It’s Not About Perfection

I have always disliked the word perfection for many reasons. One of the main ones is that I see it holding people back so much. I for one are so far from perfection it’s not funny, from my terrible spelling, through to my work getting in the way of riding, through to my bad habits holding me back in the saddle. But the key is being aware of these things and using them to help you develop strategies to overcome them is the key.

No one is perfect and it’s a dangerous word that stands in the way of people experiencing life and going out there and living life! Dressage is one of those sports where we are aiming for perfection, but the truth is if you wait until things are perfect, you will be missing out on so much growth. You should instead be focusing on training your horse in a correct and sustainable way. About developing a relationship with your horse and going on a journey together.

As much as you focus on your horse’s training, you should be focusing on your rider training. Building your knowledge, your education and your experience to gain confidence and understanding of your body, the horse’s body and the balance we are trying to achieve in our training. This doesn’t come from waiting till perfection. This comes through sustainable time in the saddle and gathering information to help you along the way.

Nothing in life is perfect, we have to make mistakes to grow from them. If you wait until things are perfect you are missing out on the greatness that is participating in life. Every failure is a learning opportunity and is one step closer to your goal.

Don’t be afraid to try and fail, in fact, expect it and use it as education. Every successful person has failed and has been far from perfect on their journey. The key is to keep moving forward and keep participating. You don’t know what you don’t know and your horse you have right now is your biggest and best teacher in the entire world. Listen to them, grow with them and surround yourself with people who can help you to develop into the rider you want to become.

You have the power to do amazing things, don’t let perfection hold you back. Go out there and start on your road to success.

The Corset Of Your Abdominals : Your TVA

You may not have heard of your TVA (transverse abdominis muscle), but its an extremely important muscle to understand as it as a stabiliser for your entire lower back. It’s one of the main core stabilising muscles of the lumbar spine. A weak TVA is often associated with lower back aches and pain.

The TVA is the deepest of the abdominals and is often referred to as the “corset muscle” because it wraps around your sides and spine. It acts like a muscular girdle of sorts and protects the lower back. Having a strong TVA when you are riding helps with core stability and that stability will allow you to remain stable and more balanced in the saddle.

If you have weak TVA muscles, often the abdominal wall will begin to bulge forward and the pelvis may rotate forward and increase lordosis (inward curvature) in the spine. This can create some issue when you are in the saddle as proper alignment of your joints can be disrupted. Not to mention the effect this has on your stability, then add the force of the horse’s movement to this and you can create all sorts of niggles and pain.

Here is a great video from Ken Hub, explaining more about the anatomy of the TVA.

 

How to Activate the Transverse Abdominis (TVA)

Bracing has been found to be the most effective way to create stability in the lumbar spine. Bracing results in the contraction of the entire core muscle group, and particularly the TVA. The best way to use the bracing technique is to contract and hold the abdomen (don’t suck in the gut as in hollowing) and continue to breathe in and out. Imagine you are getting ready for someone to punch you in the belly, or preparing to lift a heavy object.  The goal is to tighten the muscles without sucking in, or expanding your abdomen, hence the nickname corset.

 

Why care about the transverse abdominis?

Since the TVA acts as a muscular girdle, it stabilizes your pelvis and provides support against outside forces and movement. Crucial when we are riding and have the unpredictability of a horse beneath us.  It defends against repetitive physical stresses from various motions your body makes while riding and doing chores around owning a horse. A strong TVA will help you transfer force more efficiently through the muscles, rather than through your back and joints, thus aiding in the reduction of aches and pains (and injuries) caused by related stresses and repetitive movements.

 

How do you get a stronger transverse abdominis?

To start building strength in your TVA muscle, you will need to know how to activate it through a series of “braced” abdominal maneuvers. Then while maintaining that braced position, putting yourself in various other positions to challenge its strength and stamina.

 

1. To Activate Your TVA 

Lay down on your back draw your knees in and place your hands on your belly. Allow your upper body to relax and then think of bracing your middle. I like to picture either someone about to punch me in the belly, or someone come and stand on my belly. It’s that feeling of bracing that you are wanting to create and maintain and then introduce breathing while you maintain that braced belly. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 8-10 times. Have as much rest in between as you need.

