GETTING YOUR LEG OVER
by Tracy Thompson, Endurance Rider since 1990. Tracy suffered a spinal injury in 1998, but with the continued support of her fellow riders and husband, Tracy has been able to compete alongside her son, Jamie and complete yet another 160km.
Many years ago I worked in a trekking centre and was stunned by how much difficulty people could have trying to get on the horses, with the more mature amongst them saying things like” I have lost my spring”. At the time I couldn’t comprehend what on earth they meant and suspect I was far from sympathetic but their words have now come back to haunt me and I realise I owe them an apology!
I have mobility problems as a result of a spinal injury in my thirties but have been fortunate enough to be able to continue to ride. The horses have been my sanity and provide me with the freedom to go places that I could never reach on foot.
Through my love of Endurance Riding, I have been able to explore lots of the British countryside and I am very fortunate that my fellow Endurance Riders are a great group of people and are all too willing to open any gates that I can’t manage from the horse.
Over the last few years, I have noticed a marked decrease in my range of movements and mobility. One of the biggest issues is getting on the horse. (When I say horse I actually mean 14hh pony but let’s not split hairs). I use a mounting block and provided the pony stands still I can just about launch myself into the saddle. This is a far from an elegant procedure and often involves a little swearing and cursing. If for any reason I have to get off I am completely stuck and have to hover about hoping some well-meaning hiker will take pity and hoik me into the saddle.
At the start of 2019, I was feeling pretty despondent about the whole situation and was beginning to wonder what I could do to remedy things. A friend mentioned RiderCise® and suggested it might help.
RiderCise® is the brainchild of Clare Gangadeen who is a rider, Soft Tissue Therapist and a Personal Trainer with much experience in the Fitness Industry. Using all her skills, knowledge and real-life experience with riding and training people Clare developed a series of programmes that are specifically designed to improve fitness, strength, mobility, stability and balance in the saddle. RiderCise® provides Online Programmes to riders at any level, in any discipline across the world, making Rider Fitness Easy and Affordable.
It sounded too good to be true but I contacted Clare to learn more and she explained how you can access her training programmes via an App on your phone and given my individual needs she was able to adapt the programme and was always available to help.
January 7th found me starting on the RiderCise® 9 Week Rider Challenge, which is something that Clare offers riders to allow them to see how easy it can be to improve their Rider Fitness, totally Risk Free! Not only do you get direct access to Clare for help and guidance when needed but you can cancel anytime.
Despite being useless with technology I found it very straightforward. The ‘Challenge’ starts at Foundation level and begins with ten minute sessions that are easy to fit into your day. There are a set of exercises with written instructions and a step-by-step video of how to do them properly; there are also a range of stretches. As the programme needed to be adapted due to my mobility issues, Clare took a very detailed medical history so she could customise the programme. She plays a very active role in the ‘Challenge’ and regularly messages to see how you are getting on. I have been amazed that despite messaging her at some random hours she still responds very quickly.
At first I found some of the exercises nigh on impossible but was surprised to find that each week they became a little easier. They focus on quality rather than quantity and gradually you increase the repetitions. They are something you can do almost anywhere, which makes it easy to fit into a busy schedule.
I did encounter a slightly embarrassing moment when I was doing the” Bear Walk”. This involves walking along on all fours and I was doing my best Grizzly impression around the kitchen floor. I had not put in my hearing aid and so did not hear the arrival of the delivery man. I had my back to him as I wandered around the kitchen on all fours and it was only when I turned round I spotted him standing at the door looking somewhat bemused. I inelegantly hauled myself to my feet and thought I owed the poor guy an explanation.
I told him I was doing an exercise programme and that it involved Bear Walking. There was a look of horror on his face as he practically chucked the parcel at me and shot off muttering” bloody hell, naked exercising whatever next?”
I was bent double laughing at the thought of him going back to the depot with tales of crazy women.
On a more serious note I can’t believe what a difference a few minutes a day can make. I feel suppler and my posture has improved, as my core muscles have got stronger. I love the way that the workouts can be moved around to fit in with your life and that the exercises are very varied so you don’t get bored. Clare manages to find something to challenge you and is so supportive. It’s like having a personal trainer at your beck and call.
Horse riders spend a great deal of time and money getting horses fit but we are inclined to be a bit lax when it comes to our own fitness. Recent studies have shown what a dramatic impact the rider can have on the horse’s way of going. Injuries and weakness in riders often cause them to sit unlevel and this can have a very negative impact on the horse. Perhaps we owe it to our horses to try and sort out our own niggles as well as looking at their problems.
The Truth about losing weight (fat)
So here it is. The truth about losing weight or body fat.
I have been in the fitness industry for over 15 years as a professional and have personally exercised and shaped my body for over 20. I know how to build muscle to give strength and keep metabolism high to maintain an ‘athletic physique’ and I know how to drop to >10% body fat for maximum muscle definition and shape.
Neither are achieved through some fad diet (yes they are all fad), magic pill or amazing workout that takes 2 weeks.
