So, it’s no secret that none of us are completely symmetrical and some of us are more asymmetrical than others due to injury and compensating for stiff and sore areas. 

Just being right or left handed makes us develop more muscle on one side and repetitive chores like mucking out where we often only twist one way can exaggerate our physical imbalance even more.

We spend a lot of time and money on training and bodywork to help promote straightness, suppleness and balance in our horses. We get saddle, bit and vet checks done to ensure our horses are comfortable and happy with their workload, but how many of us look at ourselves as the potential cause to our horse’s stiffness or lack of impulsion on a particular rein? 

Of course it’s really helpful to have a set of extra eyes from the ground to see if you are riding straight at all times, but often this isn’t possible and so can create a significant barrier to your schooling progression. So here's a few easy steps you can take to check your own balance and see what effect it may be having on your horse. 

Mirror Mirror on the Wall.

Firstly stand in front of a full length mirror in your underwear with your eyes shut and try to stand straight. Then open them and see if one shoulder is higher than the other. Next put a flat hand on the edge of each hip bone and see if one is higher than the other there too. Take a good hard look at any differences from one side of your body to the other.

Revelations of a Dirty Numnah 
Dirty Black equestrian numnah with marks showing pressure points on the left and extra movements on the right which indicate an unbalanced rider

Note the pressure points on left and extra movement on right. This is a rider I know sits heavily to the off-side!

Don’t underestimate the usefulness of a dirty numnah! As annoying as it is to untack, carry our saddle back to the tack room and get a forearm full of sticky scurf, this could be a great eye opener as to how your horse is building up his muscle. Unattach the numnah and lie it flat on the floor scurf up. Now look at the patches and ask yourself 'are they symmetrical?' Ideally you want to see complete scurf symmetry either side of the middle stitching that runs down the horses spine. If one side has significantly more scurf than the other, then you will find that this is the side you are bearing more weight through, riding stronger through and consequently have a horse which has a bad rein. 

Check out your Horse

Learn to assess your horse’s symmetry and let him be your mirror. Tie your horse up on an even surface, untacked and unrugged. Then having got him or her to stand as square as possible. If they find it hard to stand square then this is the first indicator that they are uncomfortably one-sided. Then stand directly behind your horse and look towards the wither (you may need to stand on a mounting block to get high enough). Now look down both sides of the wither, is the muscle symmetrical down both sides of the wither travelling down towards the shoulder. You will find if the horse is weaker on one side, the muscle will not be as pronounced and will not mirror the other side. Equally while we are in this position we can check the symmetry of the muscle build up of the hind quarter and by placing our hands on the hip bones, as we did with ourselves,we can see if they are the same height or if one is in advance of the other.

Now, relate this back to the assessment you made of yourself in the mirror.

Ditch the stirrups!
Firstly, actually remove your stirrups and leathers from the saddle and hold them up side by side to see if you have stretched one more than the other. This is a big tell of whether you are straight or not. 

Good old fashioned no-stirrup work is a great way to highlight your imbalance as you will find that you slip more so to one side than the other. Closing your eyes in walk and really concentrating on the tension you hold through your seat and other parts of your body is also worth doing while without stirrups. You should have relaxed buttocks on both sides and you should feel the same amount of contact with the saddle on the right and left seat bone. And like your horse, feel if one seat bone feels in advance of the other. If you feel confident to do so, bareback work is even greater for highlighting this. 

Of course horse and rider imbalance, can be a bit of a chicken and egg scenario and it can be hard to tell who is affecting who but like I said at the beginning, very few riders are truly symmetrical, so if you believe that you may be having an effect through the saddle, then a simple trip to a human bodyworker or physio will help straighten you out and give you some valuable exercises to do at home.

two female equestrians in leggings and vest tops doing yoga exercises at home in front of television

And, if you’re short on cash I really recommend some home yoga as well as lots of bareback or no stirrups riding as they will certainly aid your symmetrical strength and posture for future happy schooling. 

