hip. The rest comes from the momentum of the horse transferred to the rider through the inner leg contact.

Certified Fitness Trainer and Riding Coach Heather Sansom shows us how fitness can improve our abilities in the saddle, enabling our horses to perform their best.

Certified Fitness Trainer and Riding Coach Heather Sansom shows us how fitness can improve our abilities in the saddle, enabling our horses to perform their best.

“For a rider, gluteal strength is important, but not for the reasons often supposed (such as above). The strength in the gluteals is not for powering motion so much as it is for first, supporting rising-seat postures, and second, anchoring back positioning muscles as well as controlling leg-aid strength. Unfortunately, most riders spend a great deal of their day sitting, which causes this large and important muscle to atrophy. Also, since riding itself is a more or less seated activity, riding does not condition the muscle sufficiently.

“Many riders have weak ‘glutes’ accompanied by tight and short hip flexors. The combined problem creates a chair-seat leg, and when the rider tries to correct the chair seat by force, it creates a locked-down hip due to muscle tension. It also makes it difficult for the rider to hold her spine neutral when the hip flexors (psoas and iliacus muscle), pulling on the lower back, and weak glutes provide no counter-support. The gluteus maximus is included as a core muscle because without tone in this area, the rider’s hips cannot be supple and straight, and the torso has no base of support.

“Many exercises that train the gluteus maximus also often train the hamstring muscle. I like riders to use bodyweight exercises such as lunges because they train proper folding at the hips, and use of the hamstrings along their length (as well as gluteals). Although popular in fitness gyms, exercises using machines or equipment to target the hamstrings alone are often not as useful for riders or others training for application to movement (functional training), because they do not train the hamstrings functionally. In some cases, they train just one small segment of the muscle, which creates a ‘bunchy’ muscle that is not useful for riders.

“Generally, I don’t recommend exercises for riders that create ‘bunchy’ muscles since these can cause issue with proper seat and leg position, as well as with proper body usage in riding. A rider can be quite strong, and should be if she also does farm work since strength training protects joints from strain. But bulky or unevenly developed muscles get in the way of the rider and also don’t engage efficiently.

“I do not recommend that most riders do exercises like leg presses (lying backward on a machine and pushing great amounts of weight with your feet), for example, because the weight loading can far exceed the rider’s bodyweight. Besides creating a risk of hip injury, this type of exercise creates bulk which, again, is not functionally useful, and may even impede a nice leg position.”

To find out the simple ways you can get fit to ride for your horse in 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week, for 9 weeks, check out FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! by Heather Sansom, 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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Even when you are already fit and an active rider, tension can gather in specific muscles in your body, ultimately affecting your horse.

Even when you are already fit and an active rider, tension can gather in specific muscles in your body, ultimately affecting your horse.

Are you out of breath after a long trot session? Are your muscles sore the day after a lesson? Are there some days you’re just too tired to clean the barn, never mind get on your horse? Certified fitness trainer and riding coach Heather Sansom (founder of Equifitt.com) has developed a new fitness training program that caters to the unique needs of the equestrian. Even better, it doesn’t require huge scheduling sacrifices: just 30 minutes, 3 times a week, for 9 weeks!

Even if you are already a fit person and ride regularly, in all likelihood you have issues with balance, symmetry, and straightness on occasion, and perhaps deal with tense muscles in certain areas of your body. All of this is communicated to your horse, of course, and translates into compromised performance, or even discomfort on his end. Luckily, Heather Sansom’s FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! program is intended to help anyone who rides horses—regardless of fitness, preferred discipline, ability, age, or experience level, you can improve your partnership with your horse while helping your own body be the healthiest it can be with specialized retraining.

“Making muscle areas that carry tension more supple and relaxed is only half the equation in achieving a more consistently neutral upper body,” says Heather in her book. “First, it involves training the muscles that have become weak and less toned as a result of infrequent stimulus; then it’s about teaching the brain to trigger tonality in different muscles, instead of the ones that carry tension.

