Firstly, I want to address the question ‘WHY should I be doing exercises?’ The answer comes from my own experience of looking back at how I used to ride and how I ride now, after having spent four years learning about the body, strength training, conditioning for athletes and then applying it to myself. My friends noticed the difference in my riding and so asked which exercises would be of help to them. The posterior chain is a fancy name for the muscles going from the back of your heels, all the way up your body to the back of your neck. The muscles on the back of your legs, your bum, mid and upper back get lengthened and weak when you spend lots of time sitting or riding with rounded shoulders. This makes it more difficult to ride in an upright position and control the horse’s movement when going fast or over a jump. You know when you have a lesson and you’re exhausted because you are forced to keep a perfect position for 30-45 minutes; that’s because the strength and endurance of your muscles isn’t as good as it should be. These exercises are meant to challenge your body off the horse, so that when you get back on, maintaining a good position is easy. These exercises are (especially) important if you spend the majority of your day not riding and doing things like mucking out, sitting at a desk, driving, caring for children, studying etc. What you do repeatedly, everyday, is reflected in your body. So let’s take a look: Essential Exercise #1: Shoulders in back pockets (i) Standing or sitting (and especially on your horse!), focus on bringing your shoulder blades together and down (into you back pockets). (ii) Think about squeezing the muscles at the back and bottom of your armpits together (iii)Try to avoid arching your back and sticking your chest out. This is a small subtle movement. WHY??? Improves shoulder blade stability and upper back position (essential for keeping a good posture and arm position when riding) Essential Exercise #2: Single Arm Plank Wall Push (i)Hands and feet are shoulder width apart. Keep the legs and back straight, don’t collapse through your shoulders and sink your chest to the floor. (ii) Raise one arm and push it against the wall. Keep abdominals, legs, shoulders, back and bum nice and tight. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat the other side. Repeat 3-5x WHY??? Improves core control, shoulder, hip and lower back stability Essential Exercise #3: Overhead Squat Hold (i)Stand with your feet just wider than hips, toes pointing slightly outwards. (ii)Raise arms overhead, keep entire back straight - try not to round shoulders or upper back, look slightly upwards. (iii) Pull your shoulder blades into your back pockets (Essential Exercise #1), abdominals tight and lower down into a squat by bending legs, focusing on pushing knees as wide as possible and not leaning forward. (iv) If having your arms up is too hard, do it with your arms out in front. Hold for 5 seconds, repeat 10 times. WHY??? Develop shoulder stability, core control and leg endurance as well as a good posture Essential Exercise #4: Hip Thrusts (i)Find a sofa or chair and sit on the floor in front of it. Place your forearms on the seat of the chair, with your upper back resting against the edge of the seat. (ii)Bend your knees and place your feet hip width apart. (iii) Abdominals tight, squeeze your bum and legs and raise yourself off the floor into a upward plank position. Chest to knees should be in one straight line, with your feet directly below your knees. (iv) Hold for 3 seconds (bum squeezing the whole time) and then slowly lower your pelvis/bum back to the floor. Repeat 10-15x WHY??? Strengthens your glutes (bum) and abdominals, which helps to support your lower back (= reduce lower back pain). Essential Exercise #5: Single Leg lowers (i)Start with two-legged lowers. Keep your back straight, abdominals tight and arms in front of you if necessary, squeeze your bum and legs to make sure your knees stay pointing forward and don’t wobble in. (ii) Slowly lower yourself onto a box or chair (about 20-24” high) and then come back up with control. Don’t plop down onto the chair either! (iii) If two legs is easy, then gently lift one foot off the floor. Really focus on trying to push the knee out, look up and keep good posture – shoulders up and facing forward, core engaged. WHY??? Improves single leg balance and hip control; this is vital for a stable position on the horse, especially when jumping as the hips and knees must be controlled in a more flexed (bent) position.