Winter Training For the Rider

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

With the shorter days, dark evenings and less time on the yard, now is the perfect opportunity to spend some time on your own version of winter training! But why is this the new trend and how can it help?

We school our horses to guide them though the scales of training, to improve their balance, strength and suppleness, their collection and self carriage. Half halts are used for balance and concentration, lateral work for strength and suppleness and mediums for creating power. If I ask you which rein your horse finds movements harder on, I am pretty sure you will be able to tell me. If I asked you the same question about yourself - as a rider - would you find the answer as easy?!

With restrictions of full time jobs, other horses to ride, yard work to finish, lessons to teach and/or children to look after it's hard to find time to focus on ourselves as well as our horses. But do we understand how much our strengths and weaknesses can affect the way we ride, the way our horses go and the way they respond to our aids?

I refer to a recent post by one of my clients, Charlotte Dujardin CBE.

“Being stronger in our bodies and core helps not only ourselves, but our horses” Charlotte Dujardin CBE, Tryon WEG 2018. (

I did a little somersault of joy to see so many likes and comments on her Tyron posts about stretching and physio. Word is getting out that to improve our horses performance we need to improve ourselves. Charlottes' position is the result of years and years of hard work, which still continues today.

We can all work at improving ourselves just a little bit, to help our position, to improve how we apply our aids and to help our horses understand those aids better - we just need a bit of self awareness and commitment to trying something new! From a physiotherapy perspective I don’t care whether your goal is to win an Olympic gold medal or a prelim at the unaffiliated Winter Dressage series down the road - knowing how your body works, getting help when it doesn't work & knowing how to improve it can pay dividends to your riding at any level!

Try these simple tests to see how your left compares to your right... (all undertaken at your own risk!)

1. Balance on one leg (No holding on!) with the knee you are stood on a little bent so it's not locked out - see how long you can hold your left side compared to your right side. Try again and close your eyes. What happens? Which side is easier?

2. Standing on one leg, can you bend the knee you are stood on, lean forwards and touch the floor with both hands and then return to standing upright on one leg? Now try this on the other leg - which side was easier?

**Please be careful with this one if you have previous back, hip or knee problems!**

3. Stand with your back against a wall. Push your heels back so they are touching the wall, along with the rest of your body. Keep your feet together and arms across your chest. Now try to lift one knee up in-front of you, balance for a few seconds, place it back down, re adjust your position and try the other side. Which leg was easier to lift?

4. Lying on your back, with your knees bent and your heels close to your bottom - straighten one leg and lift it off the floor. Hold that leg there as you push up into bridge on the other leg. Try this 3 times on each leg. Which leg takes more effort to push up on?

These tests should have highlighted a bit of a difference between your left and right (everyone will be different & well done if you found no difference!). Try to relate this to your riding. If you found everything harder on the right leg, does your horse find it harder to leg yield to the left? To move away from your right leg? If you are not sure, have a feel next time you ride & see if it relates to the home tests!

I hope this has got you thinking about becoming aware of your strengths and asymmetries and how this could affect your horse's way of going! In part 2 I have teamed up with Georgie Tweddle from GT fitness, who specialises in fitness training for riders, to give you some easy ideas on how to improve on the differences you found today...

"If time isn't on your side and you don't have access to a gym, there is plenty you can do at home. Core strengthening exercises are a riders best friend & they can be done anywhere, and you will start feeling the benefits in as little as 4-6 weeks." Georgie Tweddle - GT Fitness -

If you would like a more detailed Rider Assessment, treatment and an individual plan to work on at home (on these long dark evenings!) then please do get in touch with me via email or have a look at my website for more information and to book on-line!

Thank you to Hannah Carmichael for being an excellent model!

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