“One way to think about the retraining is to liken it to teaching vocabulary. To get the brain to use other ‘words’ (pathways to different muscles), it has to learn them. Otherwise, the brain always resorts to the ‘words’ (muscles) it knows best, especially when under tension. Increasing your neuromuscular vocabulary of response involves activities that also build strength. By building strength through exercises targeting the balancing muscles, you are also wiring or widening the pathway of response to that area. By practicing new muscle-engagement patterns on the ground, you increase the probability of your body using those new patterns automatically while you are busy focusing on riding tasks.”

 

Heather Sansom's FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! program is designed to work for any rider who wants to improve her riding and her partnership with her horse.

Heather Sansom’s FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! program is designed to work for any rider who wants to improve her riding and her partnership with her horse.

 

Find out how you can improve your riding while making your horse happier and more comfortable when you’re in the saddle in FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

F2Rhere

 

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

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In the horse industry, we often feel bound to our chosen discipline, breed, or horse sport. We proclaim our undying devotion to specific organizations and vow to remain true, in sickness and in health, to trainers, instructors, and clinicians. We divide ourselves into helmets and hats, jodhpurs and jeans, competitors and non.

But there is a strangeness to this self-imposed segregation in that we can all surely come together, whatever our difference in preferred coat color and saddle shape, in agreement over one thing: our love for the horse. And, it is no secret that “cross-training” is as good for the equine athlete as it is for the human athlete, so it benefits us on multiple levels to open our minds to the “other” and maybe even give it a try.

One master of multiple disciplines is Jonathan Field, author of the stunning book THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, in which he teaches us how developing communication skills and our relationship with our horse through liberty benefits all that we do—both on the ground and in the saddle. Quick responses to subtle cues, clear aids, and a relaxed and attentive horse: These are the keys to liberty, and they are also objectives when you ride, drive, and interact with your horse on a daily basis around the barn.

“I read THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES all in one evening and enjoyed and agreed with all of the very great wisdom that Jonathan so precisely shared,” says Grand Prix dressage rider Yvonne Barteau. “He is a true horseman, and I have seen him work a number of times in the past and think this book is a great portrayal of his life, his training, and his process. Every horseperson should read this book, even if they do not want to do liberty work.”

 

Grand Prix dressage rider Yvonne Barteau and GP Raymeister.

Grand Prix dressage rider Yvonne Barteau and GP Raymeister.

 

In addition to kudos from the dressage world, Jonathan has worked closely with the legendary George Morris, including creating a DVD set with the former US show jumping chef d’equipe. For more information check out the trailer below, or visit Jonathan’s website JonathanField.net.

 

 

Jonathan tells the following story about a jumper he reschooled in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES:

“Many years ago I took on Tommy, a jumping horse that was given to me for free. I was his last resort. I was told that Tommy wasn’t ever easy to ride, and it got worse when jumps were present. He’d start at a nice pace, but as soon as he was pointed at the first jump, he would speed up twice as fast. Two jumps later, he’d be even faster, and finally, he’d bolt. Soon, all it took was the sight of a jump to cause the bolt reaction.

“The key with a horse like Tommy is recognizing the weak link in the communication between horse and human. In his case it was neutral, which is very common for performance horses. They come into the arena, are worked hard, and only rest back at the barn. Neutral or active neutral is not a part of the training program. So, with each ride they get a little more wired from anticipation. Because of those nerves, their flight instinct gets closer to the surface.

“Flight instinct can’t be taken completely out of any horse, and I never took it out of Tommy. I just recognized the best way to help him was to recreate the arena as a place of comfort, relaxation, and connection to the rider. I also had to keep him moving in a controlled way when he wasn’t connected to me.”

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

You can read the rest of the story about Tommy, as well as learn how teaching your horse neutral and active neutral can benefit all that you do together in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Plus, preview a lesson from the book on how to find the neutral sweet spot by CLICKING HERE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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