Good mobility is key for being able to move efficiently in daily life & riding without any pain or discomfort. Mobility is defined as the range of movement available at a particular joint & flexibility is the ability for a muscle to lengthen passively through a range of motion. Mobility & flexibility are often coined as the same when actually your mobility & flexibility are different things.
As we get older, our mobility can worsen so it is important whatever age you are or training ability or riding level to put focus into your mobility within your training programme so you continue to move as well as possible. For riders, spinal & hip mobility is often an area of weakness & struggle due to years of sitting too much or due to poor posture. Despite the fact you are moving when you are riding you are still seated so your hips can become very stiff & tightened overtime from the repetitive action of being in the seated position hence why riders often suffer from hip flexor tightness, stretching them will help but you need to strengthen the structure too.
Having good mobility makes everyday tasks, exercising & riding seem far easier. If you lose suppleness & mobility then it can make the simplest of tasks feel like hard work. Including an element of mobility work within your resistance training programme is essential for all riders. If a joint is not moving as it should be or the muscles are restricting the movement available at that joint, then it can make performing certain exercises very difficult & in the long run cause poor movement patterns in your riding & also in everyday life.
You want to be focusing on moving well off your horse so that then when you add a 500kg animal into the equation your mobility & movement is as good as can be & not restricted. If you are restricted within your own movement or imbalanced you will only pass this on to your horse & can hugely affect the way he goes & moves & his comfort.
Having the ability to move through a full range of motion with good control is essential when it comes to your training journey. If you are looking to add external load to the movements then you want to make sure you are moving safely & executing movements correctly-if you are looking to progress then adding external resistance is key so this is very important. A lack of mobility can mean that you are not able to perform movement patterns correctly or functionally keeping good form which in the long run could compromise your movement & ultimately lead to an injury.
As our pelvis is the powerhouse of our riding movement & our hip structure suffers the most from the amount of sitting, riding & driving we all do in modern life this should be a big focus of your mobility routine alongside spinal mobility. When you are looking to improve your mobility it is key to be consistent, you are far better off doing 10 minutes every other day and working within your range of motion as opposed to forcing your joints to move beyond their current available range of movement holding static stretches, forcing joints to their end ranges.
As your mobility improves you will find your flexibility also improves as you now have the stability & strength that leads to improved flexibility, better ranges of movement & improved posture within both your muscles & joints. Focusing on dynamic movements is key, working your muscles through their active ranges & taking your joints through their available range as opposed to holding a static stretch moving the joint to its end range, as far as it goes. By moving dynamically you bring more blood flow to the muscle & get the muscle working & moving more through the available range & therefore you should find your mobility improves hugely.
For anyone who struggles with a particular exercise or a specific riding movement, I would always suggest you take a look at your own movement. Start from the feet up & consider your ankle, hip, spinal & shoulder mobility, are you moving as freely as you should be or want to be? An immobile rider only hinders their horse not help, so if you find that your horse always leans to one side or struggles with lateral work on one rein then it may be worth looking at your own movement first.
Keep it simple; go through a circuit with 3-5 exercises for 2-3 rounds, controlling your breathing & get your muscles and joints working through their available ranges & aim to do this routine 2-3 times a week. If you can consistently commit to a simple routine a few times a week within a month you will see huge changes!
Here are 4 simple exercises to get you started focusing on T Spine & hip mobility, I hope this helps!
1- Cat Cows-Sit back onto your heels & focus on moving through your upper spine
2-Quadruped T Spine Rotations; Bum to your heels & keep the rotation in your upper spine not letting your hips or lower back twist
3- Adductor Stretch to Gate Pose; Push your weight into the outside of the foot on the floor control your breathing & gently move in & out of your position.
4-Dynamic Lunge to Rotation; Place your back knee on the floor if you find your hip is very tight in the front, control your breathing & use your rotation to open your back