If you have me on instagram (katmah1) or facebook, you’ll have seen these. If you don’t have me on either.. you should probably get on that!
I have recently started riding again, after a on and off two year break, and of course am practicing what I preach. As most riders, when I’m at the barn I mostly just want to get on the horse and go- but I do appreciate the value of a proper routine to get my body ready to go before I do so. I also know that the horse’s I ride appreciate it as well.
So, with time in mind, I’ve begun putting together short and sweet functional warm-up sequences that I’ll share with you as I get around to filming them. The first two, which cover all the basics of two or three movements that are key for us in the tack, will be featured in this post.
There are a few things that are important for a warm-up. We riders don’t necessarily need to go for your typical 5-10 min cardio warm-up, as often the routine tasks of grooming, tacking up, and other barn things get the blood flowing. Something that is great for us, though, is warming up the movement patterns we’re going to use in the saddle. Especially if you’re in the process of revamping your equitation, practicing the habits before you add in external factors like a moving, thinking animal will really go a long way in preventing injury, and enhancing performance.
Today we’re going to talk stable shoulders and mobile hips.
We’ll start with the hips, as the exercise itself gets the whole body involved. I talk about hip hinging a lot. It’s a big issue for a large population. We as riders use it in our posting trot, two points, and in various other tasks. Around the barn you SHOULD be using it whenever you bend over, lift, etc. This first warm-up movement is a variation of a squat. We’ve all done, or at least heard of, a squat. It’s a movement we as humans should be very proficient in, although most of us aren’t. This variation of a squat is designed to really cue the hip hinging back and down (with proper knee mechanics) and then up and forward- while keeping a strong core and stable shoulders, of course.
You’re going to start off with your feet facing the wall, a few inches away, hip width apart, standing up in a nice posture, and putting your arms behind your head- making sure the elbows stay back (**watch here that you don’t arch in the mid-spine). From this start position, you’re sitting down and back into a squat (as deep as 90deg, or as deep as you can maintain form). Knees should remain straight and track over the ankles, without collapsing in. Weight should transfer through the heels. Knees shouldn’t cross the toes- or touch the wall. Torso should stay upright enough that you don’t knock your head on the wall. Back remains neutral and core remains active.
Do 10-15 of these, then get read for the second part of the sequence! Standing in a similar position facing the wall, place your forarms on the wall, with the elbows at 90deg. You should be standing close enough to the wall to do this movement without arching your back.
From here, activate your core and the muscles between your shoulder blades, and then slowly slide arms up the wall (only as far as you can maintain a neutral spine), followed by slowly lowering them down. Do this 10-15 times, you should feel the muscles in your upper back working. The video shows first the incorrect way, and then the correct way to perform the movement!
Repeat that sequence 2-3 times before you get on. The squatting exercise translates easily to the same motion we SHOULD be doing when we post the trot or hold a two point. The Forward Wall Slide teaches us how to use the shoulder girdle properly, and stabilize, so our arms and core can work independently.
Record your horse’s reaction to you doing this, for added hilarity.