 

2. Hollow Holds

Hollow body holds are an awesome way to improve the strength of your TVA and your overall core strength. Activate your TVA as step 1 and then think of reaching towards your toes and holding that reach. Really think of narrowing that corset. Don’t suck in, instead think of bracing tighter and pulling that corset in. Hold for 10 secs, rest and repeat 8-10 times.

 

3. Hollow Hold Leg Extension

Similar to the hollow hold, this is the next step. Take your legs straight up so your toes are above your hips. Then lower them down to the ground while maintaining your braced belly. Only go as far as you can keep that brace and your back doesn’t lift. Hold this for 10 secs, rest and repeat 8-10 times

 

4. Dead Bug

This exercise is a great way to really focus on that braced hold while challenging it with forces in new directions. Lie on your back with your feet in the air and knees bent 90 degrees. Raise your arms in the air so that your hands are directly above your shoulders. Slowly extend your right leg in front of you and your left arm above your head, keeping your lower back pressed against the floor. Return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Do 8-10 reps each side.

 

Bear Craw

With your braced centre, set yourself up on all fours. Hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Then lift your knees off the floor. Feel how your corset needs to strengthen to maintain neutral spine. Hold this for 10 secs and repeat 8-10 times. Rest as much as you need between.

 

Bird Dog

These work on core stability, and they activate the glutes as you work your abs. Start on your hands and knees in tabletop position with your wrists above your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Inhale and extend your right arm forward and left leg back, maintaining a flat back and square hips. Brace your middle and exhale as you draw your right elbow to your left knee. Extend back out to start. Don’t forget to do both sides. Do 8-10 reps each side.

 

Forearm Plank

These are a great way to learn to properly engage your core especially if you focus on shorter, more intense holds.  Start with your forearms and knees on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Elbows should be stacked underneath the shoulders, your forearms straight in front of you on the ground. Lift your knees off the ground and push your feet back to bring your body to full extension, so your body creates one long line. Keep your core tight and your hips lifted, and keep your neck in line with your spine. Hold for 10 seconds, take a brief break then repeat 8-10 more times.

 

Forward Ball Roll

The forward ball roll is an exercise to help strengthen your core musculature, especially your transverse abdominis. Not only will this exercise help you achieve strength, stability and flexibility in your stomach and back muscles, but it will also target your shoulders and triceps muscles. Place your forearm on the ball and gradully roll the ball forward. Only go as far as you can maintain neutral spine and not arch your back.

 

Each of the exercises is an advancement from easiest to hardest. So begin where you are at and learn to understand what your transverse abdominis is and how to activate it correctly. You could do these exercises as a circuit and create a great workout to do a couple of times per week. Your TVA is also something you can learn to activate when you are sitting, driving or even standing throughout your day. The more you teach your body how to activate this regularly, the more second nature it will become and the more you will then see this translate back to your riding.

What Story Do You Tell Yourself?

Everything is a story we tell ourselves, we have an inner dialogue that is either positively wired or negatively wired. We either believe we can achieve our goals or we create stories as to why we will never achieve them.

There are so many made up stories (epic ones and terrible) in our mind and in order for you to succeed and shine as the true self you have got to become aware of your stories and the chatter that you have going on in your head. Awareness of this is the first step and creating the right stepping stones to recreate and rewire those thoughts into better ones is the next step.

When we know what we want to achieve we can tell a story that makes us excited and that lights a fire within. So first be aware of the story you tell yourself and stop telling yourself the negatives stories and lying to yourself. When we tell ourselves the story that we will never get there, never have the time or feel healthy, you will never be good enough or as good as so and so. Saying you will never have enough money to afford what you want or that you will never achieve those goals is the type of thought patterns you need to reframe.

When we affirm to your mind that you lack what it takes over and over again, you will constantly be lacking no matter what you look at. Instead be clear about what you want, what lights you up, what makes you happy, what do you want to achieve. Be sincere and genuine and make this unique to you.

