Five Stretches for Horseback Riders

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As equestrians, we spend a lot of time doing things to make our horse’s lives better, but how often do we set aside time to improve our own physical well being? And although we would much rather spend time with our favorite furry companions, a little extra time for self-care can go a long way. Even just a few minutes a day of stretching can increase flexibility, improve range of motion, ease aches and pains, reduce stress, and lead to happier rides! The stretches below can be done at any time of the day and should only take a few minutes.

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Disclaimer: As with any exercise, only do as much as your body is able to and stop if you feel pain or discomfort. These are stretches that the Riding Warehouse crew has found helpful, but they may not be suitable for everyone. We are not medical professionals and it is always recommended to check in with your doctor when starting new exercise routines, especially if you have any health concerns.

If possible, try to do some light movement beforehand so your muscles are warmed up.

Hip Opening Stretches

Whether you're a dressage rider, a hunt rider, or a western pleasure rider, you need to have independent seat. Hip stretches allow your hips to open up so you can move with your horse. Without stability and suppleness of the hips, riders either tend to flop around or be extremely stiff. These stretches are designed to open the hips, which can be difficult to do! Try to be patient, listen to your body, and do these hip openers on a regular basis. You'll eventually see a difference in your mobility and effectiveness of your balance and aids

Pigeon Pose:

1) Start out on all fours, with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips.

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2) Bring your right knee forward, placing it slightly behind and to the right of your wrist. Work to keep your hips equally pointed forward. For a more intense stretch, you can move your right foot towards the front of your mat so that it becomes closer to parallel with your hips.

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3) Slide your left leg toward the back of your mat and lower both hips toward the ground. Make sure your left leg stays extended straight.

4) Place both hands alongside your hips and take a couple deep breathes. This allows your hips to settle before extending into a deeper stretch.

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5) If comfortable, walk your hands forward to increase the stretch. Take a couple deep breaths while making sure your hips still stay balanced. You can continue to deepen the pose by walking your arms forward until your forehead reaches the floor. If your forehead doesn’t reach the floor, that is ok!

6) Press down through your front shin and back foot. Make sure you continue to breathe deeply and try not to tense any part of your body.

7) Take between three to five deep breaths and then release the pose.

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8) Repeat on the other side.

Figure-Four Stretch:
*This can be done as an alternative to Pigeon Pose or in addition to it for variation.

1) Lie on your back, making sure your spine and hips are straight.

2) Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.

3) Cross your right ankle over your left quad.

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4) Reach out and grab the back of your left leg and gently pull it towards you.

5) Once you feel a stretch, hold the position.

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6) Breathing deeply, hold the pose for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Spine and Back Stretches

Lower back pain is a common issue with horseback riders. Back muscles work to keep the body properly aligned, therefore keeping the rider firmly in the tack. Sitting the trot, riding strong horses, or strenuous barn chores can all contribute to lower back pain. These stretches are designed to loosen the lower back, neck, and even get into the hamstrings.

Supine Twist:

1) Lie on your back, making sure your spine is straight. Have your arms lay comfortable at your side.

2) Taking a deep breath, draw both knees to your chest. Wrap both arms around your knees and take another breath.

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3) Extend your right leg to the ground while keeping your left knee tucked. Reach your left arm out along the floor around shoulder height. Put your palm in a downward position.

4) Shift your hips slightly to the left.

5) Put your right hand on your left knee, and on an exhale, drop your left knee (the bent one) to the right.

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6) You can keep your head straight or drop your head to the left to deepen the stretch. If turning your head, gaze towards your left fingertips that are outstretched.

7) Your left knee may not touch the ground, which is perfectly ok. As you breathe, allow gravity to naturally bring your knee closer to the ground.

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8) Hold the pose for thirty seconds, or about ten to twenty deep breaths. Then, slowly untwist and bring both knees back to your chest.

9) Repeat on the other side.

Standing Forward Fold:
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This pose not only stretches out your lower back but also helps loosen tight hamstrings.

1) Stand with your legs at hip-distance apart. On an exhale, bend from your hips and gently lengthen your torso toward the ground.

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2) Your arms can either reach toward your toes or you can put each hand on the opposite elbow.

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3) Try not to lock your knees during the stretch. It is better to have a slight bend in the knees rather than lock them.

4) Hold the pose for one minute, and then release by slowly rolling upward with your neck and head coming up last.

Cat/Cow:
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This is a great pose for warming up your neck and back before a ride, as well as for releasing tension afterward.

1) Start out on your hands and knees. Keep your hands right underneath your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Your knees should be about hip-distance apart with your toes pointing behind you. Place your head in a straight, neutral position.

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2) Enter cow pose by dropping your belly towards the ground, expanding across your shoulders blades, and lifting your tailbone. Remember to keep your shoulders away from your ears, working to draw them down and back.

3) Lift your chin and chest as you gaze up at the ceiling.

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4) Gently release from cow and transition into cat by rounding your spine and shoulders while tucking in your tailbone.

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5) Between cat and cow, feel free to pause in each pose or keep a gentle flow of movement going – whatever feels best to you!

6) Repeat for 5 or more cycles.

*Bonus Tip: This pose can be practiced while sitting down, making it great for work and travel. Simply sit on the floor and press your hands against a wall or table in front of you, performing the same movements listed above.

Upper Body Stretches

The upper body is just as important as the lower. Crucial for proper posture in the saddle, the upper body plays a role in shifting the rider’s weight and balance. This directly affects the horse's ability to carry themselves. The stretch below is designed to target the upper body by stretching the biceps, shoulders, and chest.

Bicep and Chest Stretch:

1) Sit on the floor with your feet flat and knees bent in front of you.

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2) Roll your shoulders back and down. Aim to keep them in this position throughout the stretch, not letting them creep up toward your ears. Think about pinching your shoulder blades together.

3) Place your palms on the floor behind you with your fingers pointed away.

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4) Keeping your hands where they are, slowly slide forward until you feel the stretch. You should feel this in your biceps, shoulders, and chest.

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5) Hold for one minute, then slowly release.

We hope you enjoy adding these five easy stretches into your everyday lives!
 
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