I hope that all of you are doing well. I am so glad that summer is finally here. For many of us this means spending more time at the barn and perhaps in the show ring!
Whether you are a leisure rider, trail rider, train everyday or are serious about showing, your physical fitness is key to a great partnership with your horse.
My goal is to provide you with great ways to whip your body in shape and keep it moving the way it needs to for the best ride of your life.
For me personally it’s about getting in shape after having a baby. I have now ridden 5 times since his birth. YEAH! But what happened to all of my muscles???? (Perhaps some of you feel the same way too.)
I am pleased to announced that one of our newest teachers, Kirstin Hill has contributed a great article about how to keep hydrated during your summer rides.
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Creator, EQUESTRIAN PILATES®
Spine Twist on the Ball
The goal of this exercise is to rotate the spine while maintaining stabilization and balance of the pelvis and shoulder girdle. Adding the ball helps the rider better understand how much his or her hips shifting cause the seat to be unbalanced. When this happens it will cause the ball to shift out from under you to the left or right depending on which seat bone you lean too much into. On the horse when the seat is uneven, the horse and rider become out of balance.
I remembered this exercise during my lesson yesterday with my Dressage trainer Camilla Fritze.* She noticed, especially during the left lead canter, that I sit too much on my right seat bone. When this happens my seat is unbalanced and my horse either doesn’t canter at all or he picks up the right lead instead of the left. UGH!
And guess what, when this happened it was MY fault not the horse’s fault. It is so easy to have an experience like this and get mad at the horse. But as they say “the proof is in the pudding”! Camilla corrected my position and asked me to shift more weight to the left, put my upper body and arms in the right place and relax my wrists. (I, of course, felt totally crooked, but was now straight.) And guess what? When I followed her advice, I got the PERFECT canter departure. Oh, how awesome it was to get it right.
So what’s great about the following exercise is that it points out the importance of keeping your upper body balanced over your hips and seat with equal weight on both seat bones. As Camilla pointed out during my lesson when this happens the rider is in balance and so is the horse. Everything becomes easier as it is now possible for the horse to carry your weight and move how he needs to without your body interrupting the process.
You can see how this happens when seated on the ball. If you sink into one hip as you twist you will find that the ball shifts with your body weight just like your horse will do if you put unintentional pressure too much into one seat bone versus the other.
Position Description – Sit on the ball, tall of the sitz bones, legs slightly more than hip-width apart. For the easiest version of this exercise sit in a chair position with your legs slightly more apart than hip-width apart. As you gain balance and strength try this exercise with your legs in proper riding position, ie straight line from shoulder, hip, to heel. Do not squeeze with your inner thighs. This will make you rigid and unbalanced, just as it would seated on the horse. See Rider Anatomy 101 to learn about the location of your sitz bones/seat.
1. Inhale through your nose.
2. Exhale as you reach your arms long to your sides at shoulder height. Rotate your ribcage to the left. Keep your pelvis stable.
3. Inhale in through your nose.
4. Exhale as you return to center.
5. Repeat to the right.
6. Do eight sets.
Notice – The ball forces you into good form. If you allow your hips to shift while twisting your torso the ball will shift under you. Spine Twist becomes more difficult while seating on the ball by requiring more balance. Pay careful attention to your shoulders, not allowing them to rise up.
The first picture is “Step 1”. The second is “Step 2” and the third is an example of what NOT TO DO. It is a person who leans too much into the right side of her seat.
*Camilla Fritze is an amazing Dressage trainer in Somis, CA. She offers quality training programs for beginners to serious FEI competitors. She is a USDF Bronze and Silver Medalist. FEI Competitor. You can reach her at 310-924-1220. Galavant Equestrian at www.galavantequestrian.com. She is located at Whitethorne Ranch in Somis, CA.
Staying Hydrated During Your Summer Rides
By Kirstin Hill
Certified EQUESTRIAN PILATES® Mat Teacher
San Diego, CA
June, the month of summer, has arrived. I feel the summer heat more and more each day and am quickly reminded of the beautiful glove tan I will be showing off for the next few months. Summer is usually equated with a change in fitness and eating habits. This article will focus on hydration needs throughout the summer, especially those scorching show days when we are suited up from head to toe feeling sweaty, hot, thirsty and fatigued before show time.