Please add comments below or post your findings on my Facebook group 'Poll Position Equestrian Coaching'

 
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The other day, driving to the yard, I passed a woman out jogging and couldn't help noticing how terrible her posture and movement was.  Firstly, I want to say, 'good for her', at least she's trying to get fit, but actually I couldn't help wondering whether she's actually doing more damage than good! It's the same with horses; if you lunge them or ride them incorrectly then they may get aerobically fit but we're also building up tension in their bodies that eventually leads to aches, pain, and worse lameness. Humans and horses, in that respect we're very similar and that's why it's so important that we teach ourselves about posture, balance and biomechanics if we want to live longer, healthier lives and for our horses to do so too!

Years ago I was lucky enough to attend a clinic with James Shaw. We spent the whole morning in an unmounted session learning about our own posture and balance and I have to say it was invaluable. So why don't more trainers do this? Maybe, when we go to a trainer for the first time, the first thing they should do is watch how we stand and walk and help make improvements if necessary. If you don't have the luxury of a trainer who is so enlightened then I really recommend going for a few sessions of the Alexander Technique

Once you've learned about correct posture, from someone who really knows their stuff, than be mindful of it all the time whether walking, sitting or driving, especially when you are stressed. You'll be amazed how often you catch yourself with stomach collapsed, shoulders hunched and chin jutting out! And how many times do you catch yourself looking down at the ground rather than ahead whilst out walking? I bet you look down when riding too? Bringing this constant awareness to your own body so you can re-train bad habits is one of the easiest ways that you can help balance and strengthen it which in turn can only improve your riding so that you can be more of an asset to your horse.

And if you're going through a period where, for whatever reason, you can't ride much, then you can really make positive use of this time by improving your own posture. This way you will still be taking big strides towards improving your riding as well as your health.
 
Published in Trot On Blogs
Tuesday, 25 April 2017 10:03

A Beginner's Guide To Horse Riding

One of the best hobbies or sports to enjoy (and that I am obviously a big fan of) is horse riding. Not only do you get to enjoy social time and bond with your horse, but you get to enjoy time outdoors and also get pretty strong and fit in the process. It can help to grow your confidence, as well as help you to develop new skills, self-discipline, and perhaps even carve out a career path for you. So if you think that horse riding might be for you, read on.

Why Get Into Horse Riding?

Some of the reasons why have been outlined above; it is fun, social, active, and gets you outdoors. Horse riding is a really unique activity. It can be a really beneficial sport both physically (mucking out horses is hard work, as well as riding them), and mentally. The bond you can have with a horse or pony is unlike any other. Getting out in nature can help with mindfulness, as well as relaxation. So can be good for anxiety sufferers and those with depression.

Who Is Horse Riding Aimed At?

The wonderful thing about horse riding is that it is suitable for a whole different variety of people. You can start as a young child, or take it up as an adult. You might be seeking to have a relaxing hobby, or prefer to have a hobby that taps into your adrenaline junkie nature. All of these things can be said of horse riding; how much you do will just depend on you.

Isn’t Horse Riding Expensive?

If you want to get serious with horse riding, then it can prove a little pricey if you are thinking of getting your own horse, or looking at steel building prices to house your horse or pony in your own stables. But there are many different options, depending on how involved you want to be. Group lessons at an equestrian centre are the most affordable option. Then if you become passionate about it, it does become a bit of a lifestyle change. So the cost doesn’t seem high as you are always at the stables or with the horses.

How Much of a Workout Do You Get?

If you’re looking at horse riding as a pretty relaxing way to get outdoors, then you do need to bear in mind that horse does not do all of the work! You do get a pretty good workout out horse riding. The main areas it works are your legs, thighs, abdominals and glutes. It does really get your heart racing, though. So if you think you need to lift weights to workout; you’d be wrong.

How Easy Is It To Go Pro?

There are a lot of competitions for all horse riders. So whatever level you are at, there will be competitions for you to enter. Then you can see how things go from there. If you take a real shine to it, then it would be fairly straightforward to become a professional (along with lots of hard work and determination, of course).

Re-published with kind permission from Dressage Hafl|Blog


 
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Wednesday, 01 February 2017 11:48

Yoga for horse riders | Equestrian Fitness

What is yoga?

