Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Baby, it's COLD outside!" Part I: Warm Up Techniques for the Rider

Winter is officially upon us! The onset of colder temperatures means that the warm-up phase of each ride becomes ever more important for both horse and rider. A solid warm-up routine prepares the horse and rider for physical exertion and can help prevent soreness and muscle fatigue later on, especially in the colder months when joint lubrication and tight muscles can be a real issue.

If you're like me, your usual riding warm-up routine consists of giving your horse a good grooming, tacking up, and swinging into the saddle. While there's no doubt that a vigorous currying session with a mud-caked horse will get the blood flowing, grooming fails to address the major muscle groups that are essential to performance in the saddle. 

When I began putting together a real warm-up routine for myself, I found the "Equilates" videos by Jigsaw Equine to be very helpful. The Equilates program was designed to teach riders body awareness techniques to help riders realign their bodies and find a better seat, both on and off the horse. As part of that program, Olympic dressage rider and Equilates instructor Rachael Faulkner teaches riders the benefits of stretches in the stable.

I like to incorporate the Equilates stable stretches after I've warmed up a little by jogging in place or taking a brisk walk to catch my horse and giving him a good grooming so that my heart rate is already elevated and my muscles are already beginning to feel a little loose. That way, I am at a reduced risk of straining a muscle or otherwise tweaking something and causing more harm than good.

"Stretches in the Stable" Exercise 1: The Dumb Waiter

"Stretches in the Stable" Exercise 2: The Roll Down

"Stretches in the Stable" Exercise 3: The Corkscrew

"Stretches in the Stable" Exercise 4: The Hamstring Stretch

"Stretches in the Stable" Exercise 5: The Hip Flexor Stretch

"Stretches in the Stable" Exercise 6: The Spine Twist

I hope you find these videos useful and can incorporate at least some of them into your personal warm-up routine. If you already have a warm-up routine that works for you, feel free to share it in the comments below!

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