Do riders really need to do stretches before they mount up? In a recent interview with Horse Network, performance coach, Steve Morris, of Morris Coaching in Calgary, Alberta says that the body is put under strain when a person has some muscles that are too short and some that are too long. By riding for hours every day, the muscle distortion piles up, especially over the years. Which areas are susceptible for equestrians? Not surprising, the hamstrings, the hips, and the groin. Why is your back hurting? “90% of the time it’s because your hip flexors are too tight, particularly in combination with tight hamstrings,” reveals Morris. By targeting these areas with pre- and/or post-ride stretching, you can help prevent muscle tearing and support the joints.
For hamstrings, Steve suggests combining a moving stretch with a stationary stretch. Hips respond well to a forward lunge position with your back knee on the ground.“You’re looking to get deep into a forward stretch across the front of the hip. You’re pushing your hip forward and down as deeply as possible, really thinking about the front of the hip being long and elastic,” he coaches. The more elasticity you can create in the groin, the less likely it is to tear. You’ll even find you have more strength. A muscle that has a good range of motion and elasticity is a stronger muscle,”
The groin is one of the most important stretches for riders as these muscles tend to get short and tight from holding onto the horse. Steve teaches a start with one leg out to the side in a deep static stretch to encourage the groin muscle to release.“The more elasticity you can create in the groin, the less likely it is to tear. You’ll even find you have more strength. A muscle that has a good range of motion and elasticity is a stronger muscle,” emphasizes Morris. “Finish with a Plié squat with the toes and knees turned out. You’re really trying to sit your bum deep into your Plié squat to find the groin stretch at the bottom of that.”
Other suggestions for your stretches:
- If you find one side is tighter, make sure you linger a little longer or “double dose” that side. For instance, if your left side is tighter, go left, right, left so it equalizes better. Your end game is to find symmetry and flexibility through the whole body.
- Find a time in the morning and/or evening when you might have a little bit of time to yourself so you can settle into your stretching more easily.
- You don’t want to protect and hold against any stretch. You want to be in a place where you’re comfortable enough that there’s a balance between intensity and ability. You want to feel able to get deep into that stretch and continue to find more depth as you go, using relaxing breath to help you get there.
- Repeat your stretch sequences in part or in sequence as often as possible.
“The more you can maintain yourself and keep yourself feeling limber and agile, the stronger you’ll feel and the less likely you’ll be injured,” Steve says, “so you can ride pain free and at the top of your game.” Sounds like this will work off the saddle too!
Discover more of Steve Morris’s fitness tips for riders at morriscoaching.ca.