This week I am choosing to discuss physical wellness for the equestrian. In order to be an effective rider it is not only important that your own body is in alignment, but also that your muscles are developed in a way that prolongs your riding career. To me, a rider must first be prepared for the task that they are asked to complete. Secondly, a rider must be taught how to complete the task, which involves a rider comprehending how to use their body to get the horse to do something. Thirdly, a rider must experience the gratification of using their natural aids (leg, seat, back, hands, voice) in the same order to achieve a desired result while riding. These steps of learning how to be a more effective rider can be better facilitated through focusing on your own physical wellness.
Maintaining my physical wellness involves not only the nutrition program I am on, but also involves the other activities I do in order to insure my body stays healthy. I will discuss what I do that has helped my body remain comfortable through my life as a rider thus far, which is from the time I was 7 years old. I have had upsets in my own body wellness. For example, I was in two automobile accidents within 6 months of each other in 2008, which left me with mid back pain for a few years. I believe everyone is going to have upsets in their body wellness at some point or another even if it is just because you sleep funny and have a sore neck the next morning.
To maintain my own body wellness in and out of the saddle, I see a chiropractor at minimum once a month. The chiropractor I have actually knows a lot about horses and riding. The first visit she took x rays of my spine. Then, she critiqued my new patient x rays and noted points where I could develop more curvature in my spine, while noting other areas where my spine looked great. Initially, I saw her every week, then every two weeks, and now I go at least once a month for an adjustment. This schedule of being adjusted by my chiropractor keeps my spine aligned.
The second step I take to maintaining my body is a massage at least once a month. I go to Vis-a-Vis Skin Spa & Bodywork in Ann Arbor, Michigan for all my massages. With all the different, strenuous tasks involved in working with horses and in a barn, I have found it necessary to have a professional work out the tightness in my muscles, so I can not only be more effective on each horse I ride, but also so I feel supple in my body for all my daily tasks.
The final step I take to keep my body well is yoga practice. Sometimes, I can make one class a week. Other times, I can only fit in a class every two weeks or once a month. My sister, Kathleen, is becoming certified to be a yoga instructor and will be in town much of July, so I am sure we will be doing much more yoga together. Yoga practice stretches my frequently contracted muscles and helps me elongate my frame. This practice, like chiropractic and massage leaves me with a tremendous feeling of wellness that I benefit from both on and off a horse.
Each professional, adult amateur, or junior/young rider will develop a system of maintaining their body that works for them. To be an effective rider, you must find ways to align, stretch, and strengthen your body that enables your horse to perform work better. This system is an example of how I have preserved my own body wellness for my favorite task of training horses.
Find out more about Vis-a-Vis Skin Spa & Bodywork here
Read an article from Euro Dressage about full body awareness here