This was no ordinary week at Sharon White’s Last Frontier Farm, the last five days were filled with circus inspired, seat strengthening, courage testing exercises, or as Sharon prefers to call it: Hell Week. This delightful idea is the brainchild of Jimmy Wofford, and though all though all the exercises are wildly different, the goal is the same: achieving a more independent seat.
“This is Jimmy Wofford all the way. Hell week is his thing. I’ve done it with him the past four years. This is the first year I’ve done it on my own. Each year it has helped me so much with my position and the ability to know you can sit on a horse and do just about anything,” Sharon said.
“It’s such an important part of your work with horses: how your skeleton affects their skeleton. It’s amazing what you can do with just your seat and balance. That’s what it’s all about.”
Hell Week riders forfeit their reins and stirrups for the week as they are put on the lunge line. From here, they work through a collection of exercises that test their balance and strength at all three gaits.
Some examples: Windmill (arm circles), Body Twisters (arms out to the side, palms up as you twist side to side. Start slowly, then pick up the tempo), Sit ups (cross your arms, lean all the way forward to touch your head to the neck, then all the way back to touch your head to the rump), and Sharon’s personal favorite, Side Saddle (hold cantle and the pommel, then lift a leg and swing it over to one side and then the other).
Besides the physical exertion required, perfecting these exercises is just as much a brain game. “It’s a mental issue at first, and then overcoming that is huge. The sheer since of accomplishment is really satisfying for the riders too. To overcome fears is always a wonderful feeling,” Sharon said.
“It’s intense. You get sore doing it. That’s why it’s called hell week. It’s also great for the horses because it’s January, so some are pretty fresh from their holiday. It’s a good way for you to really make more of a bond with your horse. I can’t recommend it enough – even just having your coach lunge you. It’s a super, super start to the beginning of the year to get your position stronger.”
Do you incorporate exercises like this in your training? Let us know in the comments.