Here in Norfolk we have some great places If you are a horse rider, from Training Stables, Show jumping rings, Pony Trekking, we even have a Polo Club at Langley Abbey, we thank Sally Lloyd from the Norfolk Polo club, allowing us this photo, but to have a look at some other photo’s and find out more, please have a look at their website.
You will also know that people who do not ride think it looks easy and that the rider is just sitting on the horse’s back, letting the horse do all the work, while all the rider has to do is give instructions when needed like, whoa and turn, I can assure you it certainly is not the case. There is much more to riding than the casual observer may realise. There is no such thing as passive horse riding. Unlike any other sport you are in a position of joint dependence between you and another animal, more than just a team playing a sport together, you are in fact aiming to be at one with your movements and that of the horse becoming one fluid movement.
Be it at competition level or riding for fun, there is a unique correlation of the rider’s movement against the movement of the horse; this can prove to have extraordinary benefits for all elements of the human body. It is also vital if you aim to improve your level.
As we need to focus on the benefits and avoid any injury, yes we know these can happen so more reason to stay in shape , putting massage into a physical training regime is and should be considered a must and useful tool.
As much as we need to learn to ride and understand the horse, we also need to understand what our body is doing and the muscles it is using, we have to adapt to the horses muscles movements and use ours to the best of both our advantage, but how do you use your muscles, first of all you should realise that muscles do not control movement they only facilitate it.
Your Nervous system is the controller and throughout your body you have signalling stations, these are your Proprioceptors, they are at special points in the body, sending the information telling your body how and when it should move, without them we would become dysfunctional, we would not have coordination and would bump into things. Proprioceptors send back all the valuable feedback so the nervous system responds and recruits muscle appropriately, creating tension or force that will then pull on the fascia that will in turn result in coordinated movement. This is why it is so important to keep muscles flexible; they will then be able to allow the Proprioceptors to keep sending the right messages.
You do need however to keep on top of any injury, if an injury occurs , don’t ignore it deal with it. So that your body is not left to over compensate in other areas, putting your body out of synchronization and adopting “Pain Avoidance behaviour”, is not a good idea, after all you want to keep that fluid synergy between you and the horse
For different sports within riding you use your body differently, for instance if you were riding on a pony trek, or a afternoon leisurely exercise, this would still provide cardiovascular benefits, just an hour of horse riding can burn off more calories than jogging or riding a bike for 30 minutes, when you start to ride you will notice how your muscles will change and become in better condition.
There is a simple explanation for this, it is in the fact that as the rider you have to react to every movement of the horse by having to adapt to the correct position in the saddle, your muscles must contract and relax according to and in conjunction with the horse’s movement, in doing so, every single muscle of your body will naturally be toned and strengthened.
You will use your Transverse Abdominals muscles more, because of mounting and dismounting from the horse twisting and turning and bending and flexing, did you realise there are more than 29 muscles used in aiding core stability and you will use all of them, you will also use your Adductor’s when guiding the horse along with your TLF, ITB and your Glutes, that is a lot of muscle work on just what could be considered simple riding.
When you are doing Show jumping movements you will have to use more forward shoulder and neck movements, rise and fall movements using your Hamstrings down to your Soleus and Gastrocnemius, these are the muscles that can be very prone to tightness, regular Massage can help with keeping these muscles flexible.
As you grow in confidence with riding as you will, let’s face it, you will have to if you are going to be capable of having control of an animal that is bigger than yourself, the horse does need to feel your confidence for them to feel confident in you, remember it is a partnership.
You may want to get involved with some of the other sports on horseback such as Dressage or Show jumping, or you may like a faster pace and become part of in a team, you may take an interest in Polo.
This is a fast and invigorating sport, it is exhilarating and demands a lot of technique and flexibility, needing all your abilities, the muscles you will use a lot in Polo, will be your Core muscles.
There is no getting away from the fact that you have to work and keep all your muscles in shape, you will also find that you will build up your reaction times, you may not think it when you first start, but you will really become more mentally aware, of your surroundings, the game usually involves more manoeuvring and shorter plays, lower speeds and space limitations of an arena.
You will have to use your Deltoids and the upper body muscles when you have to pull a horse up short , this will happen in a Mêlée and as using your body to
pull a horse up quick takes a lot of effort, it will be worth developing these muscles , but do not try over developing, you want them to be flexible.
Fluidity in Motion when on Horseback, is the key
As we say it is all about fluidity, adapting and improving, go to a game, find out about training, judge for yourself, find out what is right for you, but the main thing is to keep yourself fit for purpose.