It is as simple as your energy out must be greater than your energy in but before I explain what exactly this means and how to achieve it I must say that we should refer to losing body fat not weight, why?
Well, when you lose weight you could be referring to losing muscle as well as body fat and I don’t know anyone that really wants to lose muscle. Having muscle has far too many benefits to want to get rid of it. Such as:
- Increased strength that makes daily life easier.
- Improved bone density, tendon and ligament strength reducing the risk of bone fractures and Osteoporosis.
- Increased metabolism – muscle burns calories for energy at rest!
- Reduced risks of the severity that can come from a fall and improved recovery from injuries and reduces general aches and pains.
Now to explain more about losing body fat and what exactly I mean when I say your energy out should be greater than your energy in.
To lose body fat you must consume less energy (calories) than you use in a day. This includes the amount of energy that your body requires to function as well as the amount of energy you expend completing tasks such as walking, riding and working around the yard.
There is a certain number of calories that your body requires at complete rest (say if you were to lay in bed all day) for your body to function (cell regeneration, organ function, tissue repairs etc). This is called your BMR = Basal Metabolic Rate.
On top of your BMR, you have the number of calories that your body uses to perform tasks as mentioned above and if you took in the same amount of calories through food and drink in one day that you burned at rest and through activity then you would maintain your current body fat level.
In order to lower body fat levels, you need to either consume fewer calories or burn more. It really is that simple.
The BIG Question: If you are consuming less calories than you take in and/or burning more calories through movement and exercise why are you not losing body fat?
There are a few things to consider, let me go through each of them.
Understanding of Input Vs Output
As equestrians, we seem to forever be rushing around and nothing takes 5 minutes when it comes to horses. However, we are not burning as many calories as we think or are led to believe.
There are some amazing memes on social media that trotting for 1 hour can burn 420 calories or something but who trots for 1hour? If you trotted for 10minutes in total in an hour lesson you would burn about 70-80 calories. Not even a Banana’s worth.
Also, you need to take into account adaption. If you muck out a stable regularly your body would have adapted to this form of exercise and once hard, now is fairly simple and can be done in max 10mins with not even one bead of sweat. As you are conditioned to doing this task, the energy required to perform it is less so you burn less calories.
Yes riding and looking after our beloveds can be hard work but do you do it enough and at a high enough intensity for it to burn calories greater than say 300 per day? I doubt many of us do unless you are a professional rider or a groom where you are riding/care for multiple horses every day.
This is a good site to find out roughly how many calories you burn when around horses: https://captaincalculator.com/health/calorie/calories-burned-horseback-riding-calculator/
Now, I am not calling people liars but I love the quote from House (Hugh Laurie) and it is true.
I often ask my clients to give me a food diary of a typical day and I am now no longer shocked when I see that all they have eaten is a banana and a bit of cake at lunchtime.
Upon questioning I come to find that the Banana (105Cal) was eaten whilst getting ready for work when they got to the office they had a yogurt (59) and a snack bar (150cal) they found in their bag and 1 cup of coffee and 1 sugar and milk (60cal). They weren’t feeling particularly hungry at lunch so had a fruit smoothie (130cal) and a pack of crisps (200cal) but come 3pm they found free cake in the office kitchen (what’s a slice – errr c.300calories) and by the time they had done the horses and got home they didn’t feel like cooking so had scrambled eggs on toast (made with butter, milk, 6 eggs and two pieces of bread and some more butter 950cal).
People frequently omit what it is that they really consume and I don’t know why exactly but I like to think that it is a lack of understanding of the values of the food that they are consuming.
When you take a glance of the above it doesn’t seem like a lot but it they are high in fat and sugar and on a ‘typical’ day they have consumed nearly 1965 calories most of which have little nutritional value (good protein, fats and carbs) and spent most of the day at the desk apart from the mad dash in the evening bringing horses in and putting to bed.
Now 1965 is not a lot of calories (depending on you as an individual) it is just an example of how ‘not a lot’ can actually be a lot more than you think.
I think it is a learned behaviour as humans to want everything now! And if in one week we haven’t seen a change then it can’t be working so we should change what we are doing.
This as a Trainer is one of the most common reasons why people don’t lose body fat. For many years I have designed programmes and meal plans for clients and after 1-2 weeks the client is ready to give up because they don’t have a beach body. I am afraid it takes as long as it takes. Yes, we can speed up the process by having extreme calorie restriction or exercising excessively but these methods are not sustainable and have consequences.
When results are not instant people start to deviate from their plan and think ‘ah the odd biscuit won’t matter’, or ‘I’ve only skipped one workout’, it ALL matters.
When you have a plan of action you must stick to it to give it the best possible chance of success.
So how do you lose body fat?