Now set achievable goals and milestones to help you get there.

Everyone’s journey is different and everyone’s goals are different. Often a negative mindset comes from no clear direction. When we get lost. Stepping stones on a journey are what keep us on track, when we achieve those stepping stones we gain confidence, determination and feel more successful on our journey. It’s this process that can then help you believe that you can achieve. Having the roadmap that suits your path outlines the steps you need to take.

This creates a vision of how to get there.

So instead of constantly telling yourself a negative story, choose a different story that is aligned with your true self and what your goals are and start to create action steps to achieve those. Then back yourself 100% along the way and take action towards making that story a reality.

Improving Reaction Time In Dressage Riders

When it comes to Dressage Riders, well all riders it’s important to have quick reaction times, not just for clarity in our aids, but also safety at times of need. In order to have the optimal balance and reaction time it’s a combination of both slow twitch muscle fibres and fast twitch. We all have these naturally, it’s just sometimes one is more dominant than the other in individuals. So to improve as a rider, you then want to develop training that helps optimize the right balance of these two and is correct for our unique sport.

You see riders require quick reactions, because it’s not about being stronger than our horses, because you can’t win against 600kg of strength, but instead it’s about reading them and reacting quickly, being smarter and quicker so that you can be ahead of them which results in lighter clearer aids. By riding plenty of horses and getting lots of time in the saddle you will develop this and it’s these reaction times that professional riders have developed with all the hours that they have put in. The great news is though you can also train these out of the saddle because not all of us can ride many horses a day to help improve this skill.

Now these reaction times and ability to move quickly and independently are created from a strong central unit. When you look at top riders they are still and balanced, the muscles creating this central strength are predominantly slow twitch. They create the base to allow you to remain stable, then it’s the quick subtle fast aids we don’t see that are the fast twitch.

Reaction time is key

As a rider you want to be on your game and the quicker you can react to something the sooner we can fix it. Be it through a leg aid, movement of our seat or a touch on the reins. Our legs and our body provide guidance to the horse as to movements we are asking, so when we feel the horse begin to lean more on one side compared to the other, our reaction time to this can prevent it turning into a bigger issue. The quicker we can react to things the lighter our aids can be in the future. Fast reactions allow you to whisper to your horse the aids. These reaction times are also incredibly vital for when your horse spooks or is on edge. By your muscles reacting quickly you can stabilize yourself before you are left behind, or on the floor!

When we are schooling our horses riders are constantly making adjustments to guide the horse into balance. This is a constant conversation we have through body language. When we get dull and slow in our reactions the conversations get grey, the horse then can become slow and unreactive, deadening your aids and requiring a much louder conservation to communicate. By spending time training your horse and getting to know one another your conversations become clearer, more black and white and your reaction to the horse’s poor posture or instability can be much clearer.

 

Reaction time decreases as pressure increases

The stronger our aids need to be the slower our response tends to get. This is why it is a valuable area for us to train whether or not we just ride on the weekends or are a professional rider.When we are sharp, alert and truly present on our rides, we bring our A GAME, this doesn’t just come through physical training either. A good night sleep, nutrition, and mindset all play a valuable role in helping you communicate clearly.

Just as riders have a combination of fast and slow twitch, so do horses. Some will react quickly to your leg aid while others are delayed. There is nothing wrong with either. Just as there is nothing wrong with the fact that I prefer long walks and can do many things easily that are slow and steady (predominantly slow twitch, runs in the family!) while my husband is a speed demon and struggles with slow and steady. We each have our strengths and so to get faster and fitter I need to train my fast twitch, the area I reluctantly want to, while my husband his slow twitch.

 

How to train the different muscle fibers

Fast and slow twitch are the different types of muscle fibers in the body, these are classified based on how they produce energy. These different muscle fibers can be trained using specific exercises designed to focus on how they create energy or generate force.

