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By now we all know how important it is to warm up and cool down our horses. It keeps them supple and helps to prevent aches and pains. But, how many of us apply this same logic to ourselves and warm up before riding? I’m guessing not too many of us.
Our horses mirror us
One of the things I find amazing about horse riding is how much we impact our horses. Something as little as not balancing your weight equally can really change their way of going and our weaknesses often become their weaknesses.
I have known a few people over the years who have struggle with crookedness in their horses and spent so much time and money trying to correct their horse, just for the issue to keep returning. It was only once they started addressing their own crookedness that the horse improved.
So with this in mind, if you are getting onto your horse stiff, are you going to get the best out of your horse? Especially when you consider how little you actually move in the saddle. How much are you going to really loosen up?
To prove my point, I want you to experiment with some exercises. Get on and ride your horse as normal. But after about 20-30 minutes, I want you to do some exercises in the saddle while walking your horse. Think Pony Club lessons!
Take your feet out of your stirrups and roll your ankles in small circles in both directions. Then do small circles with your knees, moving them slightly forward, then out away from the saddle, back and then back to the saddle. Finally, one at a time, raise your knee as high as you can before pushing down again, then bring the other knee up – a bit like riding a bike.
Once you’ve given your legs a bit of a stretch, put the reins in one hand and slowly move your arm in a big circle, trying to get all the movement you can out of your shoulder. Do this 5 times before swapping arms. Finally roll your head in large circles in both directions.
Now, carry on with your ride, doing a lot of the same things you were doing before the saddle exercises. Do you feel better? Does your horse feel better? I’m going to go ahead and say the answer is probably yes! So think how much better your rides would be if you felt like this when you got on your horse.
Pre Ride Warm Up
So now you hopefully see the benefits of warming yourself up before riding, you need to think of a warm up to do – which is what I think is the tricky bit! But I have just stumbled upon a free course on Cherry Tree Training on precisely this! They talk about what the aim of a warm up is, what you should include, in what order and how to make it specific for what you are doing.
But the take away messages are;
- Start with a pulse raiser
- Loosen up
For us horse riders, the pulse raiser could be marching around the yard while we do our jobs and putting some elbow grease into giving our horse a good groom. However, this only works if you are quick tacking up and getting on. Otherwise your body can start to cool down again. But you can always throw in some star jumps and high knees after you have tacked up.
For the loosen up phase, think rolling your joints. Roll your shoulders, roll your head, draw big circles with your hips. You are basically trying to improve the range of movement in your joints.
Finally you want to throw in some dynamic stretches. These could be torso twists or any sort of stretch you can think of which involves movement.
Have a bit of a play around with having a warm up before riding. Does it make you feel better? Also tweak the warm up you are doing to see if that makes a difference or not. If you get stuck I highly recommend having a look at the warm up course I mentioned above. Cherry Tree Training really know their stuff and being a horse rider really understands our needs! Plus it’s free! So why wouldn’t you:?