It is so important to stay hydrated during the summer months as we continue riding not only for optimal performance but also for our health. Some of the symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, thirst, less frequent urination, and light-headedness.
For low to moderate intensity riding lasting about 60 minutes, the best drink choice before, during and after exercise is cold water. Cold water (~40-50 degrees) is absorbed more quickly from the stomach and also has the effect of cooling the internal body temperature along with your sweat.
To prevent dehydration during exercise, 8-10 oz of water should be drunk about every 15-20 minutes. Thirst is not a good indicator of when you should drink water since at the point you are thirsty you are already mildly dehydrated.
Contrary to popular belief there really is no hard and fast rule about how much water one should drink per day. Fluid intake per person per day is determined by a variety of factors including body temperature, kidney function, and the environment. Fortunately, our bodies are clever and we have a great way to monitor our hydration needs-check your urine! Urine that is concentrated and dark, like the color of apple juice means you need to drink more water. You know you are hydrated when your urine is odorless and close to colorless like a straw/lemonade color.
Sports drinks can be good if you are sweating a lot, especially on a hot and humid day, since they replace valuable electrolytes like sodium, potassium and magnesium. However, many of them can be loaded with sugar, dye and other fillers that are not beneficial to the body. Check the label for the serving size, many times the values listed are for half or even a third of the bottle which can be very deceiving. For example, it is common for a 16 oz drink to list the serving size as 8 oz and show values like 12g of sugar when you realize after you have guzzled the whole bottle that you just drank 24 g of sugar!
A few tips to keep in mind this summer: 1) Keep a large water bottle with you throughout the day the to drink. There are also many different kinds of water holders that attach easily to saddles so you can keep water with you while you ride. 2) Replace fluids early and often before, during and after exercise, especially when it is hot. 3) Good sources of fluid are not just limited to drinks. Many foods contain varying percentages of water, especially fruits and vegetables. Biting in to a juicy piece of watermelon is such a treat after riding on a hot day. Cheers!
Healthy Riders and Healthy Horses
Many of us are comfortable with the idea that we need to have healthy horses to get the most from our ride. We spend countless hours and dollars making sure that our horses get the best care.
But how many of you spend as much time and attention on your own health? If you do, awesome, let’s work together to get more people on the healthy band wagon. If you do not, don’t beat yourself up about it. Let’s address some simple steps to get you on the right track.
Riding is a beautiful partnership between us and our horse, but when we are out of shape our sports performance suffers and so does our communication to our horse. This could be a variety of things like being over weight and thus putting too much stress on our horse’s back, being generally out of shape and thus bouncing around in the saddle, not dealing with injuries that lead to stiffness and rigidity in the saddle and so on.
The good news is that these issues are solvable with a plan and action. And the benefit is AMAZING – the better health we have, the better we are able to ride, the more fun we have with our horses and so on.
There are a few steps we can take to get back on the right track.
1. Exercise. There is no doubt that riding is exercise, but to take care of your body completely, cross training is a must. For example, a bit of cardio, stretching and strength training like Pilates and/or weight lifting.
At this point, I’m sure that many of you are saying to yourself, “I have WAY too much to do. How can I possibly add one more thing?”
One of the biggest reasons that I find people do not get enough exercise is that they make things too hard for themselves. If all you have is 20 minutes two times per week that is better than nothing. If you could do one cardio session per week and one strength training/stretching session per week you would see dramatic improvements. If you have never done cardio before, or not for a long time, don’t start out with a plan to suddenly go on an hour run 3 times per week. Not only will you be too out of shape to do this, you are setting yourself up for failure from the start.
Here are a few simple ideas to get your started: go for a walk with your spouse, kids or a friend instead of watching TV. Park at the end of the parking lot and walk a bit farther. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Treat yourself to a weekly, bi-monthly or monthly personal training session. Enroll in some sort of weekly group exercise program. Turn on some music and dance for 20 minutes. Get off your horse and stretch. Take the dog for a walk.
Exercise is meant to make us feel good. Just be creative and think about moving and having fun.