 

Things to know about slow-twitch

  • Slow-twitch fibers contain mitochondria, the organelles that use oxygen to help create adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical that actually fuels muscle contractions
  • Slow-twitch muscle fibers are considered aerobic.
  • Slow-twitch fibers contain more blood-carrying myoglobin, which creates a darker appearance.
  • Slow-twitch fibers can sustain force for an extended period of time, but they are not able to generate a significant amount of force.
  • Slow-twitch fibers have a low activation threshold, meaning they are the first recruited when a muscle contracts.
  • The tonic muscles responsible for maintaining posture have a higher density of slow-twitch fibers.
  • Steady-state endurance training can help increase mitochondrial density, which improves the efficiency of how the body uses oxygen to produce ATP.

As you can see slow twitch muscles fibers are predominantly used for an activity of low intensity and low speed. They are what help us maintain our neutral spine, correct posture and balance within the saddle over the period of a ride and during the day. When these are lacking in stamina it is often our posture which fatigues in the saddle, where we get sore lower backs and overuse injuries due to poor alignment.

 

Training slow-twitch fibres

Exercises that feature isometric contractions and work on stability over a longer period of time.  Examples include simply standing more in your day and avoiding too much sitting, as well as doing exercises such as planks, isometric squats and stability exercises.

Resistance-training exercises using lighter weights with slower movement tempos for higher numbers of repetitions

Circuit training, which involves alternating from one exercise to the next with little-to-no rest.

Body-weight exercises at higher repetitions challenge aerobic metabolism, which helps improve the efficiency of slow-twitch fibers.

 

Things to know about fast-twitch

  • Fast-twitch fibers are fast oxidative glycolytic, because they use oxygen to help convert glycogen to ATP
  • Fast-twitch fibers have a high threshold and will be recruited or activated when the force demands are greater than the slow-twitch fibers can meet.
  • Fast-twitch fibers take a shorter time to reach peak force and can generate higher amounts of force than slow-twitch fibers.
    Fast-twitch fibers can generate more force but are quicker to fatigue when compared to slow-twitch fibers.
    Strength, speed and power training can increase the number of fast-twitch muscle fibers recruited for a specific movement.

 

Training for fast-twitch fibres

Resistance training with resistance stimulates muscle motor units to activate more muscle fibers. The heavier the weight, the greater the number of fast-twitch fibers will be recruited.

Performing explosive, power-based movements, whether it is with a barbell, kettlebell, medicine ball or simply your own body weight through sprinting, will recruit greater levels of fast-twitch fibers.

Fast-twitch fibers fatigue quickly, so focus limited number of repetitions (e.g., two to six) for maximum effectiveness.

Fast-twitch fibers require longer rest periods to allow motor units to recover and to replace spent ATP.

 

As dressage riders, we need to understand that we require a unique combination of both and where to begin our training first. Genetics determines how much of each muscle-fiber type you possess and if you find that you tend to enjoy more endurance-based activities and that they are relatively easy for you, you probably have a greater number of slow-twitch fibers. Or if you someone who really enjoys short bursts of explosive movements, or if you like weight training because it is relatively easy, you are probably fast-twitch fiber dominant. Often the area we need to work on the most is the area in which we find the most difficult. So for me I am the tortiose, slow and steady. However if I’m not careful this can lead to dull grey aids, but on the positive, my fitness, stamina and core strength riding are all slow twitch. I just need to keep improving my reaction time.

I hope you found this useful. Within our Dressage Rider Training program, I take into consideration all of this and the program is systematically designed to help you develop the right balance of these. We build a foundational layer of stamina and strength with reaction time and stability created upon this to improve your reaction time. Both of this combined to help you create stability and confidence in the saddle and communicate clearly to your horse.

Get yourself started today by getting a solid foundation in place by downloading our free guide here.

 

Become Immune To Negativity

I’d like to paint a picture for you. Bear with me as I do as I hope it will help give you a better understanding of how you can achieve your goals.
Imagine two rooms. The first room is full of sick people, everyone has the cold and flu, coughing and sneezing away. When you are taking care of your wellness, through good sleep, quality food, movement and a have a strong immune system you seem to be able to bounce those colds and flu’s away from you and walk out of that room not being affected. However, when you are tired, run down, not eating correctly and overstressed you walk into that room and catch the first virus or flu that hits you.

