Fitness For Riders: Easy Hacks to Spring Back to Better Riding

It’s the one that will usher in change.

Change doesn’t have to be

By Heather Sansom. This month is about easy

lifestyle hacks you can start right now to improve your rid- ing- and life. It’s that time of year again:

you are beginning to envision the upcoming seasons, you’ve moved through the winter holi- days, perhaps with a bit too much food and not enough sleep lately. Days are lengthen- ing. The biggest theme I hear lately is: I know I need to get in gear. The next comment is usu- ally either that there is just too much (to do), or ‘I don’t know where to start’. No matter what your age,

a spring re-boot is an awesome idea for a rider. This month’s tip is designed to help you get a concrete plan for dusting out the physical and mental cob- webs so you can bring your best self to your ride. Don’t worry, it’s not a massive work- out.

Everyone has an area of

wellbeing that is slacking a bit, and one that you’re doing better with. This month, I wanted to share a checklist with you to help you do a holistic re-set of your mental and physical fit- ness so that you are primed and ready to take on your next big riding goal. Start with the point that jumps out at you. You know, the one you know you’re not doing. In business analysis, that’s your gap, your low-hang- ing fruit, your leverage point.

drastic. If an airplane changes course by one degree and keeps on going, it ends up in another country or continent. So, we’re talking about completely do- able, no excuse steps. Each of these points could be a whole article- heck, a whole book and three months of concentrated effort. Don’t go that big. Just make one adjustment you can realistically do, this week. Think of these as lifestyle hacks that will help you with every- thing you do, not just your rid- ing.

1. How’s your sleep? You know that getting bet-

ter quality, consistent sleep re- duces stress. It helps your brain process, so you’re more cre- ative and productive. It also lowers cortisol in your body, which you need to do if you want to reduce fat, or have a more even keeled mood around your horses (and your people!). Make one adjustment, starting tonight, that ensures you get a full night’s sleep. Commit to going to bed earlier, or turning off screens earlier, or getting a family member to take on a morning chore so you can get 15-30 minutes more sleep. Trust me. Your family likes happy you.

2. How are you fuelling your- self?

Yeah, you know that thing

you do that you shouldn’t. Make sure you are controlling it and not the other way around. Or maybe it’s the think you CAN do but aren’t. Like swap- ping out your carbs at one meal for more broccoli. Some of my clients have

longed to ditch the stash of sweets at the office. Two did. They dumped them in the garbage and put healthier op- tions within reach. Those clients have steadily lost weight over the past 6 months, without being hungry. Another one wasn’t ready

for that yet. So we’re imple- menting a realistic strategy: she portion controls by deciding in the morning what a reasonable snack is, putting it in a baggie and taking it to work. So she has a snack to look forward to, but she can’t munch uncontrol- lably through the day. When it’s done, it’s done. And, she knows what her triggers are. She munches when she’s bored, or has just finished a project and is psyching herself up for the next one. So she has a backup plan: she’s going to im- plement more bio breaks (get- ting up, walking around, stretch, go outside). There’s a bonus here, because bio breaks will move her body more.

3. What about physical activ- ity?

Did you know that the

wellness guidelines for adults include at least an hour of movement a day, or half an hour of vigorous activity? You can do some ‘banking’ on days you have more time, as long as you still distribute your efforts through the week. For exam- ple, a great hike outside on the weekend can bank you up some of the rigorous time, if the best you can do during the week is whatever you can fit into your lunch break.

Ratcheting up the amount

of movement you do in a week will make a cumulative differ- ence on your joint mobility, muscle tone, endurance and

general body awareness. Five to ten minutes here and there, a couple of times a week, adds up. I’m not asking you to schedule five 30-60 minute new workouts right now. I’m just saying: figure out how you can get 15 more minutes per day of movement, on top of what you already do. Stretching and yoga count. Whatever works for you. Grab it in three minute bits if you need to. If you’ll keep this up,

you’ll transform your general daily rhythm into the rhythm of an active person, instead of the rhythm of a sedentary person. Do know that in research I’ve done and research I’ve read re- lated to sedentariness vs. phys- ical activity levels, the active, fitter, happier people still had massive amounts of sedentary time (school, work, driving)? The difference is they ALSO had habits of squeezing in movement where they could. You know what I mean. Walk further from your car to the gro- cery store door. Go up/down stairs/into another end of your office to talk to someone in- stead of texting. The tweak will improve your posture, and rev your metabolism as well. Think of it as a lifestyle hack.

