In an effort to be the best rider I can be for myself and my horse this year, I have started working out in the gym each week. I have truly loved this process and have honestly felt an improvement in my strength and conditioning. When I started this process, I imagined that I would be running a lot and lifting weights (which I am), but I am also doing a lot of stretching.
I feel like stretching is an underutilized tool in an equestrian’s toolbox. We typically start and end each workout with quite a bit of stretching to optimize performance and prevent injury, and it got me to thinking: why don’t we stretch more before and after each ride? So I picked my trainer Lori Robinson’s brain as to what key stretches would be beneficial for riders, and then partnered up with Draper Therapies to investigate stretches we should incorporate into our horses’ routines as well!
Stretches for Riders
Lori Robinson of Forever Fit in Southeast Missouri is a certified personal trainer, nutrition specialist and yoga instructor! What I love most about working out with Lori is that she truly understands my body’s needs and has created a workout plan that will help me with my riding. One of the unique parts of Lori’s program is the routine yoga work that we blend into our strength training. I sat down with Lori to discuss a couple of stretches she felt equestrians could easily incorporate into their daily lives.
Single Leg Kneeling Groin Stretch
Photo courtesy of Lori Robinson
The first stretch that came to Lori’s mind was the single leg kneeling groin stretch. I LOVE this stretch as it really opens up and loosens up your hips and groin, which is so important when riding. Executing this stretch is simple: start by positioning yourself on your hands and knees. Extend one leg straight out to the side and let your hips sink just a hair. Once you have mastered this movement, you can open up the opposite leg a little wider to really open up your hip angle and get a good stretch! As with any stretch, take it slow and steady and never push yourself into an uncomfortable position.
Child’s pose looks simple, but it is, in my opinion, one of the most effective stretches when practicing yoga. It helps to stretch your hips, thighs and ankles without placing a lot of stress on the body. I find this position so relaxing and beneficial.
Photo courtesy of Lori Robinson
To execute position yourself on your hands and knees. For beginners, I recommend keeping your knees and thighs together, but as you acclimate to the practice of stretching you can perform this movement with your knees widened while keeping your big toes together. Next, you will lean forward, relaxing your upper body completely, and rest your forehead on the floor. Your upper body will be folded onto your upper thighs. Keep your arms fully extended, tucked in beside your body and take some long deep breaths. I always envision myself melting into the floor while in child’s pose. You can hold this position for up to a minute or longer. Don’t rush when coming out of this position! Slowly walk your torso into an upright position with your hands.
Stretches for Horses
Just as we need to stretch and warm ourselves up before and after we ride, so should our horses! I have always loved this video by professional eventers, Dom and Jimmie Schramm. Dom and Jimmie go into great detail when explaining the proper safety measures to keep you safe when stretching your horse and to keep your horse from sustaining an injury. As with humans, it is possible for a horse to become over-extended when stretching which could result in soreness or an injury, so take it slow!
I personally prefer the carrot stretches listed in this video as your horse is in control of their range of motion. Plus, these stretches are a great way for you to work with and bond with your horse when out of the saddle!