Getting Back in the Saddle for 2020: 5 Easy Exercises for Equestrians


Classes start up again on January 12th after our December hiatus.  If you missed our Christmas playday and therefore haven’t been on a horse since November … or perhaps even longer … here are some quick exercises and stretches to prime your body for riding once more.

Five Easy Exercises for Equestrians

  1. Plank.  Core strength is essential for good balance, and planks are excellent for toning core muscles.  Do whatever version of the plank you’re capable of — on your elbows or hands, knees or feet — for as long as you can.  Then repeat twice more today.  Tomorrow increase the time by 30%.  If you could do 10 seconds today, do 13 tomorrow.  Keep increasing your time by 30% till you’re at 5 times as long as your original maximum (about one week).  Then add more difficult variations. If you started with knee planks, go to your toes; if you were doing full planks, add side planks, or one-arm planks.
  2. Lunging stretches.  Riders’ hip flexors are notoriously tight.  Almost all forms of runners’ stretches and side or front lunges are helpful for stretching the quads and opening the hip flexors.  Take a break three times a day to do some lunging stretches. Bonus: it will help your rapier form as well!
  3. Upward Salute. This yoga pose stretches and engages your lats, spine, and oblique muscles, all of which are needed for a poised and effective upper body when riding.  Stand with feet hip-width apart, and raise your arms so your palms meet over your head, pulling down with your shoulder blades while stretching up with your hands.  Engage your abdominals and tuck your pelvis.  If comfortable, bend backward slightly as you pull down and together with the shoulder blades.
  4. Aerobic Work. While it may look like the horse is doing all the work, riding is in fact aerobic exercise, especially at the trot and canter.  To increase your aerobic capacity try to fit in short bursts of high activity throughout the day.  This could include a quick run or speedwalking to catch the bus, running up stairs, playing with your dog, skipping rope while your computer uploads a file, or dancing while no-one’s watching.  You don’t need to put in a full sweaty workout — short bursts of high-intensity activity throughout the day are very effective at improving your aerobic fitness.

    Jenn Vartiaiinen of Danceability teaching Ballet at the Barn during Carosella
  5. Stair stands.  This is the homework I assign riders most often, and there are three parts to it.  1) Stand on a stair in horse stance, with just the balls of your feet on the step and your heels hanging down.  Hold onto a wall or banister for balance if necessary. Stay in this pose as long as you can. This mimics the position you are in while on horseback and works to strengthen your legs while stretching your calves to get those heels down.  2) Bend your knees rhythmically as if posting the trot to work on your strength and balance. 3) Straighten your legs and stand on your tiptoes, then lower your heels to below the step height. Repeat this motion to strengthen your ankles and alternately stretch your calves.  Increase difficulty by lifting one foot off the stair.

Don’t push yourself or overdo it.  A week of doing these simple exercises daily can make a noticeable difference in your balance, strength, flexibility, and endurance — all of which will make your return to the saddle that much easier. And don’t stop once you’re back to riding.  Even a small amount of cross-training can significantly improve your fitness, which improves your ability to effectively move with and communicate with your horse … all of which improves your enjoyment of this wonderful sport.

January Classes

Riding Level 3+, Flat

This six-class series is for intermediate and advanced riders who have graduated from Level 2 and are looking to improve their dressage work.  The classes will focus on the correct position and aids of the rider to increase the horse’s suppleness both laterally and through the top-line, as well as on prompt and balanced transitions.  Some cavaletti and ground poles may be incorporated.

Riding Level 3+, Flat
Sundays 12 Jan – 16 Feb
10am – 11am
Instructor: Isabel Landels
cost: $275 + gst for 6 classes
drop-in, if space available: $55 + gst

Riding & Horsemanship Level 2

This six class course is for Riders who have achieved Horsemanship level 1 and are working towards Horsemanship level 2, Riding level 1, or Riding level 2. The Horsemanship portion includes identification, routines of the horse, care & cleaning of saddlery, riding etiquette, and safe handling. Riding curriculum covers basic seat position, single-hand reining, games skills, canter work, introduction to drill work, introduction to jumping, and longeline work.

Riding & Horsemanship Level 2
Sundays 12 Jan – 16 Feb
10 am – noon
Instructor: Isabel Landels
cost: $375 + gst for 6 classes
drop-in, if space available: $75 + gst

Beginner Riding & Horsemanship

This six-class course is designed to help the beginning rider achieve Horsemanship and Riding Level 1. The Horsemanship portion includes haltering, leading & securing your horse; points of the horse; parts of the saddle & bridle; grooming & tacking up; untacking and care of tack; basic feeding and needs of the horse. The Riding curriculum covers turn out and checking tack, mounting & dismounting, warm up exercises, – basic seat position, aids for walk, trot and halt, circles & turns, rising trot, ground rails, introduction to canter if ready, single hand reining, stirrupless work, and introduction to games skills. The cost of the course includes one free riding or horsemanship assessment. Students can expect to be ready to assess Horsemanship Level 1 at the end of the six classes. Readiness for Riding Level 1 typically takes two iterations of the course.

Beginner Riding & Horsemanship 
Sundays 12 Jan – 16 Feb
11am – 1pm
cost: $375 + gst for 6 classes
drop-in, if space available: $75 + gst
Instructor: Eleanor Landels

Mounted Combat Fundamentals

*Note new format*

Before you get on a horse with a sword in your hand it is essential to have good fundamental swordplay skills from the ground. This course consists of three 2.5-hour classes over five weeks (alternate Sundays), and covers the basic Mounted Combat skills needed for your Green Spur. Students who have achieved these skills along with Riding and Horsemanship Level 1 will be eligible to participate in Mounted Combat classes on horseback.  This course is designed for novice practitioners with the longsword.

Mounted Combat Fundamentals 
Sundays 19 Jan, 2 Feb, 16 Feb
1:00 – 3:30pm
cost: $165 + gst for 3 classes
Instructor: Dave Wayne

Mounted Combat Mastery

Allie & Christian cross swords in a Prix Fiore testPut your riding and swordplay skills together!  This three hour class consists of an sword, spear, and grappling work on the ground, after which we tack up and practise these skills plus movement and games from horseback. Anyone with a Green Spur or the equivalent (Riding & Horsemanship Level 1 and Mounted Combat Fundamentals or a Green Cord) may join in the twice monthly full Mounted Combat class.  Anyone with a Longsword Green Cord or Rapier Blue Cord may join in the ground-only portion of the class.

Mounted Combat Mastery
Sundays 12 & 26 January
noon – 3pm
full class: 3 tuition credits
ground class: 2 tuition credits
Instructor: Jennifer Landels

 

 

Jennifer Landels Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.