Now let’s walk into our second room, this room is full of negative people. There’s a negative vibe, negative ideas, discussions, and thoughts all bouncing around from one person to the next. When you walk into that room feeling deflated, exhausted, overwhelmed, stressed and generally lost about what you a doing, you let those thoughts and ideas in that room catch onto you. You settle into that room and you get involved and you hang out there for a long time feeling comfortably distracted from your reality. However, if you have a strong sense of purpose, know what your goals are, where your heading and you work consistently on your mindset, you walk into that room and that negativity can bounce away from you, like those cold and flu in a body that’s well.

Negativity and thoughts are often external. We can catch them from environments in which we place ourselves in. We will always come across those environments as it’s difficult to avoid them completely. However, if you build your physical wellness so it has a strong and resilient immune system, as well as your mental wellness and avoid being drawn into negativity and walking through those sorts of doors as minimally as possible you are setting yourself up for success.
Both mental and physical wellness are a daily practice, consistency and creating environments every day and nurture these things. When we don’t and we dig ourselves into deep holes of unwellness, whether it’s physical or mental, it’s so much harder to climb yourself out when that hole keeps getting bigger.

 

So how do we build more mindset wellness?

I define happiness as “being content with who you are, what you have and where you are heading”. It’s about being grateful for how far you have come, what you have done and knowing the path you are heading on. Without this clarity, we drift, we wonder, we get frustrated and annoyed with life in general. A clear roadmap, allows us to drive distraction-free and get to our destination and enjoy the journey.
Being positive and grateful isn’t something you do on occasion. If you want to foster that mindset wellness, it’s consistency, working at it like any other muscle and having that on repeat. Creating lifestyle and habits that make that simpler and being really careful about the environments and the people in which you choose to place yourself around consistency. Having strategies in place that can pull you out of trouble quickly and get you back on your path to success.
Here are some steps to help you bring more focus to your wellness.

  • Show gratitude for where you are at right now.
  • Set goals about what you are wanting to achieve and put actionable steps in place to help you achieve those goals.
  • Understand you are in control of what you want to achieve, no one else.
  • Surround yourself with people who support your vision.
  • Remind yourself daily of what your goals are and the path you are on.
  • Get advice from people who can help you reach your goals.
  • Continue to learn and grow.
  • Become ridiculous passionate about something you love, immerse yourself into that.
  • Let go of the past, focus on the future and present.
  • Stay positive and be the positive influence for others around you.
  • Back yourself 100%!
  • Repeat daily

 

Yoga For Dressage Riders – Routine To Improve Your Mobility Before You Ride

Yoga is a really powerful tool to help you become more supple in the saddle. But you don’t need any flash gym gear, to bust out your candles or have essential oils burning unless of course, you want to. You can even do this in your jodhpurs!

Now I am sure you have all experienced that tight stiff body from a day at your desk or sore muscles from overdoing it the previous day. This is why a short little routine like this can come in handy.

Time is usually pretty precious when it comes to riding and for many, the last thing they want to be doing is a “workout” or “stretching” when they would rather be riding. This is why I love this routine because it’s just 10 minutes and it will help you get into the saddle feeling much more comfortable. You will be able to truly focus on riding, instead of any stiffness you might be feeling. It’s a great way to help you feel more comfortable and also help enhance that time in the saddle too.

Hopefully, you notice how your body feels and the impact just a little time spent on you can have on the way your horse goes.

Improve your strength, fitness and balance in the saddle with our Dressage Rider Fitness Program.

 

Setting Goals To Help You Develop Into A Better Rider

I’m a big believer that you can achieve anything you want from life if you have focus and work hard. A huge part of defining what you want your life to look like is setting goals. If you’re fortunate enough to have arrived at where you want to be, the goal setting doesn’t end. The only way you can continue to grow as a person and in your profession is if you keep moving the goal posts.