Yoga is an ancient mind/body exercise that originated in India. Literally, it means ‘to unite’, regular practice unites the mind and body. When we are riding, we have to unite not only our own mind and body but the horse’s mind and body, and our own with theirs!! A rider who is in united in a strong, supple body and a calm, focused mind is in a very positive position to achieve harmony with their horse, before they even put their foot in the stirrup.

 

Yoga promotes strength, flexibility, mental focus and wellbeing. There are a variety of different types of yoga, to suit all levels and ambitions. However, the general aims of improving breathing, calming the mind whilst strengthening and aligning the body are present throughout the various different types. A strong, long, lean body with regular, considered breathing are all things I promote when I am coaching riders, which makes yoga fit so well.

Why is yoga good for riders?

Various forms of exercise are good for riders, including swimming, cycling, Pilates and yoga. Each have their own benefits and drawbacks from a horse rider’s perspective, but work best as part of a balanced exercise regime. Yoga specifically, may be useful for riders who sit for long periods at work or are tight in their hips. Tight hips cause riders to grip with their knees and make it difficult for the lower leg to hang long and around the horses’ side. At a more advanced level, hip opening exercises can really help to improve the sitting trot and prevent bouncing, and thus increase flow and harmony.

Riders often treat their horses – to regular training sessions, to physio, to the latest gear. We rarely, however, treat ourselves, often because of the cost. Yoga is a great and cheap way to treat a rider to a good workout, and a well-being session. Contrary to popular belief amongst the people I speak to, yoga is a great workout, and excellent to improve core stability. It is also fantastic for improving flexibility, especially in the hamstrings, shoulders and hips.

One of the key advantages to yoga and Pilates, is the focus on the breath. Focus on breathing is very important during riding because it helps to improve the mind/body connection, and reduce any mental chatter that may exist from a long and busy day. The best riders practice mental focus, thinking only about the horse, his way of going and their goals for the session.

Horses pick up on subtle changes in our mood and having a focused mind allows us to communicate more clearly with our horse and make our partnership more harmonious. As our body acts as a whole unit, our pelvis and diaphragm are linked; when the breathing is shallow the hips will be tight. The horse’s way of going will mimic the posture of the rider. If the rider is gripping and tense, the horse will not be ‘through’ and flowing, will tense its back and take short, choppy strides. This can have long term implications, not only on performance, but also for the soundness of the horse.

Basic yoga to try at home

The following stretches are yoga stretches that are really effective at increasing flexibility for riding. They are straight forward enough to try at home too! Make sure you are warm before attempting any of these stretches and have a comfortable mat or blanket to lie on. Complete them as often as you can for maximum benefit to your riding. Remember that these exercises should be completed as part of a balanced programme; stretching without strengthening can lead to excessively mobile joints that are prone to injury. Further advice on fitness for individuals can be gained by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Low lunge - What it does

This stretch really opens out your hips and stretches your groin, hip flexors and quadriceps. Flexibility in this area is essential to have an open and supple seat for dressage. Flexible quadriceps and hip flexors allow the leg to lengthen and your seat to become deeper. The low lunge in particular helps to counteract the effect that long periods of time sitting down has on shortening your hip flexors and quadriceps, for example in riders that work in an office...

How to do it

Start on your hands and knees. Extend your right leg out in front of you, resting your right foot on the floor so that your right knee is at 90 degrees to the floor and your weight is between your right foot and left knee. Make sure your knee is not over your toe, otherwise you can damage your knee.  Engage your core muscles and push your pelvis forward until you feel a good stretch along the front of your left leg (as in the picture), without the stretch being painful. Hold for at least 30 seconds, breathing deeply throughout. Change legs and do two sets each side.

To make it harder

Once you are accustomed to this stretch, you can try the more advanced version. Once in the low lunge position, Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale bring your arms into the air and behind your head. Open up your chest and feel a good stretch along your chest as well as in your hips. Continue to breathe whilst you enjoy the stretch that this position provides along your whole body.

Pigeon - What it does

The pigeon stretches out your gluteal muscles (your buttocks), which get tight from riding and can compromise your leg position and can cause lower back pain. It is also great for relieving tension in the hips, which can be caused by spending long periods of sitting, and also stress related tension is stored in the hips, so the pigeon pose enhances wellbeing.

