Book Review: Fit To Ride In 9 Weeks!
Achieve Straightness, Suppleness & Stamina in the Saddle
By Heather Sansom
Trafalgar Square Books, 2016
Reviewed by Margaret Evans
“The rider influences the horse in ways beyond most people’s immediate perception, and the way a rider uses her body greatly impacts the way the horse is enabled or blocked from using his,” writes Sansom. “The new integrated structure involves both species in a way that goes well beyond the simple application of aids by the rider and performance of actions by the horse.”
And so it follows that a rider’s fitness is just as important as that of the horse. A fitness program to develop straightness, suppleness, and stamina in the saddle is essential to bringing out the best in the horse’s performance.
Heather Sansom’s brilliant book Fit To Ride In 9 Weeks, published by Trafalgar Square Books, brings it all together with a nine-week plan for riders of both genders, with a wealth of truly amazing illustrations.
Sansom is an Equestrian Canada competition coach, a Level 1 Centered Riding instructor, and a Canfit personal trainer and coach for disabilities. Her website is www.equifitt.com. “Regardless of the preferred discipline, level of expertise, training philosophy, or personal body shape, all riders do better when they take care of their bodies by doing activities outside of riding,” writes Sansom. “While riding is a great way to maintain an active lifestyle, riding on its own is not enough.”
Sansom points out that today, people are not maintained at a sport-ready level. “We’ve become so sedentary that most people are not at their best physical level for riding and, as a result, the horse must make up the gap.”
The first few chapters in the book explain the need for fitness and how a fit rider sits, moves, and aligns their core strength and balance. The how-to section sets the reader up for success and is followed by weekly chapters detailing the nine-week progressive fitness program.
Excellent full colour illustrations show positions of the rider, with insets of the skeletal and muscular positioning of the rider in the saddle. Those insets focus on the area of the body that the exercise in question is targeting.
“With stiff hips and a weak core, your body absorbs the horse’s motion in your back,” she writes. “Suppleness in your hips allows your seat to follow the horse instead of transferring the motion to the unprotected and hyper-mobile lower back.”
Many exercises are classic suppleness and strength training routines with the use of weights, balls, cones, and access to a chair, the wall or stairs. As you progress, some of the routines are going to get challenging – for instance, the side plank with full leg lift – but achieving acceptable levels will undoubtedly improve your body’s fitness, strength, and endurance to ride effectively.
Fit to Ride is a must-read for every rider, young or young-at-heart.