28/ JUNE 2019 THE RIDER This exercise increases

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Readying The Rider This is a continuation

of our series on “training outside the box.” We have reviewed important steps to prepare for training on the trail. In the last article you learned to recognize if a horse has inner energy and playfulness and how to re- lease it through forced exer- cise like longeing. Now that the horse is

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ready, before going out on the trail there is one more important step. It is getting you, the rider, ready for rid- ing. Like any physical ac- tivity, it is important that the rider prepares his or her body by stretching and loos- ening up the muscles and joints to be used. I am going to give you

stretches for the upper and lower body. These head-to- toe exercises are easy and fun to do. Make it a habit to do them before each ride. Stretching should start

with the rider standing on the ground next to the horse that is tacked up and ready to ride. Not only will these stretches help the rider lim- ber up, they have the added benefit of teaching the horse to patiently stand still while the rider is doing them. Standing and waiting for the rider to complete the exer- cises keeps the horse think- ing “slow.” When these stretches are completed, the rider can mount and con- tinue with under saddle stretches. As with all physical ac-

tivities, if you experience any pain or have medical conditions that could be complicated by doing any of these exercises, STOP! Seek advice from a health care professional before continu- ing.

All of these stretching

exercises should be done very slowly. Do several rep- etitions before moving on to the next exercise. Be sure to breathe when doing them. This is important because it encourages relaxation.


you find yourself holding your breath, try talking or singing to encourage regular breathing.

Head-to-Toe Ground Exercises

#1 Head and Neck Stretch: The purpose of this ex-

ercise is to stretch neck and shoulder muscles. Stand evenly on both feet with arms straight down at your sides. Looking straight ahead,

inhale and very slowly lift your chin up as On-the-

far as possible. Hold this position for a few seconds, exhale, and very slowly lower your chin to the chest. Hold for a few seconds and return to straight ahead po- sition. Keep the shoulders down and relaxed. Continue these stretches until your neck and shoulders feel re- laxed.

#2 Head Rotations: Like the first stretch,

this exercise helps relax the shoulder and neck muscles. The key to making this ex- ercise effective is to only move the head. Lower the chin to the chest, then slowly rotate the head with chin down toward the left shoulder, then the right. I like to close my eyes when doing this exercise because it helps me relax and move slowly.

#3 Shoulder Shrugs: With the reins in either

or both hands, inhale and bring both shoulders straight up as if trying to touch the earlobes. Hold for a few seconds, then exhale and relax the shoulders down. Do several repetitions.

#4 Arm Rotations or “One Arm Backstrokes”: This exercise is good

for loosening up the shoul- der and upper back muscles. Extend the right arm in front of you with palm down and fingers pointed. Keeping your eyes on the hand, ro- tate the arm in a full 360-de- gree arc: up overhead, behind you, down alongside your leg, then back to the starting position. Always keep the palm facing to- wards the ground. The chal- lenge with this exercise is to maintain proper lower body position and not twist your body as the arm is rotated. Do several repetitions, then repeat with the left arm.

#5 Back Stretches: Extend both arms in

front of you and parallel to the ground. Keep your chin level throughout the exer- cise. Breathe in as you bring both arms up slowly. Lift the arms until they are next to your ears and fully extended upward. Hold this stretch. Bring the arms down slowly as you exhale slowly. After the arms are down, end with pushing the shoulders down.

#6 Slow Leg Swings The exercise works the

pelvic area and the muscles in front of the thigh called

the quadriceps. Stand on the horse’s left side and with the right hand holding on to the side of the saddle to keep your body centered during this exercise. Work- ing one leg at a time, slowly swing the entire leg forward as far as possible, then ex- tend it backward. Keep the knee slightly bent. To be ef- fective, the movement must come from the hip joint, not from swinging the lower leg from the knee. Keep the upper body as centered and still as possible. Do several swings with one leg. Turn so you are facing to the rear and hold the saddle with the left hand. Repeat the exer- cise, slowly swinging the opposite leg. The horse should stand

still for this exercise. If he does not, position him with a stationary object like a fence or a trailer on one side. This will help him stay straighter and stand still. If he does not, he may be telling you that he has inner energy to release through forced exercise like longe- ing.

#7 Side Leg Lifts: This exercise limbers

up the inner thigh muscles and flexes the hip. Standing on the horse’s left side while holding on to the saddle with the right hand for sta- bility. Stand on the right leg and slowly lift the left leg out to the side. Keep the knee straight. Slowly lower the leg. Maintain a straight posture and avoid leaning while lifting the leg. Do several repetitions. Turn and repeat on the opposite leg.

#8 Runner’s Stretch: Here’s the equestrian

version of a classic stretch that limbers the calf mus- cles. Stand facing the horse’s left side with both feet together. Put both hands on the saddle or the withers for support. Step back with the right leg and extend it behind you. Keep the right knee very slightly bent and the right foot flat on the ground. Bend the left knee and lean forward slightly. You should feel a nice stretch in the back of the calf. For more stretch, bring the hips forward. Hold this stretch, but do not bounce or force it! If the horse moves away from you, you are pushing on the saddle too much and not stretching enough.

#9 Ankle Rotations:

ankle flexibility while im- proving balance. Stand on the horse’s left side facing forward. With knee bent, bring the left leg up and hold it with the left hand be- neath the knee. Rotate the left ankle in a circular mo- tion inward toward the horse. Repeat, rotating out- wards. Do several sets of rotations. Turn and repeat with the opposite ankle. As you are doing these

exercises and preparing yourself to be a good rider for your horse, you have a great opportunity to train your horse to be patient, mannered, and obedient. He will learn that he goes on your command and not the other way around! This is an important lesson. It is the next step in teaching him to stand still while mounting. Let’s mount up and do

some stretching and flexibil- ity exercises under saddle!

Your Next Step… The next set of exer-

cises is an extension of those done on the ground. Mount your horse and ask him to stand still. Practice these head to toe stretching and flexibility exercises under saddle, before each ride.

Head-to-Toe Under Saddle Exercises

#1 Chin up and down: Perform this stretch the

same was as it was done on the ground. Stay centered in the saddle, sitting square, and evenly balanced.

#2 Shoulder Rotations This exercise improves

the flexibility of the shoul- der joint. With the reins in your left hand, place the fin- gertips of your right hand on top of your right shoulder keeping your elbow at shoulder height. Slowly ro- tate your shoulder in a 360- degree arc from front to back and vice versa. Imag- ing drawing a circle (in the air) with your elbow! Do several slow circles. Repeat with the other arm.

#3 Punches This exercise stretches

the hands, joints of elbows, and shoulder. Make a fist with one hand. Punch the hand slowly out in front of you. As you fully extend your arm, open the fingers and stretch out the hand. Repeat punches forward, up overhead, to the side, and down at your side.

#4 Ear Touches This exercise helps

stretch the rider’s back. Keeping the legs in proper position, stretch forward from the hips and touch the horse’s ears. If you cannot stretch this far, reach as far forward as possible toward his ears. If riding in a West- ern saddle, stretch forward with one arm at a time, put- ting the other hand on the horn. If riding in an English saddle, stretch both arms forward. Be careful that your legs do not swing back when stretching forward. Doing this puts you out of proper position and will not

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