How to do it

Start on all fours, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Bring your right knee forward until it touches your right wrist, then bring it across the midline of your body. Gently and slowly straighten your left leg out behind you, and lower your torso down so that your weight is over your bent right leg until you feel a stretch in your right buttock. Try and make sure your hips are pointing forward and you aren’t leaning over to the right. Hold for 30 seconds and change sides. Repeat until you have completed two sets on each side.

Cobra - What it does

The Cobra position helps to simultaneously strengthen and elongate your spine and stretches across your chest, to help improve your posture. Stretching your back and chest in this way is particularly beneficial if you spend long periods of time slouching, for example over a computer or mucking out.

How to do it

Start by lying on the floor, face down. Keep your feet together.  Bend your elbows, tucking them in by your sides, and rest your palms on the floor under your elbows. Contract your abdominals and your buttocks to protect your lower back, and exhale as you lift your torso up, so that your bodyweight is resting on your palms and pubic bone (as in the picture). Keep your head facing forward so that you don’t strain your neck. Take at least 5 deep breaths in this position and return to lying. Repeat twice.

If this stretch is too much for you, or you experience pain in your back, you can rest on your forearms, and only come up as far as you can whilst your bottom rib is in contact with the mat and floor. This is more suitable if you suffer with lower back pain, and is still a very beneficial stretch without risking damaging your back.

How do you find these exercises? Are you more flexible in some joints than others? Answer in the comments below!


Lucy Field-Richards : Lucy owns Ride Fit Equestrian, and is from Nottinghamshire.RFElogo
Qualifications : First class BSc (Hons) Equine Sports Science (Equestrian Psychology), BHSAI, Diploma in Equine Sports Massage Therapy
Lucy is a lecturer in Equine Science at Nottingham Trent University.
 
 

 


 

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Desperate to go skiing but struggling to justify such an expense so soon after Christmas? Here's several reasons skiing can help with your riding, and ensure a guilt free holiday!

Active Family Holiday

Many horse riders are accustomed to an ... READ MORE

 

 

Published in Front Page

Desperate to go skiing but struggling to justify such an expense so soon after Christmas? Here's several reasons skiing can help with your riding, and ensure a guilt free holiday!

Active Family Holiday

Many horse riders are accustomed to an active lifestyle and dislike sitting still (or sunbathing!) Skiing offers an active, exhilarating and sociable holiday. You can enjoy skiing guilt-free because you will be having a holiday, keeping fit and improving your riding simultaneously. Sounds too good to be true, but (apart from the price tag) it's not!

Core Strength

Skiing involves moving all 4 limbs separately, whilst keeping your torso strong and centred, exactly as riding does. Practising skiing helps you to develop an independent seat because you learn to separate the limb movements from each other and from your core.

Balance

To stay centred over your skis, you have to be in perfect balance. If you lean too far back you will go too fast on your skis; too far forward and you will fall on your face! When we ride, minute imbalances in the rider don’t always cause a significant or immediate change in the horse’s way of going (particularly on a less reactive horse), which makes it difficult for the rider to learn when they are in perfect balance and when they are not. In skiing, if you aren’t in perfect balance you will fall over, so you have no choice but to perfect your balance very quickly!

Co-ordination

Good skiers turn in an even rhythm, constantly shifting their weight from one leg to the other. This closely mimics riding lots of changes of rein, or doing lateral work on both reins. Riders that ride only one horse tend to find that they and their horses become accustomed to each other’s crookedness, and compensate for one another. With skiing, the live element of the horse is eliminated so if lateral imbalances exist you will fall over. Skiing forces you to learn new movement patterns that are equal on both sides.

Sports Psychology

If you haven’t skied before, it can be very daunting at first. Whilst you are finding it difficult to turn, keeping in rhythm and balance, experienced people are flying past you at speed, often far too close by! Sounds a bit like a showjumping warm up?! This forces you to keep focused on your own performance and to stay ‘in the zone’, otherwise you will fall over. So, skiing is great practice at keeping your cool in intimidating situations, which can only benefit your competitive riding.

Do you find that skiing helps your riding? Do you have other ways of keeping active on holiday?


