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.

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