Yoga for Equestrians: Fall Edition

With summer show season over and fall holidays coming up, we all need a little loosing up and maybe a little extra exercise now that we’re not being tortured with sitting trots and stirrup-less lessons. It’s time to give your mind and body a break before the winter show season kicks into gear, and what better what than a little bit of yoga curated especially for equestrians? Our resident yoga guru & rider, Emilie Gaffney, is back with a yoga move that will help strengthen your position while you let go of all that horse show stress.

Take it away, Emilie….

This month we are focusing on the lower body.  We all know it takes some strong legs to really be able to use them as effective aids in our riding or at a minimum keep them from swinging about as we go around the ring.  No stirrup work is the tried and true approach to train our legs in the saddle.  To continue that work out of the saddle, try this month’s strength pose, Crescent Lunge. It can particularly help you develop the muscle strength needed to independently move your leg forward and back as you ride when asking your horse to move their haunches or shoulders in and out. 

Then we’ll give those tired legs a nice stretch while helping to relax the lower back with this month’s stretch pose, Happy Baby.  The inner thighs do a ton of work in the saddle.  Happy Baby helps to stretch those muscles, called adductors, while grounding the low back in to the floor to provide a great release. 

Start either in downward dog and step one foot in between your hands, or simply just step one foot back from a standing position.  To start, bring your back knee to the earth for more support.  Check to see that your front toes are pointed straight ahead.  Your back toes can be tucked or you can press the top of your foot into the floor with your toes pointed straight back.

Keep your front knee stacked right over your ankle so your shin is straight up and down and your knee stays behind your front toes. 

You can reach your arms to the sky or keep them at your hips for more stability.

Apply a little scissor action to your inner thighs by squeezing them toward each other front to back.

Allow your tailbone to reach toward the ground.  Hug your navel toward your spine to activate your core and lift your breastbone toward the sky.  Keep your shoulders stacked over your hips so you are not leaning forward or back.

If your arms are reaching overhead, allow the top of your shoulders to draw away from your ears and your shoulder blades to hug toward each other on your back.

Hold this pose for a 60-90 seconds and switch sides. 

Once you feel stable holding this pose with your back knee down, for more of a challenge, try lifting the back knee off the ground.  Come high onto the ball of your back foot attempting to stack your heel over the ball of your foot.

Without moving them, hug your back foot and front foot toward each other.  This will help create the scissor action in your thighs.  That’s the same strength you’re looking for to be able to intentionally slide your leg forward and back as you ride.

For even more challenge, start to lower and raise your back knee, pulsing between these two poses.  Exhale as you lower your knee and use your inhale to help you rise again. 

Perform an equal number of pulses on each side.

Now to stretch those inner thighs.  Come to lie down on your back.  Bend your knees and  reach for the outside edges of your feet.  If you can’t reach your feet reach for the outsides of your calves. 

Have your feet parallel to the ceiling and attempt to stack your ankles over your knees so your shins are straight up and down. 

Now gently pull down on your feet and feel your low back press into the ground. Allow your knees to slide to either side of your torso.  You can shift your arms inside toward the inside of your legs. 

Feel free to rock a little side to side, perhaps even gently extending one leg and then the other to whatever extend is available in your body where you feel a gentle stretch.

Don’t press the back of your neck into the floor.  Rather allow the natural curve of your neck to remain.  You can even tilt your chin toward the sky to keep the neck from flattening.

Hold for 60-90 seconds, taking long easy breaths in and out through the nose.

 

About Emilie:

Emilie Gaffney currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two dogs and of course her magnificent hunter horse Sible, and will be relocating to Arkansas this month for an exciting new adventure where she will be riding and showing on a new circuit. Emilie has been riding in some form or another since she was five.  However, this is Emilie’s first year back in the saddle and the show ring after a 16 year hiatus after college.  With an amazing horse and trainer combo, she has gotten right back at it, even bringing home some nice ribbons in the Green Rider and Amateur Hunter rings.  When she’s not at the barn, she is an active real estate agent and has also been a registered yoga instructor since 2012.  She will be bringing together her experience with yoga and riding to offer some simple things you can do to help stretch, strengthen and even manage stress specifically geared toward the amateur rider.  

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