Lucy Field-Richards : Lucy owns Ride Fit Equestrian, and is from Nottinghamshire.RFElogo

Qualifications : First class BSc (Hons) Equine Sports Science (Equestrian Psychology), BHSAI, Diploma in Equine Sports Massage Therapy

Lucy is a lecturer in Equine Science at Nottingham Trent University.

 

 More EQUESTRIAN FITNESS HERE

Published in Trot On Blogs

...but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself. Edmund Lee.

Two weeks ago, I probably made a  life changing decision. I forced myself to sign up for the gym. You are right, I also thought that hell would freeze or chocolate would be calorie neutral before that would ever ever happen. And still, I went there, told the guy that I actually do not want to be there but that I have to. And so it started. Since then, I kept a real positive attitude towards going to the gym. As I am working towards fourth level, I feel the urge to do more, to support Hafl in whatever movement. I need to lose weight, I need to grow stronger. My core needs to be stronger to keep my hands softer, the excess pounds need to go.

I could run, I could ride my bike. Honestly, I only ride my bike when I do some breakfast grocery shopping on Sundays. And it is not too late. Or too early. And it is not too hot, but also not too cold. And I need to feel like going. Actually, it happened only THREE times this year so far. Nothing solid to build my fitness on I guess.

I tried running. Once. Ok, twice in the last two years. Last year, with barn mates. Once. And this year, alone. I saw people looking at me and I felt that they felt sorry. Actually, I did not only run, I walked and run. I walked more than I run.

So what to do? Doing more yoga and stretching at home did work to a certain extent. But then I felt alone in my struggle to increase fitness, lose weight and become a better rider. The only choice and thing left was the gym. Actually, I probably would have kept emphasizing that I needed to do more without doing anything then.

One day a fortnight ago, my trainer said that she went to the osteopath and she told her to go back to yoga. And that is why she signed up for the gym. At this specific one, which is actually in the same village as our barn, you can do also courses like pilates and yoga. What's more, there are always trainers around that (if you want to or if they feel that you would a) simply kill yourself or b) never come back) help you. The good thing is, that there is a certain circle training which consists of strength and cardio training. All the weights and resistances are stored on a little personal chip card meaning you do not have to adjust anything just put in the card and go. And the trainers set up your training plan. I guess that helped me to get things started. This week, we will start split training where I will, in addition to the circle training, start with specific core training. My trainer obviously believes in me.

Last year, when I decided to move Hafl to my trainer's barn, was one of those crucial decisions that would change our future forever. While I was more or less at second level (sometimes more less than more more), we are now on a good way to a proper third and one day, fourth level.

Sure, the chip card at the gym and the good hay at the barn help a lot. But what is way more important is that I started to surround myself with the right people. People I can learn from, people who have goals, who are motivated, people who do. Of course, I was boarding at a barn where there were riders who showed before as well but most of them were eventers. Some of them were serious about riding, some were less serious. Some were happy with the level they were at, some strived for the next levels.

Today, I have aspiring Grand Prix riders around me, people who show regularly, people who win, who work hard in their daily business to afford this expensive hobby. They do whatever it takes to keep their horses healthy, they work together with vets, farriers, therapists to have happy athletes being able to perform at their best. They changed how I work with Hafl, even Hafl changed. He became much more self-confident, he is building up muscles and strengths better than ever before. He improves and so do I. My trainer constantly keeps an eye on us, the regular training pays off. I have learned so much in the last months and I keep on learning as there is always somebody around who is at least a level better than me. They inspire me, they lift me up, they support me. And they believe in me and share my dream of becoming a real dressage rider with me.

Dressage Hafl

Re-published with kind permission from Dressage Hafl|Blog


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Published in Trot On Blogs
Thursday, 04 August 2016 09:44

Life Lessons Learned from Injury

I laid on the gallop track in the sand with my foot on backwards for 45 minutes waiting for an ambulance. The pain was unbearable. I knew the break was bad because the vet who was vetting the horse I was planning to buy (the same one that decked me!) couldn't stomach it and had to leave! All I could think of is that if I have damaged the joint badly, my riding days are over.

