Riding

12 Yoga Tips For Equestrians

Improve your experience horseback with these stretches and exercises.

For The American Quarter Horse Journal

“Doing a few stretches on the rail before you get on will really help you feel connected to the horse,” Monica Brant says. “You’ll feel better, feel more energetic, and you’ll sit up straighter.” Abigail Boatwright photo

Have you ever had one of those rides when you just felt “off”? You might be surprised how much your horsemanship improves after a workout. Amazingly, riders find that they connect with their horses much quicker if they ride with their muscles still warm from exertion.

While it’s not practical to always hit the gym before you ride, there are some yoga stretches equestrians can put into practice before they swing their leg over a horse. Equestrian yoga is beneficial post-ride, as well.

To help get you into show shape, we put together a three-part blog series for equestrians. (Check out “Seven Drills for Correct Riding Position” and “Six Horseback Exercises to Improve Strength, Rhythm and Balance,” too.) Here, we focus on developing a secure seat, strong legs and incredible rhythm. Be sure to click each link for more information on how to succeed at that exercise.

  1. First, understand the muscles riders use horseback. The inner thigh muscles (adductors) are stretched. Hips and outer thighs are abducted and shortened. Your upper body will be stabilizing (core muscles engage in an isometric manner) just to maintain good posture.
  1. Prep your mind and body with this breathing exercise. It’ll get you mentally prepared for the other exercises, plus riding. Amazingly, your muscles will get warmed up, too. It’s a win-win.
  1. Start with dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches are exercises in motion, such as leg swings, swinging your arms in circles or skipping. This type of stretching wakes up cold muscles and gets your blood pumping.

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  1. Then move into static stretches. Here, you hold a position – while breathing regularly – for a set amount of time to encourage lengthening and flexibility.
  1. Get into the swing of leg swings. Leg swings are ideal for pre-riding because they stretch out your abductor and adductor muscles in your thighs, your hips and hip flexor muscles and the ilotibial bands down the sides of your legs.
  1. Counteract your stooped shoulders with chest and shoulder stretches. Spending hours working at a computer desk or driving every day results in poor posture and stooped shoulders – neither of which is helpful for riding.
  1. Make your back, shoulders and stomach muscles work together. For this back stretch, face a rail or door and grab hold with both hands. Bend from the waist until your head is between your arms and stretch one leg back to add resistance. Hold for desired amount of time. Repeat with opposite leg.
  1. Wake your body up with yoga salutations. Through these circuits, you create awareness of your movements and preparing yourself for riding.

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  1. Open up your hips in this kneeling hip stretch. Opening up your hips is one of the most important things you can do pre-ride. Not only will this stretch increase your flexibility, but it stretches out your inner thigh muscles and glutes.
  1. Add in this quadriceps/hip-flexor stretch.
  1. Try this side-lying stretch. Do this every day, holding for 15 to 30 seconds, and you will see marked improvement in your range of motion.
  1. Keep stretching part of your regular routine. Ideally, doing a little stretching every day for even five minutes will help your body. Especially before you ride, taking a few minutes to prepare your body will improve your experience.