4. What about my RIDING? Ok, we’re getting to that.

That thing your trainer or your horse keeps letting you know isn’t working? Don’t be intense about it. Be intentional. There’s a big difference. Fig- ure out what’s happening. Are you tensing a muscle area, or totally forgetting to engage it? Do you have a movement pat- tern that seems funny or asym- metrical? Do you just need more endurance? Pick one thing, and one thing only, and

commit to one thing you will do about it. By one thing, I don’t mean

ride around drilling your horse. Until you fix what you are doing, you’re just leading him into whatever he’s doing as a result. Lead him better by hit- ting the pause button. That means, don’t put him in a posi- tion where you’re making him repeat something that you keep throwing him off on. Give him a break while you work on yourself. You can do mounted or

unmounted exercises to help you retrain or gain the control that you need in the area that’s getting away on you. Mounted exercises mean switching your thinking for 5-10 minutes of your ride, and make it about drilling YOU, not your horse. That could be riding through a movement while you change a movement pattern, or riding on a long rein (or having someone lead you) while you adjust your body and practice isolated con- trol.

If you’re going to do a

movement, generally it’s better if you can try it at the walk be- cause that gives your brain time to learn a new pattern. When things are going too fast, your brain can’t make new connec- tions and it reverts back to your old habit. If the exercise in question can’t be done at the walk (say, flying changes), then get off the horse and do your best mimickry of it on the ground while staying focused on the area you’re working on. For example, you could canter around and do a ‘flying change’ paying attention to your timing and weight distribution. Is there something you notice about whether your feet are late or you go off balance? Do you get tense? If you think you look

ridiculous, this is your moment: 30, 40, 50, 60-something is the new youth! (If you’re older than that, hey, you earned the right to do what you want.) Have fun with it. Fun relaxes

you. That’s why you hang out in a barn. To find your zen, your happy place. Ever seen some things people do in a gym or fitness class in full public view? There’s no shame in tak- ing yourself seriously enough to do what you need to do to get the results you’re after. Another example could be

something you do with an arm or hand. Many riders have a tendency to let an arm go rigid, or loose, or to grip or forget a particular hand. You can do all kinds of awareness exercises standing on the ground with reins or exercise bands tied to a wall. Find a cue-word that helps you make the correction you need, so you can use the cue-word while you’re riding. Repeat the correction many times so that all the micro- movements and muscle en- gagements that need to happen to make the correction when you cue yourself to do so, hap- pen automatically without en- gaging any other parts. Would you like more sup-

port for springing back this year? You can sign up for per- sonalized coaching, and even riding lessons by Skype. You just need an internet connection in the space where you want to meet and work. For more in- formation, . Or, buy my comprehen-

go to

sive rider fitness book Fit to Ride in Nine Weeks. It’s at Chapters, on Amazon, and there is more info here: . You have more potential

than you realise. Happy riding and training!

© Heather R. Sansom Equifitt offers coaching for rid- ers that helps with fitness, pos- ture and biomechanics to help you ride better. Most services including riding instruction are available by Skype.


‘Captain Canada’ Ian Millar Earns High Performance Coach Certification

Equestrian Canada (EC)

is proud to welcome ‘Captain Canada’ Ian Millar to the ranks of Canada’s High Per- formance 1 Certified coaches. Ian successfully com-

pleted all of the National Coaching Certification Pro- gram (NCCP) High Perform- ance

1 evaluation

requirements in late 2016, put- ting him at a national level of certification shared with some of the greatest coaches in Canada and the world. “I have always been pas-

sionate about teaching riders who are motivated to improve their skills,” said Ian, a 10- time Olympian who is one of the most decorated and cele- brated equestrian athletes in Canada. “The High Perform- ance Certification program provides a systematic ap- proach to coaching, which complemented my knowledge acquired from years of coach- ing in the field. The program

provides a solid foundation of coaching principles that is essential when training high performance athletes.” In addition to working from his full-time

office: the saddle of one of Canada’s up- and-coming equine athletes, Ian is a highly sought-after coach. He owns and operates Millar Brooke Farm in Perth, ON with his children and fellow elite athletes, Amy and Jonathon. In addition to the vast experience and in-

sight of the Millar family, students of Millar Brooke Farm enjoy state-of-the-art ameni- ties, including three barns – each outfitted with oversized stalls, individual wash and grooming stalls – as well as a covered six- horse walker and treadmill, sand and grass riding rings, and several kilometres of man- icured trails. EC welcomes Ian to the High Perform-

ance 1 certification program and wishes him and his riders all the best in their drive for excellence. If you want to join Ian as an NCCP cer-

Aptly dubbed ‘Captain Canada’ by his fans, Ian Millar set a world record at the London 2012 Olympic Games by becoming the first athlete in any sport, from any na- tion, to compete in 10 Olympic Games. Photo Credit – Cealy Tetley

tified coach or instructor - we welcome you too! To learn more about the EC Coaching

Program and the various certifications avail- able through the NCCP, check out www. e q u e s t r i a n . c a / p r o g r ams -

Renowned Canadian Olympian, Ian Millar is a member of the Order of Canada, the Cana- dian Sports Hall of Fame, the Ontario Sports hall of Fame, and holds an honourary doctor- ate from the University of Guelph. Photo Credit – Cealy Tetley

services/coaches or inquire with your Provincial or Territorial Sport Organiza- tion.

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