AUGUST 2020 THE RIDER /43 Rider Fitness:

Strong Thighs for Accurate Aids

By Dr. Heather Sansom This month we are progressing through the

key elements introduced at each new ‘week’ of my Killer Core Workout for Riders workout plan. While the workout can be quite intensive, it is short, and can also be adjusted for different ability levels, so don’t be intimidated by the title. By the end of the six ‘weeks’ or workouts, you can main- tain your new-found core strength with just a few exercises a week. This month, we focus on ‘Week Four’

which emphasizes strength and dexterity in your hips. The exercises are designed to increase thigh strength, but in ways that improve subtlety of movement and accuracy of aids. Riding is not, or should rarely ever be, about force or brute strength. However, without good fitness, it is difficult to get your body to execute movements accurately. In a recent edition of Practical Horseman,

leading dressage trainers were reminding partici- pants in a clinic to ride every part of their horse. You can only achieve that to the degree that you can accurately control your own body. Even in rid- ing tasks for which you want to ‘stay out of your horse’s way’ to allow his full freedom of move- ment, you still need to master your use of your own body.

In the case of your legs, leg aids start at the

top of your thighs where your hips and legs join because that is the point at which movement is ini- tiated. Even putting a heel on your horse’s side, is grounded in hip control because the end of your leg is anchored at your hips. Many riders are not subtle enough with leg aids, trying to compensate for muffled body language to the horse, with louder aids such as a stronger squeeze, kick, or ar- tificial aid. When you can be more precise with your leg and thigh, you make your signals to your horse clearer. Riding more successfully from the seat instead (quieter, more accurate), is actually riding from the top of your thigh as well. The two exercises featured this month are

two of my favourites for improving strength and control in the smaller muscles around your thigh that support both the placement of your leg, and the strength of your aid (or ability to remove pres- sure or maintain neutrality). The two exercises are: ball roll for adductors (inner thigh), and standing leg side push with tube for abductors (outer thigh). For best results, do these exercises daily for a sev- eral days until you can achieve 30 repetitions with- out a break for each. When you can do that, you are ready to drop the frequency to two to three times per week, and increase your number of sets to two or three (e.g. 2x 30 reps, 2x/week).

Standing Leg Side Push with Tube Stand in the ‘athletic ready’ position (knees

and hips slightly bent, feet shoulder width apart) with good alignment from hip to heel to shoulder. Loop an exercise tube or band under your

feet. The tubing will create a force inward. Lift your legs to the side (alternating), making sure that your toe points forward. Pointing your toe out will turn your thigh

and engage your hip flexor, whereas keeping your toe facing forward will make make you use the weaker thigh muscles that the exercise is targeting. Place the foot back down on the ground shoulder width or wider. Keeping your body up-

Craig Hunter and Family and Staff Standing Leg Side Push with Tube Ball Roll for Adductors Ball Roll for Adductors

the ball to about a foot off the ground. Slowly roll the ball without

deviating from it’s ‘spot’ in mid- air, until your feet are at ‘North and South Pole’. They should be directly above one another, with the ball under the heel of your top foot, and on top of the bottom foot. Roll the ball again until

your feet return to their East/West positions, and repeat in the other direction. Rest the ball on the ground

for a minute with knees bent, then repeat.

Safe and Happy Training!

© Heather R. Sansom, PhD.

Leading Equestrian Fitness since 2007. Fitness & Biomechanics Special- ist. Personal fitness. Riding instruc- tion. Clinics. Mindset coaching. Available online almost anywhere

Equifitt: it’s about balanced ap- proaches to better living and rid- ing. Be your best. Safe and Happy Training!

right will make you use your obliques and gluteus medius properly. Common errors include the pendulum effect

or leaning with your upper body, and allowing the tubing to gradually pull your feet back in close to- gether.

It can be helpful to do this exercise by

‘walking’ your way up and down a yoga mat length, using the mat to ensure that your feet stay wide on landing.

Ball Roll for Adductors Lying on your back, place the exercise ball

between your ankles as if your ankles were at per- fect East/West ‘poles’ of the ball. Your knees can be bent to start. Straighten your legs, engage your abdomi- nals to press your lower back into the floor, and lift

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