The surgeon told me that, following the shattering and dislocation of my ankle and subsequent reconstruction, it would never fully recover and I would have arthritis, never run again and 'might' be able to ride. It would take 2 years to recover as well as it is going to, and in this time I would learn how much function I will get back into my right leg and foot.  As the second anniversary of the injury approaches, it seems appropriate to reflect upon the life lessons I learned and how the injury has shaped me as a person. Hopefully some of these thoughts may resonate with some of you, and give anybody who is going through a similar situation some hope and comfort.

Six of the many lessons learned as a result of my injury

1. Don't trust anyone, you can never be too careful - I injured myself riding a horse that was being vetted for me to buy. I had previously ridden it (after the yard staff had ridden it), but at the vetting, I got straight on because I assumed that the horse had been in normal work since i last saw it, given the horse was for sale and it would surely be in optimum condition and prepared for sale? Once on board, I lasted about 30 seconds before it napped and decked me, leaving me with my right foot hanging on backwards. The damage caused to my foot (and the secondary problems further up in my body), in those two seconds whilst I was hurtled into the air will be with me for the rest of my life.

8 day stay in hospital                                                                                      2 weeks after my operation I had the stitches out

As I was waiting for an ambulance, I heard the owner state his disappointment at losing the sale of the horse. He had kept the horse in a stable for 4 days so that it would pass the vetting, and was now gutted because this had happened. He was seemingly surprised to have to call an ambulance to scrape an unsuspecting, trusting and naive client off the floor. It has taken me 27 years to appreciate this, and I learned that day that not everybody treats other people in the way that they would like to be treated and that the only person that really cares about you is YOU. Looking after number one is essential, because you are the only person that has to live with the consequences, even if it is as a result of somebody else's negligence.

Some of my dear friends who kept me smiling         Fun times with glitter and a plaster cast and the lady who lights up my life

2. Never underestimate the value of friendships - during my recovery I learnt a lot about myself and my friends. There were some people I barely knew who bent over backwards to help me during my recovery, and others that I thought I was close to, who dropped me like a stone when I was no longer mobile. My true friends got me through some tough times, not just during my first round of surgery but then the next round too a year later. I rekindled a relationship with my oldest friend that I had lost touch with, when she brought me round a lemon drizzle cake and from that moment forward we were inseparable again, and I was lucky enough to be her bridesmaid when she married this year.

3. Life is short and you never know what's round the corner -  accidents happen when we least expect them, and the way they happen often seems so futile! I remember wondering why I couldn't have done it out eventing, because at least it would have been worthwhile and made me less angry at the owner of the horse.

As a direct result of what happened, I take the view that if I want to do something with my horse, I seize the moment and go for it. I worry less about nerves and what other people think (having historically been a nervous wreck competing), and just feel truly lucky to be fit and well enough to be out there.

4. Horses are the best healers and dressage isn't so bad - When I used to event, the dressage was very much something to get out of the way before the fun stuff started. However, when I was first coming back to riding post-injury, I was lucky enough to be offered two beautiful dressage horses to ride, who 'brought me back into work' and made life enjoyable again. One of these horses I have been lucky enough to buy. He is my absolute pride and joy, and now I would probably choose dressage over jumping, which I never thought would happen! These two horses got me through a very tough time and I will forever be indebted to them.

5. Good comes out of difficult times - I was unhappy at work at the time of my injury. Having completed an equine degree, I decided to get a 'proper job' at one of the Big 4 accountancy firms and qualified as a Chartered Accountant, in order to pay to keep horses. I was desperately unhappy and struggled to sit still for hours on end. I would get home in the evening and have to go for a run just to get into the frame of mind where I could even speak to my family because I was so stressed and had so much pent up energy. My riding was never a relaxing experience either because I was always in a bad mood. Inevitably the horse will have sensed this, and probably not had the most fun either.

I had always taught riding and was an equine sports massage therapist at weekends, but as soon as I was off crutches, I decided to take the plunge and work with horses full time. Despite being less mobile and in pain, I realised that it was now or never. I did a lot of Pilates and strength work as part of my recovery, which really helped improve my balance and got me back riding as well (if not better) than before. I retrained to be an equipilates™ teacher, set up my own business, Ride Fit Equestrian, and have never looked back!

