Essential Exercise #1

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
(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.