When you start a schooling session you always make sure to warm up your horse but do you warm up yourself? Riding is exercise therefore you should prepare your body accordingly.
Either before you get on or even once onboard do a series of stretches particularly focusing on your legs and arms.
If on the ground basic hamstring, calf and quad stretches in addition to shoulder and tricep stretches will be most beneficial.
The below video from ‘Athlete Rider‘ on youtube is fantastic to illustrate the ideal warm up. Although you may feel a bit silly you will be surprised at just how much of a difference it makes. Don’t believe us? Try schooling two days in a row, the first day get on as normal without stretches the second perform a decent warm up routine before you get on.
If on board some good exercises are as follows:
– Hold your legs away from the saddle so effectively sitting on your seat bones. This will be difficult and potentially rather painful at first but it helps develop a better seat, less grip in the thigh and a better leg position. The more you practice out riding the easier it gets, and you will be able to hold your leg further away from the saddle and for longer as your muscle develops. If you find it particularly hard you can stuff long socks with cotton wool & tie them with string so they will flop over the saddle, and then place them under your thigh when schooling to lift it away from the saddle, so it will do the same job and help correct your leg position.
– With your legs lifted slightly away from the saddle swing one slowly forward as the other swings back and repeat alternately at least 5 times. This will help free up your hips and pelvis and lower back meaning you will find sitting trot, canter and transitions easier as you will be softer through your back to ask for more accurate half halts, whilst also absorbing the movement of sitting trot without interrupting or unbalancing your horse.
– Bring one shoulder up to your ear hold and then roll it back, repeat with the other shoulder and then do the same both at the same time, repeating at least twice. This will loosen up your shoulders and help bring them naturally back. This is particularly helpful for those whose shoulders have a tendency to hunch forward.
There are many more stretches and exercises you can do which we will aim to cover in a future article but hopefully these will get you on the correct path.