Miss out on the supermodel gene? Yeah, join the club. Biz Stamm shares some stretches designed to help us make the most of what we’ve got.
The ideal conformation for a rider consists of a large leg to torso ratio. This is because, the more of you that’s draped over the side of the horse as opposed to perched on top, the more innate stability you’ll have in the saddle. It’s just simple physics. Unfortunately, the love of horses and riding is not known to be genetically linked to Amazonian style legs, so most of will just have to be happy “shaking what our mama gave us.” I think that’s what the kids are saying these days at least. Luckily by working towards achieving a correct and balanced position, we can become great riders regardless of our body type.
Today we are going to focus on using our legs to their absolute fullest potential, so that even if you aren’t blessed with a 40’’ inseam, you can maximize the amount of contact your leg has with the horse’s side. There are a few major muscle groups that, if not stretched regularly, can make your leg feel tight and constricted. So let’s start from the top.
Your hip flexors are muscles that connect your femur to your pelvis and contract if you want to lift your leg, let’s say to do something like a Kung Fu Kick.
While it’s an incredibly useful set of muscles, it can really get in the way if you’re trying to open your hip angle to drop your leg down underneath yourself.
In order to stretch your hip flexors, try doing some lunges. Stand with both feet together and take a long step forward with your left leg. Be sure your knee doesn’t close beyond a 90 degree angle. Keep the ball of your right foot firmly planted on the ground.
If you want to increase the stretch, drop your right knee down to the ground and press your hips forward. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat with the other leg.
Strong hamstrings are pretty necessary for riding, particularly if you jump or spend any significant amount of time in a two-point, but it’s important that we keep them supple as well.
For this stretch you’re going to need a belt, or some sort of strap. I’m sure a stirrup leather would work great! Lie on your back and bring your right knee to your chest. Loop the belt around your foot and extend your leg towards the ceiling. Use the belt to apply slight backwards pressure on your leg. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat with the other leg.
Yet another part of our leg we need strong, but a stiff calf will inhibit our ability to get our heels down and use our ankles as shock absorbers. To stretch your calves, stand on a stair or LOW ledge (the Cliffs of Dover, or the edge of the Grand Canyon would probably not be the best place to perform this stretch) with your heels hanging off the edge. Let your weight sink down into your heels and hold for 1-2 minutes.
This is a great pre-ride warm-up that will help get your legs long and relaxed, or a great way to wake up your body in the morning.
Thank you to my working student, Chelsea, for sticking around after her lesson to photograph the exercise demos. Photographer is not exactly in her job description, but she was a great sport.
For more equestrian-focused fitness fun, weekly challenges, healthy recipes, and more, be sure to check out the Fit to Ride Facebook page.
Biz Stamm is the 29 year old trainer and instructor of Stamm Sport Horse, LLC, specializing in pure dressage, as well applied dressage for riders involved with other disciplines. Originally haling from Hudson, NH, She is now living in Corvallis, OR. Biz started riding lessons at the age of 6 years old when the Dr. recommended that it may help with her bad balance and lack of coordination. While she is fairly coordinated and balanced on a horse these days, she is still somewhat of a mess on her own two feet.
Biz currently owns two horses: her lesson horse, Kalvin, a 7 year old half-Arabian gelding…
… and her personal horse, Alpha Helix, a 2 year old Kiger mustang gelding. Biz has had Helix since the day he was weaned, and considers him her “heart” horse.
Biz is also the proud owner (more like ownee!) of a 5 year old standard rex bunny named Pi Rex Rufuse (Get it!? Pi r-squared!!!). Biz has always wanted to have some sort of mini horse to live in the house, and since the current landlords won’s allow any kind of equine on the property, Biz opted for a rabbit, which evolutionarily speaking, is very closely related to the horse.
After getting a Masters degree in Plant Pathology, and pursuing a career in the scientific world, it became clear to her that she was only truly happy when she was interacting with, or talking about horses (and sometimes rabbits). Now that she is riding full time, Biz still keeps her scientific training close at hand, focusing on correct biomechanics and physics involved in riding.
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