As riders we tend to have strong calf muscles; however, just because they are strong does not always mean they are functioning properly. Our calves serve as the heart of the lower body — the two main muscles in the lower leg, the gastrocnemius and the soleus, assist the cardiovascular system in pumping blood back up to the heart with each step. This is part of the reason you are encouraged to get up and walk around on long flights.
I commonly encounter riders who suffer from overly tight calves that has a profound impact on the galloping position, as well as common human lameness like plantar fasciitis. As humans we should pay as much attention to stretching our calves as we do our hamstrings.
For this exercise you will need a step or a solid mounting block.
- Place the ball of your foot on the step, place your hand on a railing or a wall to steady yourself. (This is not the place to add balance work in as bouncing, hopping and sudden movements will increase your chance of injury.)
- Drop your heels down toward the floor. At the bottom of the range of motion hold that static position for five seconds.
- Next with your hand supporting you on the wall, slowly rise up pressing your toes into the step and contracting in your calves. Go for your full range of motion — this will be different for everyone.
- Complete this exercise for two minutes and you will be feeling quite the burn in your lower leg and possibly your glutes and hamstrings.
- Finish by holding the start position for at least 30 seconds.
Jaclyn Burke is one of my idols and time management gurus. The amount of things she can accomplish in a day is second to none. Jaclyn owns and operates Burke Equestrian out of Hablyn Hills Equestrian Center in the heart of Area II. Jaclyn specialize in bringing OTTBs up through the levels and she has competed at the CCI3*-L level, with goals and plans to get back with her talented string of three competition horses.
As if running and managing a success competition, training and lesson program were not enough, she also has a full-time job at Workday, a software company that helps businesses optimize the back office processes. For Jaclyn hacks are often filled with phone calls but when she gets down to riding and teaching she strives to be 100% present in the moment. Even with her extremely busy schedule she makes the time to prioritize her own fitness as she can feel the difference when exercise moves onto the back burner.
Laura Crump Anderson is a certified as a personal trainer by the American College of Sports Medicine and is a Registered 200 Hour Teacher with the Yoga Alliance. She specializes in working with riders of all ages and disciplines. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science, and has evented through Training level. Read more of her EN fitness columns here.