Dressage is no different. If you want to be successful it requires clear goals and a path on how you are going to achieve them. For me, setting goals isn’t just about ticking off items on a list and arriving at my end destination. It’s about setting goals that create the life I want and who I develop into along the way. After all, why work towards getting from A-B if you can’t enjoy the journey along the way?

If you’re in a slump, or you are staying stagnant in your dressage success you simply need to challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone. You don’t get anywhere without challenging yourself. Part of this is also about understanding that success isn’t smooth sailing and failing is all part of it. But to get to where you want to go, you have to get on the road and start moving in the direction you desire.


Here are some tips on how to get started

1. Get inspired

Often people find themselves in a rut because they lack inspiration or a desire to improve. It’s easy to do as you get caught up in the every day, but it’s vital you find something that lights some level of passion within you. If you know you want to compete and move up the levels, then start to plan how you’re going to do this. Head to ribbon day, competitions, watch successful riders, read and get yourself in the right mindset to make that happen.

 

2. Set goals which create a journey

We tend to get fixated on creating goals that are more about the destination than the journey. Your end goal shouldn’t be solely what you focus on, it should be there to simply provide you with direction. Otherwise you spend all your time trying to attain that goal and forget to enjoy the journey along the way.

Think about goals that will help create a compelling journey for you. Establish what it is you want to do, what excites you and what you value in life. Once you know these, regardless of whether you reach that end goal of trotting down the centre line at nationals or riding grandprix it won’t seem so scary because you’ve experienced an awesome journey getting there.

 

3. Take a step back

When we become so fixated on a goal, we tend to get wrapped up in our own world. We lack the time to catch up with our friends, we end up over training as we want it all now and we can lose sight of our values and life just becomes one big fog.

To avoid this, take a step back and have a look at how your life is progressing. Is it what you dreamt of? Are you living your life by your values? Do you like the person you have become or are turning into? Are you creating balanced enjoyable weeks for yourself and not to mention your horse, or are you going round and round in circles day in and day out and not progressing anywhere.

I know it’s easy to get caught up in the everyday and you can lose sight of who you are and the greater purpose of why you’re taking this particular journey. That’s why taking a step back for a moment and analyzing your life and if its balanced can be beneficial.

 

4. Be flexible

If this goal is no longer exciting you, or it’s become a drain on your life, then change it.

Becoming flexible will help you change your direction into one that excites you. It’s not necessarily about changing the actual goal; it’s about changing the journey to get there. This could be simply a change of trainer, heading to clinics or trying out a new show to compete in.

Remember, the goal is just the direction, a compass if you like. The beauty is in how you get there, what you learn along the way and who you connect to. That’s what’s going to be the reward and help you enjoy your riding so much more.

 

4 Stretches To Help With Hip Mobility In Dressage Riders

As dressage riders, we need to be able to use our hips effectively yet, more often than not, riders are extremely tight in this area. Developing hip flexibility means your hips should be mobile and free enough to move in the same rhythm as your horse. You also want to have enough strength through your pelvis and core to allow your seat bones to get into the saddle and remain stable.

Hip mobility isn’t about doing the splits!

Being flexible and mobile isn’t about being able to do the splits or put your leg around your head! Instead, it’s about having the right amount of mobility around a stable pelvis. A lack of flexibility is common, especially for riders who may spend alot of time at a desk, or for those of us who are now over 30 years of age. Because yes we tend to lose mobility over time.

It’s relatively easy to understand how diminished hip mobility will affect your performance as a dressage rider. Tight hips can impede your framework and effect the ability to move with your horse. Imbalances between your hip flexibility and strength can also lead to injury and joint pain.

 

Stretches to help improve your hip mobility

In this video, I demonstrate a couple of stretches specifically for dressage riders to achieve greater hip mobility. If you combine these with abdominal exercises, you’ll gain greater strength in your saddle and therefore a greater connection with your horse.

