For many of us, thorough stretching before or after a workout, including riding, always seems like the last thing to cross-off on your To-Do list. And like so many other things in that position (eh hem, weekly vacuuming resolution—we see you!), stretching has a tendency to fall by the wayside. But according to Accredited New Zealand Physiotherapist, Performance Trainer and Grand Prix dressage and international event rider Britta Pederson, stretching isn’t just for unfit or senior riders. It’s a must-do for competitive equestrian atheletes of every age group and level.

“Stretching helps our body to get ready for its job in the saddle. We need to be aware that sitting on a horse is not a ‘natural’ nor ‘neutral’ position for our bony or musculature structures. If we don’t take the proper pre- and post-riding care of ourselves, we set ourselves up for poor biomechanics leading to bad habits, and even pain,” Pederson explains.

“By keeping our musculature ‘long and strong’, we aid in helping our joints to remain in the most effective, unloaded positions, limiting the occurrence of posture-related injuries. Along with helping to keep our joints healthy, a supple body increases our ability to have quick, effective aids—a key component to our performance as a rider in the saddle!”

Britta Pederson. Photo credit: ©Sheryll Davies

What’s more, adding stretching into your daily barn routine doesn’t haven’t to be time consuming, or even inconvenient. According to Pederson, most riding stretches can be done anywhere and everywhere, from the mounting block to the tack room couch or even the wash rack. “Just riding is not enough for your riding goals,” Britta says. “If you look at any top athlete, they all implement specific training principles outside of their given sport.”

Here, Pederson shares five of her favorite stretches for riders with NF Style.

1. Hip Flexors & Quadriceps

What it stretches: Anterior hip and front of the legs.

The easiest way to do this, especially if you are ready to get in the saddle with your boots on, is to find a rail or the back of a stable chair or couch, of approximately hip-tall in height. Bending your knee, bring one foot up behind you and place the top of your foot on the rail (just below your toes). For some, this will be plenty of stretch to begin; for others, you can then begin to drop into a lunge position, making sure that you keep your pelvis tucked under in a neutral position throughout. The deeper you drop into a lunge, the more focus you will need to keep on maintaining a neutral hip position.

2. Gluteals & Adductors

What it stretches: Buttocks—Piriformis included—and inner thigh muscles.

A great way to perform this prior to mounting is from a standing position. Raise the leg of the side you are going to stretch up onto a low rail (just below hip-height). You need to flex at your knee and externally rotate your hip to lie your lower leg flat along the rail surface. You can then start to flex your torso forwards over your leg (hip flexion). The higher the rail, the more stretch you will generate, so if you are finding that you are too tight at this height, drop down to a lower rail!

Then, with an outstretched leg (knee fully extended), roll your foot inwards, so that the medial/inside surface makes contact with the rail. Turn your body to face away from your leg on the rail. Your standing foot should be pointing towards 10 to 11 o’clock (left) or 1 to 2 o’clock (right). You can then slowly flex your standing leg and lunge forwards, creating a good stretch of the inner thigh on the elevated leg.

3. Hamstrings & Erector Spinae

What it stretches: Backs of the legs and Spinal Back Extensor muscles. 

I like to combine these two—it’s like a 2-for-1 deal! Starting in a standing position, slowly curl/flex your spine forward, making sure to tuck your chin towards your chest. Keep forward bending, walking your hands down the fronts on your legs with your knees in a soft bend. Clasp your hands behind your knees and slowly start to straighten your legs to your comfort level.

What do you know about your Biomechanics ~ The Study of Structure & Function. Where we apply the laws of both mechanics & physics to human performance. Our role in Biomechanics for Equestrian Riders is to A) Increase Performance & B) Decrease Injury risk … luckily for us as riders we don’t follow suit of our 4-legged partners above 👆🏼🐴 and instead are stacked on the powerhouse structure of our ‘pelvis’ in the saddle. When we are looking specifically at the Equestrian Athlete, we study the forces exerted by both musculature and gravity on our skeletal structure, whilst both sitting in a saddle & undergoing motion of a moving horse! We can divide this into 2 aspects ➖➖ 👆🏼 Kinetics ~ The analysis of forces on the body & ➖ ✌🏼 Kinematics ~ The analysis of movements of the body 👉🏼 At Performance Physiques we Identify ➖➖ 💫 Optimal techniques for enhancing your sport specific performance ➖➖➖ 💫 Analyze and assess muscular recruitment, joint alignment and loading & neural length through a detailed muscle balance assessment system ➖➖ 💫 Analyze sport specific equipment in direct relationship with your alignment eg saddles . . . #Fit #Fitness #Igfitness #Health #Womenshealth #Performance #Physique #Performancephysiques #Physio #Physiotherapy #Physiotherapist #Physicaltherapy #Physicaltherapist #PT #Trainer #Coach #Wellness #Biomechanics #Alignment #Riderfitness #Manualtherapy #Manualtherapist #Function #Functional #Functionalfitness #Education #Knowledge #Motivation #Active #Activeliving

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4. Pectorals

What it stretches: The chest. 

Find a tall pole (or a corner of a building can work just as effectively!). Bend your elbow and flex/abduct your shoulder to 90 degrees, placing your forearm from hand to elbow (of the side that you are stretching) flat against the pole/wall. Gently rotate your body away towards your other side. If you need to increase the stretch, you can take a small step forwards with the leg of the side you are stretching.

5. ROM

What it works: The hips.

This is not really a “stretch” but more of a mobility exercise that is important for maintaining healthy, open hips in the saddle. Standing on one leg, ensure that you are holding onto a stable surface for balance if needed. Start by flexing your knee to 90 degrees and performing a set of 20, hip flexion/extension movements, moving your leg forwards and backwards. Next, flex your hip to 90 degrees and rotate it outwards in a circular motion; repeat for 20 repetitions on each side. Control is important for this and the range is what you are working on—not speed!

One Final Thought…

“Remember that it’s not just about your horse. YOU are a key part of your performance plan!” says Britta. “For riders, your biomechanics and alignment are key, and a good postural strength plan is just as important as your stretch rejime. The two go hand in hand, and one without the other will not give you the best performance benefits that you are looking to achieve.”

 

Britta Pedersen is a Registered and Accredited New Zealand Physiotherapist and Performance Trainer (BHSc Physiotherapy). For more advice on sport-specific performance training and physiotherapy for the equestrian athlete, visit Britta’s website www.performancephysiques.com or follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

-Photo credit: Sheryll Davies/Courtsey of Britta Pederson; Lucio Landa.