Three Pre-Ride Stretches for Equestrians
By Heather Sansom
By warming up and correcting posture before you get in the saddle, you are much more likely to be able to achieve the ear-shoulder-hip-heel alignment you are looking for and prepare your joints to better absorb the motion of your horse. Here are three stretches I recommend as pre-ride stretches to help a rider work out any tightness from sitting or driving during the day, or from a previous ride.
I repeat each of these stretches in smooth flowing motions three to five times before mounting and they take barely a minute or two to do. Do not hold the stretches or bounce as your muscles are not yet warmed up. Just flow in and out with a steady rhythm.
1. Pre-Ride Pectoral Stretch: Arm Rotation for Opening Shoulders & Chest
- Holding a dressage whip or lead shank, raise your arms overhead and lower them behind your back.
- The tighter your shoulders are, the wider grip you will need.
- This stretch opens up your chest and shoulders and makes it easier to keep your shoulders back.
2. Runner's Lunge: Hip Flexor & Hamstring Combination
- Take a big step forward and lower your body into a “runner’s lunge” to stretch your hip flexors. To get a better stretch, push your heel back on your lunging leg, lower your hips, and keep your body upright.
- Raising your arms above your head will further help the hip flexors to lengthen. In the next phase, straighten your front leg and tip forward toward your toe, stretching your hamstring. Switch leg positions and repeat the two stretches so that both legs are stretched equally.
- This stretching combination frees your legs to be a little longer and reduces tightness in your lower back.
3. Side Lunge
- Step wide so that your legs are about three feet apart.
- Shift your weight predominantly over one leg and squat down so that you are stretching the inner thigh muscle of your long leg.
- To get a better stretch, be mindful of your seat bones and aim to bring them closer to the ground.
Many thanks to my client Elaine for modeling the pre-ride stretches.
All photos: Heather Sansom
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of Canadian Horse Journal as part of "Building a Rider Fitness Program."