Are you the most athletic rider you can be?
Everyone's goals differ. Riders train for many different reasons; some for safety, some for balance, some for aesthetic purposes, some to be stronger but ultimately everyone is striving for the same end goal.
To be the most athletic rider you can be.
What does that mean?
You have to be able to move well to be the most athletic version of yourself and be able to transfer that good movement into the saddle. Being the most athletic you means focusing on all aspects of fitness & movement and working to improve in each of those areas. Flexibility, mobility, speed, strength, power, balance are all areas you should be focusing on in your own training to be able to improve your overall athletic performance as a rider.
Many riders do nothing at all whilst some do pilates or yoga or HIIT but you need to make sure you are making yourself the best all-rounder you can be. Think about it, it's not like you just have dressage lessons with your horse is it?
During a week you'll hack him, school him, maybe have a lesson, do some polework & give him time to recover. You do all this work to improve him & work on all areas of his movement so you now need to apply the same focus to yourself as an athlete. Just because we are riders doesn't mean you aren't an athlete regardless of what level you train or compete at.
The first step to moving toward being more athletic would be to assess where you are currently at. How's your movement? Can you sit to stand without knee pain, keep your ankles in line with your toes, do your knees collapse inward? Can you do a core exercise and maintain a posterior pelvic tilt or does your back arch off the floor? Assessing where you're at is the first step to knowing what you need to work on. You will find what your strengths & weaknesses are and from there be able to set yourself up with a focused training plan.
Training functionally is key here. You want to make sure what you work on on your own feet replicates the movement you do in the saddle. You should be able to show good strength working through all movement patterns in different planes of movement, forwards, sideways, back etc & be able to move well through them all.
You want to prepare your body to be able to handle whatever an event or your horse throws at you so training for function is so important, let's be honest there's always bound to be a surprise! The more you train to replicate the movement in the saddle the safer you will also be. Inevitably we can't stop falls from happening but you can train yourself to make sure you are the strongest you can be so your body can handle these events & traumas when they happen. As a rider injury prevention is so important especially if you are a professional rider making your living from the horses. You can't afford to be off games so why wouldn't you train yourself to be as strong as possible?
Having an athletes mindset is a big part of the puzzle alongside the physical training. Many riders as I said earlier do nothing. Then they get a crap result, never improve, despite 100 lessons and wonder why? Learn from the best; why do you think Mark Todd did pilates? Why does Laura Tomlinson strength train?
Because they are athletes and they know to have the best partnership with their horse & ultimately win they need to work on improving their athleticism as well as their horses.
Stop treating yourself as a rider and start training yourself as an athlete. Warm-up dynamically for 5-10 minutes before you get on, (this one gets me going big time I'll address that on another blog). Make sure you've hydrated & fuelled yourself well the day before competitions. Make sure you have taken enough recovery so you are at your optimum at the event. There's many areas to work on to become the best & most athletic rider you can be but starting to learn where you're at and focusing on small improvements, one step at a time will work wonders.
There is a brilliant quote I came across from basketball coach Jon Beck and I couldn't agree more. Are you going to be a good player or a great one?
"Bad players don't take much seriously. Good players take practice and games seriously. Great players take warm-up, nutrition, skill work, weight room, conditioning, stretching, film, practice, and games seriously."
If you're not sure how to make yourself the most athletic you then reach out to a qualified PT & coach and ask for help!