Hi and welcome to my new blog at Scoot Boot, I am really excited to be part of the team and sharing my views and experiences with you!
I am a Dressage Rider and Strength & Conditioning Coach focusing on riders. After doing a Degree in Equine Sports Science so I could learn as much as possible about training horses in a "scientific" way and knowing what goes on inside the horse not just on the outside, I then decided to become a Strength and Conditioning coach so that I could learn as much as possible about the human side of training too to mold my clients into athletes. Through these blogs I want to share with you tips on how to keep yourself and your horse in good shape, inspire you to do more and of course to become symmetrical.
I was wondering where I could start with my blogs and then thought well... I will start at the beginning, sounds simple but it’s not really the beginning. It’s the beginning of Rehabilitation after injury. All year I have been focusing on getting to the National Dressage Championships with my mare Millie (whom I rescued nearly 3 years ago) so this was a big deal. We had qualified at 3 different levels, Prelim, Novice and Elementary PLUS the 55cm Show Jumping, no mean feat for a small pony that had a rough start in life. Unfortunately the unexpected happened. She went lame. After 4 days of worsening lameness and trying most things I called to vet. The findings were not great, a small bone chip floating between the patella and the femur. The vet explained that with Millie being so malnourished between the age of 3 and 4 years old (she is now 7) that this was almost like a long term weakness that had just broken where no traumatic event was needed. So we cancelled the Nationals and Millie went to surgery 3 days later.
In humans and horses the rehab process MUST be taken seriously and be made thoroughly to be able to make a strong come back. The amount of people I have seen that have come for movement assessments who are not symmetrical due to an old injury was crazy. But it’s because we can learn to live with pain and this feeling then becomes normal, but we shouldn't accept this. Why live in pain when you can get it fixed properly? The thing is .... if you don't rehabilitate yourself properly then how do you expect your horse to move properly? From the horse’s point of view, if you don't take the time to do rehab then don't expect your horse to perform and give you 110% in the future.
When we ride we create a mirror image on to the horse and vice versa. I have seen horses where their pelvis is out of line and created the riders pelvis to be out of line. A strong right handed person has made the left rein weaker. A badly fitting saddle has damaged both horse and rider. And most times I have sat on clients horses I can feel where the rider’s asymmetries lie through the way of going of the horse. But how do we go about fixing this? We need to be more serious about our rehab and training. Riders need to treat themselves as athletes.
During Millies time off in rehab she has a walking program to follow from the vet whilst being on box rest. At the time of writing this she will have been on box rest for 9 weeks, she also has a weekly body massage, monthly chiropractic sessions, gets thorough grooming to stimulate blood flow and I am old fashioned in my grooming as I still strap her to keep some muscle tone. For extra stimulation she does carrot stretches and I have even started to teach her simple stable tricks to keep her busy brain thinking. For myself I have taken up hot yoga and gym work has gotten more serious to stay fit but also physio and massage appointments so that I am not letting her down by the time she is ready to be ridden again.
You are probably wondering now where to start and how you could improve and what you already have, well the best thing to start is with a simple Plank!
Why is a plank so important?
Let’s look at the correct riding position. Sit tall, lengthen the spine and keep it in neutral, shoulders back, heel, hip and shoulder alignment, engaged core so you can use your body independently of your limbs and you are not using your hands to balance or your legs to “ski” along on.
Here’s the plank position: stay long, lengthen the spine and keep your spine in neutral, shoulders back, heel, hip and shoulder alignment, engaged core.
What’s the difference? Nothing. Apart from one plank is on the floor the other plank is on a horse.
An engaged core shouldn’t mean a stiffening of the body. It should be fluid and controlled in movement, helping the horse in each movement. Being able to change your body angles to allow the horse to move freely forward. Your joints should mirror the horses. Let’s take shoulder in for example. Quarters on the track – keep your hips in the direction and angle of the movement and quarters. The shoulders are off the track – allow your shoulders to be in line with the horses and turn through the waist. The hands stay in the same position and your inside leg creates the bend while the outside leg brings the shoulder off the track. If you didn’t engage your core through shoulder in, you end up using more hand and pulling rather than “riding” the shoulder in from your legs.
Leaning back to control your horses speed is also a classic. Disengaged core and pulling/controlling from the shoulders is easily done. But your limbs must work independently and for you to control your horse on soft aids means?…. engage core and control speed through the legs. Collection is made by using more leg, not less leg and more hand.
So with this in mind, before you get on do a plank and hold it for 1 minute! On the stable floor, in the arena… then get on, and hold that feeling.
Millie Leaving Hospital after her operation, about to start her long rehab process.
How to do a Plank...