6. There is always somebody worse off than you - The first few months post accident, I became quite depressed. I lost a lot of friends, which devastated me, and the prognosis for my ankle was poor. It was unlikely I could ride properly again, walk long distances or run. Two years on, an MRI scan confirmed that I have an arthritic ankle, with ruptured ligaments and my right is leg shorter than my left (due to bone loss), which causes knee and back pain. Despite this, I am able to ride well on the flat, walk short distances pain-free, swim and cycle. I even managed to climb Kinder Scout! It was very painful, but I managed it and still thoroughly enjoyed the day out with friends. The simple difference now is that my perspective has changed completely, and my focus is on what I CAN DO, rather than what I CAN'T DO (ride X-C, run, walk long distances).

A few months after my injury, I read Claire Lomas' book 'Finding my Feet', which was a real turning point. Discovering the struggles she faced when she became paralysed, I was deeply ashamed of my own feelings over a mere ankle injury.  It would be so incredibly insulting to anybody who is permanently disabled for me to be depressed over my ankle injury, when compared to the problems some people face on a daily basis, and what they can achieve. As a direct result of reading this book, I can honestly say I am a happier person now than I was before the injury. It is said that happiness is only 10% situational, and 90% based on a person's outlook. My ankle functions 90% less well than it did before, but my outlook and attitude to life is probably 90% better.

There are many things I can't do now that I used to do enjoy before, but every time I get on a horse I am grateful for the opportunity. I don't worry about what other people think and whether to go to a competition because I am not 110% ready. I just go, and enjoy every second, thanking God I have recovered as well as I have.

I hope that these ramblings may help anybody else who is injured and having a difficult time. Perhaps it may give you comfort that things always do come right in the end, even if plan A, B and C don't work. Keep trying and never give up hope.

Thanks for reading. If you are going through a difficult time and would like some support, feel free to comment below. There will be lots of people in the same boat.

Lucy xx

Lucy Field-Richards


 

Lucy Field-Richards : Lucy owns Ride Fit Equestrian, and is from Nottinghamshire.

Qualifications : First class BSc (Hons) Equine Sports Science (Equestrian Psychology), BHSAI, Diploma in Equine Sports Massage Therapy

Lucy is a lecturer in Equine Science at Nottingham Trent University.

 


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Published in Trot On Blogs

Do you muck out regularly and therefore spend extended periods bent forward? Alternatively, do you work in an office and find yourself leaning over your screen to concentrate and read the computer screen?

Do you find that by the end of a long, stressful working day your shoulders clunky and feel like they are held up around your ears somewhere?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it will inevitably negatively impact upon your riding. However, don’t despair, because these simple, yet hugely effective exercises can be performed anytime, anywhere and will help counteract the impact of repetitive tasks at work.

Arm glide

Stand with your back and legs flat against a wall. Stretch your arms out to shoulder height and bend your elbows bent against the wall, so that your hands are at the same height as your head, and slowly straighten the arms away from your body, until they are totally straight. Bend your elbows, bringing your hands back to the start. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions with a 60 second rest in between...

You should feel a nice stretch along your chest muscles (pectorals), and hopefully will be working the muscles that support your shoulder blades, to help keep your shoulders back. The result will be a more elegant and effective riding position.

Chest stretch

Stand tall, with your core muscles engaged to protect your lower back. Take your arms behind you as far back as they will go and clasp your hands together. Hold for 15 seconds, repeat three times. You should feel a nice stretch along your chest, which helps counteract the postural impact of slumping over a computer or mucking out.

Slow shoulder roll

Sit or stand and take a few deep breaths. Lift your shoulders as high as you can to your ears for a few seconds. Then, take them back as far as you can for a few seconds before you drop and relax them. Your shoulders should have visibly moved back an inch or two. Repeat three times, and try and keep this new enhanced posture when you are back at your desk.

We hope you find these exercises useful, and ride with a taller, proud posture as a result! Are there any others you know of that can help improve riders? Please share in the comments below!

