Read This if You’re Sick of Hearing “Shoulders Back!”
As amateurs, we get away with a little more leeway in the realm of equitation and posture than our junior rider counterparts. Sure, we all want to look great on a horse (and maybe win an amateur medal or two) but we’re not about to spend hours in the saddle doing flatwork sans stirrups or stare in the ringside mirror wondering if our shoulders are back quite far enough – the mirror is for pondering if one’s but has gotten bigger or smaller recently, after all. And let’s be real here: we have trainers to yell “for the love of Chardonnay, put your damn shoulders back!” for our daily reminder. Isn’t that what those pesky trainers are for?
However, when it really comes down to it, posture is pretty crucial to any rider’s success. Good posture – which includes proper alignment as well as back and core strength – not only makes you look nicer in the tack and place higher in the equitation and medals, but also prevents injury, puts you in the position to ride correctly, and helps your horse perform their best. Working on correct posture for riding will help you in other areas of life too, believe it or not. Building strength and muscle memory during lessons not only pays off at shows, but also helps keep your back from aching sitting at your desk all day at work, helps avoid back strain while driving, and gives you proper form while exercising. It’s really a win all around. But naturally, we appreciate a good shortcut or two when it comes to keeping our shoulders back, abs in, and chin up.
You’ve probably heard of the ShouldersBack, or seen them around your tack shop. The all elastic support garment can go under or over your riding shirt and is invisible under a hunt coat (yay!). Designed by a team of orthopedic specialists, it helps comfortably realign the shoulders and upper back into the correct position. A lot of riders swear by it, especially for shows. It’s a simple posture trick that is also pretty easy and affordable. We’re into it.
The best way to realign & relax at the same time….Foam Rolling.
If you don’t foam roll then boy, are you missing out. We tote our mini foam rollers around to every show (and keep one under our desk at work) and use the full size ones for major loosing up at home. Foam rollers are a simple concept: literally a cylinder made of dense foam or foam rubber. Some are smooth, some are nubby, all all glorious. Foam rolling is also called self myofascial release, meaning you are releasing tension in your muscles and fascia yourself. Rolling on the roller can release tight muscles and knots and smooth out fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds your muscles), leading to better posture. Many of us have tight back and chest muscles, which causes backaches and rotatea our shoulders forward, which often results in hearing “shoulders back” yelled by trainers multiple times a day.
Check out this ARTICLE for a few foam rolling moves to start with.
The long game to strengthen postural muscles…Pilates, barre, & yoga
Riding is a sport. By now, we’ve all agreed on that. Whether you’re doing the AA hunters or 1.30m jumpers, it takes skills, training, mental toughness, and athleticism. Of course the degree of athleticism needed changes depending on class, jump height, and your horse, but one thing remains the same: we all ride better when we’re in good physical shape. Cross training can be a HUGE boost to riding, especially when it comes to building up strong postural muscles to help keep an effective and correct riding position in the long run. Some of our favorite types of workouts for equestrians of all levels are: Pilates (both mat & reformer), barre classes, and yoga.
All three build significant core strength which has a whole list of benefits when it comes to riding; namely better position, an easier time staying on when things get crazy, and looking long and lean in a hunt coat and those damned tan pants. Hip flexibility, inner thigh strength, and opening of the chest are also all incorporated and serve riders well.