The first thing is to understand what your BMR is and how many calories you are consuming, every day. For this, you will have to be truly honest with yourself. You can read more about how to do this on my blog Counting Calories:
The second thing is to know what it is you really want to achieve. Losing fat can be anything from 1kg to 30kg+ but it may be more of simply just to fit into the pair of jods you wore last year. Without knowing what it really is you want, you cant plan how you are going to get there. You can read more about achieving goals on my blog 5 Easy Steps to Achieving Goals
The Third thing is to be realistic. Know where you are now and where you want to be, have a plan in place and stick to it. It will take you longer than a few weeks. It will take anywhere from 3months onwards until you start to see changes in body fat.
If you would like a structure plan and support why not contact me for a Athlete Rider Programme where we can achieve your goals together!
Pelvic position influences our seat balance and contact on the reins as also muscles tightness and overall body posture on the saddle. In this blog, you will find useful information on how to improve your position during riding. You will also learn how to differentiate two pelvic positions and their effect on your body during riding a horse.
Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT)
An Anterior Pelvic Tilt is when your pelvis is rotated forwards causing an increased curve in the lumbar (Lower Back) and an appearance of a ‘bulging’ stomach.
What does it affect?
When you have an APT the Rectus Abdominis and External Obliques (abdominal muscles) and Glutes & Hamstrings (bum & back of legs) are typically weak / lengthened muscles.
Simultaneously the Psoas, Iliacus (internal postural muscles), Rectus Femoris (quadriceps), Tensor Fascia Latae (Hip) and Erector Spinae (spine) muscles are strong and stiff.
What does affect riding position? – What does affect riding position? – RiderCise®
How does an APT affect your riding?
You will have a tendency to sit on your pubic bone instead of your seat bones and because you are sat more forward you will then further increase the already dominant arch in your lower back to bring your upper body back. This will reduce the suppleness of your shoulder girdle and hips, which may result in being able to obtain an elastic contact (give and take with ease).
Due to the tight muscles in your quadriceps and TFL, you will also ride fairly short to counterbalance your seat and torso position and feel perched and unstable at times. You will feel this most through downward transitions.
Anterior Pelvic Tilt visible during horse riding. Photo thanks to the courtesy of EquinePhotoDesign.com
A Posterior Pelvic Tilt (PPT)
A Posterior Pelvic Tilt is when your pelvis is rotated backward which causes the back to be pulled downwards giving the appearance of a [Flat Back and Flat Bum].
What does it affect?
When you have a PPT you would have short & tight Hamstrings (back of legs), tight abdominal muscles (no, this is not a benefit as it will also be pulling on the pelvis, upwards which will make the PPT worse), tight Glutes (bum), Weak Hip Flexors and lower back.
Posterior Pelvic Tilt – What does affect riding position? – RiderCise®
How does a PPT affect your riding?
You may find that you round your shoulders and carry your hands forwards and collapsing through the chest and looking downwards (think slumping in a chair).
You will often feel left behind in the saddle and you can rely on your reins for balance as you are not able to engage your core and left your chest high.
Because of the slumping type posture, the back is compromised and there is no ‘natural’ curve in the lower back which inhibits the spines’ ability to absorb shock. This can lead to pain over time and even compromise the structure of the spinal discs.
Posterior Pelvic Tilt visible during horse riding. Photo thanks to the courtesy of EquinePhotoDesign.com
Does having non-neutral Pelvic Tilt really matter?
It really depends on the extent of the tilt and whether you have any issues with riding and/or are suffering from some pain of some sort after riding.
More often than not, pelvic tilts occur over time from lack of exercise, mobility and poor posture. Because it is often gradual, we don’t realize the effect it has on us.
The pelvis should have the mobility to move through anterior, neutral and posterior but when it is rigid it can cause a number of issues from increased tension in the shoulders and neck to lower back ache/pain and you may even experience ‘Sciatic Symptoms’, due to the tight glutes (namely the piriformis) apply pressure on the sciatic nerve. This can lead to pain and tingling sensations down one side and have weakness in the knee and foot. This will, of course, affect your ability to control your legs.
Sciatica is only a condition is determined by MRI, otherwise, it is a symptom, which can typically be treated when the cause is addressed.
How do I know if I do have a Pelvic Tilt
It is often best to seek advice from a Soft Tissue Therapist or Sports Therapist as finding the anatomical structures on your body yourself can be difficult!
Watch these videos which explain a little more about how to test yourself or ask someone to help you.
Posterior Pelvic Tilt Video
Anterior Pelvic Tilt Video
So how do I correct my pelvic tilt?
To correct a pelvic tilt you should stretch the short and tight muscles and do a range of exercises to increase mobility and strength.
Below I have listed some exercises for you to try. If you click on them they will take you to a video on the RiderCise® Facebook pages which will show you how to correctly perform the movement.
Stretches for Anterior Pelvic Tilt
Leg Cross Over Stretch
Stretches to correct a Posterior Pelvic Tilt
Leg Cross Over Stretch
Seated Piriformis Stretch
Strengthening exercises for both APT and PPT
Are you looking for an easier way to correct a pelvic tilt and retrain the correct muscles with strength and mobility? I highly recommend you sign up for the RiderCise® Complete Programme offers a structured way to gradually increase fitness, strength, and mobility throughout the whole body.