 

The stretches in this video include:

Half kneeling side stretch

You’ll feel this stretch through the hips and your side body as you stretch your hip flexors and your Iliotibial band (ITB). When your ITB is tight, you’ll notice your legs shortened and reduced mobility in your lower back. Can often show up with knee pain.

 

Half kneeling straight leg hamstring stretch

This stretch is targeting your hamstrings. When your hamstrings are tight, your hip sockets can also become tight. Can be reflected in the saddle with how you leg sits and how deep you are able to become.

 

Frog pose hip stretch

You’ll feel this stretch in your inner thighs which will help relieve tension in your lower back as well as loosen up your hips.

 

Seated cross-legged hip stretch

This stretch will help loosen up your glutes and your hip flexors as you twist around. It’s a great one to improve your hip range and motion.
Aim to hold each of these stretches for 30 seconds initially. Once you can more mobility after a few weeks of regular stretching, increase this hold for 60 seconds. Obviously, the more often you stretch, the more impact it will have on your riding posture.

 

Hips are just one of the areas all dressage riders need to focus on to improve their strength and flexibility. This is regardless of their experience or riding level. To get yourself started today, be sure to download our free guide here.

 

How To Stretch Your Piriformis & Why It’s Important For Dressage Riders

It’s common for dressage riders to experience strain or tension in their piriformis muscle, so in this article I am going to show you how to stretch piriformis and why it is an important area to focus on because tightness in the piriformis muscle can cause and further pain elsewhere in the body.

 

How to stretch piriformis

The piriformis is a muscle located deep in the hip that runs in close proximity to the sciatic How to stretch piriformisnerve. When the piriformis muscle becomes tight and/or inflamed, it can cause irritation of the sciatic nerve. This irritation leads to sciatica-like pain, tingling and numbness that run from the lower back, to the rear and sometimes down the leg and into the foot.

When riding this muscle can become compressed and tight, especially if you are riding larger more wider horses. This is why it can be hugely beneficial to understand how to stretch it and include these stretches into your routine.

In this video, I share with you some simple exercises you can do to stretch and release some of the built-up tension of the piriformis muscle. I’ll also demonstrate some effective foam roller exercises which will really enhance the benefits of these stretches.

 

Keyhole Stretch
how to stretch piriformis
Lying on your back with your legs straight, bring one knee into your chest. Taking hold of your ankle, pull your leg towards to the opposite side. As you do so, you’ll feel a stretch in through your bottom.

If the stretch is too deep, bending your straight leg may help make the stretch more comfortable for you.

If you wish to intensify the stretch, bend your straight leg and place your heel on this thigh. Holding this knee, pull your legs toward you, deepening the stretch.

 

Lying Twist
how to stretch piriformis
Remaining on your back, take one knee over your body. Turn your gaze to the opposite direction and stretch out your arm. Allow yourself to sink down as your body eases into the stretch.

If you wish to intensify the stretch, you can straighten the leg crossing over your body.

 

Seated Twist
Stretch4
Sitting up, tuck one leg underneath you and cross the other over the top. As you hug your knee, twist your upper body right around to the back. Ensure both seat bones are down as you rotate your spine. Your back hand can be used as a support to keep your body lifted and your spine supported and straight.

If the stretch is too challenging, you can straighten your leg out while crossing the other over.

 

Pigeon Pose
Stretch7
Come around into a pigeon pose, with both legs bent at 90 degrees. Position one leg bent in front and the other leg straight behind you. Turn your body around to face the ground and lower yourself down over your front leg onto your forearms.

If the stretch is too deep, you can bend or straighten your back leg. Rather than lower yourself to the ground, you can bring yourself up higher with your arms straight.

 

Foam Rolling Glutes
Stretch5
Using your foam roller, place it under your bottom. With your weight to one side of the foam roller and knees bent, cross one leg over the other. Using your hands behind you as support, rock backwards and forwards to loosen the muscles in your bottom.

 

Foam Rolling ITB
How to stretch piriformis
Remaining on the foam roller, place it on the side of your thigh with your opposite foot resting on the ground for support. Roll backwards and forwards so the foam roller loosens up the muscles in the side of your leg.

