One of the most admirable parts of any equestrian sport is that it’s a genuine team effort between horse and rider. The two are connected in a way that isn’t easily illustrated by words. The horse supports the rider and the rider does everything possible to support the horse. It’s truly a relationship that we often don’t pay enough credit to.
Every athlete in every sport at nearly every level has a work out plan. Whether it’s the daily jogger that accomplishes 3 miles on their lunch hour or it’s an Olympic triathlete, we all dedicate a certain amount of time and practice to our sport of choice. A consistency among each work out plan is stretching. Why is it that so many equestrians skip it?
Stretching has a wide range of benefits. You may be familiar with many of them especially if you’re a stretcher yourself. They include:
• Better balance
• Increased flexibility and suppleness
• Relief of joint and muscle pain
• Improved performance
• Increased range of motion
• Improved circulation
• Enhanced proprioception
• Promotes relaxation
• Prevents injury
Next is some demonstrations of a couple of the most effective stretches for the rider, but first I’d like to disclose a couple of safety precautions:
• If you are suffering or recovering from an injury, consult a professional before using the stretch techniques listed below.
• Stretching should not be painful. If you find that a stretch is painful, stop practicing this stretch or decrease your exertion until it is no longer creating discomfort. We are trying to achieve a “healthy tension”.
• Take time to do the stretches correctly.
Here are exemplifications of a few complementing stretches for the rider:
Calf stretching feels great and is a great way to keep prevent tightness in the saddle.
In addition to stretching out calves, it's a great idea to drop into a deep lunge on each leg. This loosens the hips and hamstrings. Two other exercises for the lower body are demonstrated below.
In addition to stretching the gluteal muscles and hip, the above stretch is also good for the spine. Be sure to engage your core.
Core strength and suppleness is essential for the equestrian to promote balance. I encourage you to do several core and spine stretches to increase flexibility. The supine twist involves lying on your back and bending 90 degrees at the knees. Gently twist your lower body, allowing your hips and knees to fall to the floor on one side. Repeat on the other side. Another good one to check out is the camel-cat stretch.
This is called the abdominal stretch, more famously known by it's yoga term, "cobra". This relaxes the hip flexors and extends your secret six-pack.
To assist in bringing those shoulders back for a polished off seat, you'll need a doorway or a stall entrance.
Turning your head from side to side while practicing this shoulder stretch increases range of motion in your neck and cervical spine.
The list could go on forever. These are a few of my favorites that help me to feel great before hopping up into the saddle. Many horse owners stretch their horses because they understand how consistent practice improves their performance and well-being. All too often, we forget about the importance of our own stretching practice. Stretch time is relaxing, it establishes a great basis for bonding time, and it’s FREE! Treat yourself to a stretch date with your horse before each and every ride.
As one of the customer service representatives, I am happy to help get your horse into the right boots. I promote holistic methods of equine care and will assist you with finding the perfect fit for horse and rider.