2. You are what you eat. Now I don’t know one person who likes diets or the idea of going on a diet, myself included. I have been on and off them my whole life and I have decided no more. That’s why I was so happy to learn about a new book that preaches a diet very similar to what I like to follow. It is called “The Good Mood Diet”, written by PdD nutritionist, Susan Kleiner. She recently spoke to a group of us Dressage riders in San Diego. She talks about how to eat to fuel your body to give you the energy to accomplish what you want in life. It is not about what you should NOT eat, it is about what you should eat. The great thing is that it is a healthy well balanced plan that will give you the energy you need to enjoy your favorite sport, horseback riding.
And again, perhaps some of you are thinking, “UGH, it’s just too hard.” I get it, but I also know that all of you make sure that your HORSES get all the right vitamins, supplements, hay, etc. YOU DESERVE IT TOO.
As with adding exercise into you life take baby steps. Try to make one more healthy choice per week. After just a few weeks these baby steps will add up and make a significant difference in your life!
And guess who benefits? You and your horse. What could be more fun than that!
Rider Anatomy 101
Ischial Tuberosities (sitz bones)
These bones are the part of the pelvis, the foundation of the riding seat. The pelvis is basically a collection of bones that are fused together in the shape of a bowl with no bottom. At the base of the are the sitz bones or ischial tuberosities.
When sitting upright on a hard chair this is the hard part felt at the base of the buttocks.
These bones provide the contact point for the seat.
One of the best ways to feel them is to sit in a chair and place your hands under your bottom. You should feel two boney parts under your hands. When you are in the saddle you should feel equal weight on each of these bones. If you feel more weight in one or the other than you are sitting crooked.
Sometimes it is very challenging to feel if you are crooked or not while riding. The best thing to do is have a qualified trainer give you feedback. If this is not possible ask a friend to watch you. Remember that you might be used to feeling crooked and when your trainer or your friend gives you feedback to change your position the new position might feel crooked to you even if your trainer or friend now tells you that you are straight. The good news is that when you are straight you are more likely to be in balance and thus your ride will feel better. Again, it’s the horse’s correct movement that always tells the truth.
Check out the exercise above, Seated Twist on the Ball. It is a great way to learn how to feel your seat bones. Good luck!
Introducing Kirstin Hill
Certified EQUESTRIAN PILATES® Mat Teacher
San Diego, CA
Kirstin grew up in the Bay Area (Menlo Park) but currently resides in San Diego, CA with her fiance. Horses and riding have been a part of her life since she was a young girl. Her earliest experiences started as being a groom for local polo players. Later on she discovered and joined the United States Pony Club with her first pony, Paddington. Pony Club has provided her the best foundation for learning horse-care fundamentals, team participation with sportsmanship and correct riding techniques. Members are rated and move up the levels based on their progression of riding skills and horse management knowledge. Kirstin is currently rated through the C-3 (traditional) and is going for the H-A (highest horse management level) this summer (July 2010). While in Pony Club Kirstin also successfully competed on an Irish Sport Horse named Limerick through training level eventing. Her most notable accomplishment on Limerick was qualifying for Pony Club Championships in dressage in Lexington, KY during the summer of 2007. Kirstin’s lessons and tireless practicing paid off with her taking home 1st place for the highest rated training level freestyle as well as leading her team to an overall first. Currently Kirstin has been a working student for the past two years for an eventing trainer/Pony Club National Examiner in Ramona, CA.
Aside from horses, Kirstin has always had a passion for fitness, especially Pilates, and eating right. This led to her pursuing and earning her B.S. in Foods and Nutrition from San Diego State University. Her goal is to earn her R.D. (Registered Dietitian-a food expert, not the same as a nutritionist) license in order to credibly counsel people about food and nutrition. As a step towards earning this license, she must first complete a dietetic internship, which she just landed at the VA in San Diego. It will begin this August and end the following May. Kirstin is most excited about this because she wants to combine her EQUESTRIAN PILATES® services with nutritional services to offer her clients the most complete and optimal package for benefiting their health and well-being as people and riders. Kirstin has truly found her niche by being able to combine her passion for riding and health/well-being and knows she will be able to offer her clients nothing but the best!