To reduce the pressure, place more weight on the supporting leg.

To intensify the stretch, lessen the amount of weight you place on your supporting leg.

It’s best to conduct these stretches before you ride and after if you’re feeling particularly tight in your piriformis muscle. Try to perform each stretch for at least 1 minute to help loosen these muscles.

By loosening up these muscles, you’ll find yourself much more comfortable and stable in the saddle. This will help improve your riding so that you’re not the one holding your horse back.

Improving your rider fitness, strength and balance will not only enhance your riding, it will also keep you riding for longer. For more exercises, stretches and workouts to take your riding to the next level before to download our free guide. These specific dressage exercises are designed to help you take your dressage to a new level.

 

What more stretches and exercises to help you with your riding? You might find these ones really useful.

Stretches For Riders With Tight Shoulders And Upper Back

Soothing Stretches To Help Improve Sciatica In Riders

4 Stretches To Help With Hip Mobility In Dressage Riders

5 Stretches That Every Dressage Rider Should Do

These 5 specific stretches will help improve your dressage riding. If you really want to improve your biomechanics and imbalances on the horse, this is where these specific stretches will benefit you.

Often riders don’t realise the impact their imbalances can have on their horse. When ligaments get tight and stiff they lose their range of motion. They get matted and glued together and affect the way your body moves.

When it comes to stretching in general, too often I see people just doing token stretches here and there. That sort of stretching might make you feel better mentally, but it’s not actually making progress to free up your ligaments.

To improve your body’s range of motion, these stretches need time. To allow the muscles and ligaments to really let go and free up, you need to hold these stretches for a decent period of time, a minimum of 2 minutes per stretch. These stretches aren’t necessarily pleasant either. But when I do them my body responds and I always ride and move better after having done them.

So if you are wanting to improve your riding or just your general posture, try these specific 5 stretches out below and notice how it makes you feel. Do them all daily before you head off to bed or before you go for a ride and notice your rider biomechanics improve over time.

 

Couch Stretch

This stretch is one of the most beneficial stretches you can do. If you were to do just one stretch, I would suggest this one. Start with your back foot on the ground and place a cushion under your knee if needed. Then as your range of motion improves, place your back foot up on a couch, chair or table. Be sure to tuck in your pelvis and brace your core so you are not arching through your back. Hold this for a minimum of 2 minutes each side.

 

Hindu Squat

This stretch is amazing for mobility through your hip joints. The Hindu Squat is also great for your digestion and detoxification pathways. Often runners don’t put their limbs through a full range of motion which can cause their achilles tendon, hamstrings and lower back to tighten up. It’s important to ensure your body keeps it’s full range of motion to help improve your running. If you can’t get down low, hold onto a table edge. Then do it daily for at least 2-5 minutes and notice how much you improve.

 

Internal Hip Stretch

These muscles get incredibly tight from sitting down for long periods. Keeping your hips healthy and mobile is super important for dressage riders. They play a crucial role when you are dressage riding and keeping everything aligned, so you want to work on this stretch also. This stretch will also help improve your Hindu Squat.

You may notice to one side tighter than the other. Start by keeping your foot flat on the floor and push your knee out and your hips down. As you improve let your foot move onto its side and you can come down onto your elbows and hold.

 

ITB

Most runners will know where their ITB is because this is often a problem area and can affect your knee alignment and often leads to knee problems when it gets too tight. Hold this stretch for 2 minutes each side and notice how it frees up your knee as well as your hips.

 

Swan Pose

This is also great for getting into your ITB as well as your hips. More gentler than the one above, so begin here if need be. Great to help loosen up your glutes and bring more mobility through your hips and lower back too.

Hold for 2 minutes at least each side.

 

Then download the FREE Dressage Rider Fitness Guide that will give you the exercises & stretches you need to do to improve your riding specifically for dressage.
Download it here.

Get the FREE Fitness Guide

specific to Dressage Riders


  • identify your imbalances & weaknesses
  • allow your horse to move more freely
  • improve your stability in the saddle

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This Guide will help you...