Equestrians Master The Art Of Invisibility
One-day horse shows have a certain connotation with them; they tend to run longer, be slightly disorganized and are mostly less competitive. Barns generally use one-day shows to qualify for state and regional finals or to acquire enough points to be eligible for some of the larger national finals.
As the equestrian liaison at The Ethel Walker School, I felt compelled to watch our students show in the first competition of this academic year. We have students who have been training with barns across the nation and even in Mexico before they began riding with The Ethel Walker Equestrian Team, and today gave us a baseline to gauge against as our team embarks on the 2017-2018 training season.
As I watched trip after trip of hunter and equitation courses, from adults to juniors, I began to notice a trend. The riders who appeared to be more physically fit were able to produce more consistent jumping courses than those riders who had mastered the technical dissection of an over-fences class but lacked the fitness acumen to make the necessary adjustments while on course.
Today, I’m a jumper. However, I spent my entire junior equestrian career in the equitation ring. If I had to choose the most important thing to remember as an equitation rider, it would be: mastering the art of invisibility.
While you’re on-course, it doesn’t matter how you feel or what your horse is doing, your job is to make the ride you have, appear to be the perfect ride. Many riders mistake low hands and a quiet leg to mean soft hands and a light unbalanced. In truth, the only thing that changes between the schooling ride and the show ring is that your aids become invisible.
Part of mastering the art of invisibility is simply having the wherewithal to do it. The greater part, however, is having the physical strength needed to apply enough leg without kicking or twisting and to half-halt without changing your hand or body position.
Equestrians Need Some Time In The Gym
When you begin to think about training in the gym, you’ll want to consider these five things:
- Leg Strength
- Core Strength
- Back Strength
Leg strength helps you ride from your leg and support your horse to create a more connected and confident ride for both horse and rider.
Core strength increases a rider’s ability to hold their position and support their horse without relying on their hands. It also helps to cover up questionable distances by being able to hold a position no matter what your horse is doing.
Back strength comes in handy with stronger horses when a subtle, invisible half-halt is needed.
Posture goes hand-in-hand with core strength but takes it a step further as posture focuses on your position as a whole. Ballet and/or Barre classes are an excellent way to improve riding position without even thinking about it.
Finally, flexibility is important because it keeps your muscles from tightening and causing hip and back problems. Many riders become uneven and negatively affect their horse’s balance because their bodies are uneven or too stiff. My top recommendation for this is to pick up yoga at least once a week. It’ll improve both strength and flexibility, which you’ll be thankful for as your training intensity increases throughout the showing season.
Gym Exercises for Riders
Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions for each exercise. For each workout, mix and match the lower body, upper body, and core exercises to create a five to seven exercise workout with three sets and 10-15 repetitions per set.
Balance Exercises – Yoga
Lower-Body Strength Training:
- Calf Raises
- Leg Raises
*Use weights for an added challenge
Upper-Body Strength Training:
- Tricep Dips
- Bicep Curls
- Wall Balls (Total Body)
Core Strength Training:
- Abdominal Wall Sit-Twist (Use medicine ball or resistance for more of a challenge)
- Planks (Regular, Side, Single Leg/Arm)
- Reverse Crunches
- Bicycle Crunches
- Supermans (Lie on stomach with arms stretched forward and lift arms and legs up and back down)
*See more from University of Kentucky equestrian coach, Sue Stanley, on
Endurance Training with Cardio:
I am not a fan of cardio, but there’s no way around it if you want to improve your endurance and keep your heart healthy. Every week, I try to switch my cardio routine to keep myself interested and committed to a stronger, healthier lifestyle.
I hope you’ll join me in the gym! #equestrianworkout