Lucy Field-Richards

 


Lucy Field-Richards : Lucy owns Ride Fit Equestrian, and is from Nottinghamshire.

Qualifications : First class BSc (Hons) Equine Sports Science (Equestrian Psychology), BHSAI, Diploma in Equine Sports Massage Therapy

Lucy is a lecturer in Equine Science at Nottingham Trent University.

 


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The health benefits of walking are well documented, and in my previous office-based career I used to look forward to a walk at lunchtime. It was a great opportunity to alleviate the stresses of the corporate world and develop great relationships with colleagues. Some of my most effective meetings were held on the move, outside of the formal office environment! Recently I considered walking in the context of horse riders who have sedentary jobs and how fantastic a daily walk can be, for not only our wellbeing, but also for our equestrian performance.

What’s the hype?

• Minimal hassle - Walking is a great way to pass your lunch hour, because (debilitating injury aside) it is accessible to everybody, you will not require any equipment and, unlike jogging in a lunchbreak, you will not get sweaty and need a shower before heading back to the office!

• Weight control – Gentle aerobic exercise such as walking is great for fat burning. A 30 minute walk will burn around 150 calories (approximate – actuals depend upon age, gender, weight etc), which over a month is equivalent to a pound of weight loss. Rider weight is a very contentious issue in terms of the maximum percentage of bodyweight a rider should be. More recent thinking suggests rider weight should be a maximum of 10% of our horse’s bodyweight, though some consider the closer to 5% the better, and others suggest up to 15% does not cause the horse any harm. Whatever your opinion on the exact percentage, anybody who has ever worn a heavy rucksack can appreciate that the lighter we are, the easier it is for our horses to carry us effectively and perform at their best.

• Reduction in stress – High pressure occupations cause stress, which is harmful to our health over the long term, if not managed correctly. Simply going for a stroll at lunchtime can help you appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors, get the world back into perspective and alleviate stress. If you are in a positive frame of mind at work, you are more likely to enjoy riding your horse in the evening, and reduce the risk of taking your frustrations out on your noble steed. From a personal perspective, in my past career, I did not realise how effective taking a lunchtime walk was for relaxation, until the day when I was too busy to get out the office, and I felt like a caged animal all afternoon. This inevitably impacted upon my riding performance in the evening. No horse wants a stressed and irate owner turning up to ride at 7pm!

• Postural Improvement – Occupations that involve spending prolonged periods at a desk can lead to poor posture from slouching over a screen, particularly if combined with stress-related hunched shoulders. Extended periods of sitting down, tightens the hip flexors which makes it very difficult to achieve a correct posture on a horse. Walking at lunchtime can help alleviate these problems by stretching and improving circulation, ensuring you return to your desk feeling tall and free in your movement, which your horse will definitely appreciate! Postural improvements will also alleviate aches and pains associated with sub-optimal movement because it will reduce the strain on your back.

• Vitamin D – Vitamin D is important for keeping bones and teeth healthy, and supports good mental health.  The majority of people in the UK do not get enough Vitamin D during the winter months, as it is sourced from sunlight and many occupations involve leaving the house when it is dark to sit indoors all day, and returning when it is dark. No amount of mucking out or riding in the dark will be able to help you! A 30 minute walk during the day will expose your skin to the sunlight and help you to absorb as much Vitamin D as possible during the long winter months.

Maximise the benefit

There are two key ways to maximise the benefits of walking. Research has shown that people who wear a pedometer are more aware of their movement and walk more as a result, than if they are not wearing a pedometer. From a weight control perspective, this is fantastic news and something that is easy to achieve. In addition, wearing weights round your ankles will increase the work your body has to do, and therefore burn more calories and can help with toning.

Still reading? What are you waiting for? Grab your trainers – happy walking!

What form of non-riding exercise do you prefer? Post in the comments below!

Lucy Field-Richards

 


 

Lucy Field-Richards : Lucy owns Ride Fit Equestrian, and is from Nottinghamshire.

Qualifications : First class BSc (Hons) Equine Sports Science (Equestrian Psychology), BHSAI, Diploma in Equine Sports Massage Therapy

Lucy is a lecturer in Equine Science at Nottingham Trent University.

 

 

 


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