I was asked this question when I bought my horse and was planning on hunting it 3 months after settling him into his new home.
“How are you going to get him fit?” ….. How would I get a human fit I thought. I would keep a training diary and write a regime, covering all the areas of fitness – increased endurance, increased strength, increased core work/ flexibility/ agility. I would use the heart rate as a gauge as to how fit the animal was and in what zones I was working him. On looking into this I realised horses and humans are animals and whilst having the obvious differences they are essential muscle, fat, bones, organs and water. They need the same dietary requirements of protein, fats and carbohydrates for the same things – carbs for energy, protein/ amino acids to build muscle, water to hydrate and keep the cells and lubricated and the body juices flowing. Food sources are different obviously, we need to eat meat to get our best source of protein (although it is debatable that we possibly eat too much meat). But we can learn a lot about ourselves from our furry neighbours and we can translate on to them a lot as well. Too much starch/sugar makes us both gain weight, but can in the process make us all “fizzy”or over excited. Hyperactive children most of the time could be sorted out with diet – more vegetables and less processed food. It is very real with a horse – because they can be out of control when over excited.
So on the exercise – how do I know how puffed he is – the perceived rate of exertion with humans is about talking to the client and seeing how fatigued they are. I can look at his demeanour or how much puffing he is doing, but to really know I need a Heart Rate monitor, then I can see when he is getting anxious, when he is tired, what he looks like when he is concerned – I can learn my horse much quicker.
So I spoke to Polar, we use their equipment in the gym. They have two different types of monitor, a belt like us – but this is actually quite hard to use with a girth and saddle or even a lunge roller. So they have devised a system with just sensors which you poke under the girth, which is also tricky because of the wires. The belt is cleaner, but it bridges away from the rib cage which is not round but kind of rectangular at the underneath. Anyway I have definitely learnt a bit from using the equipment so far and can now make my training more meaningful and more specific, the biggest thing i learnt was the flight and fight instinct of these animals – one can be walking along and all of a sudden the HR shoots up – he is in flight m
ode and ready to run from the lion!! I think our inter
retation can be interesting between a horse being excited and loving something like careering around with its friends and in fact a horse being terrified – they run when running away in a herd.
So when the Heart rate was graphed it was fascinating there were huge spikes. Anyway the point was that there are despite what people in each field would like to believe incredible similarities training a horse to training a human, in dietary requirements, not in dietary source – being that we are carnivores and horses are not, but also in exercise requirements and not in the “how” – that took some thinking – but in the need to engage the core and lift the abs and use the glutes.
There is a lot of discussion around seat and leg position in riding horses – the role of each, what one is trying to achieve etc. To strip away all of the detail what we are trying to do is sit on our horses back as lightly and relaxed as possible, to go with their movement whilst remaining in balance and not pulling them of one way or the other. If I were to sit on your shoulders and lean one way or another I would pull you around and possibly make you loose balance. This is what we are doing on a horse.
The aim therefore is to sit as lightly as possible using our legs, and stirrups to help us to stay on top of the horse, while using our core as our main stabiliser. Our own balance and stability keeps us there – we should not be gripping with our thighs and knees and hanging on to the reigns.
When we hang on to the reigns we are literally jabbing the horse in the mouth with the bit, which is at worst “cruel” and at best “not very comfortable”. This causes the horse to lift his head in the air sink his back and prevents him using his core and driving from the back end. I would hasten to go so far and pointing out that this can be a major contributor to soreness in horses backs.
Our trunk should be able to support itself. If we hold a weighted bar vertically it does not take much effort to keep it there – if we lean it even every so slightly we will have to grip onto it harder to hold it from falling down. This is the same as us leaning our body forwards from our hip joint (leg to pelvis) we will feel a substantial increase in core load as we do this – providing we remain straight and do not fold in the middle – as in the jump position in riding and to a certain extent going around a corner.
The second pointer is not to be gripping with our knees and thighs to hold on. If we look at various teachings we need to be at one with the horse, without being heavy. We need to be sitting around him and going with him without inhibiting his movement and “blocking” him. If we push into the stirrups we will lift our bum off the saddle and have a tense leg. Tension in our legs is hard and not comfortable for the horse, and one of the signals to slow a horse down is to “hold” or “block” them. To slow out movement and they will follow. With time the horse will become responsive to simply the movement of the pelvis as a sign to speed up and slow down.
We cannot be light on our seat if we are not balanced and clinging on. A good visualisation is that of our legs being like a clothes peg down each side of the horse and our body straight up. The area of strength is at the top of the arch, where the string goes through – our bum. So we stabilise from our bum. As the horse turns or we wobble we should be using out bum – our gluteus muscles to hold our torso above out centre, rather than centrifuging off to the outside of the bend. I think a good thought is to be pushing from the feet into the head – so lengthening the body and becoming lighter all the way through – not pushing up from the feet and lifting the seat off the saddle, but sitting taller and lighter. As if standing.
The key is in strengthening this core control so that we can hold our balance and be independently balanced on our horse. Only then can we use our hands and arms and our legs freely to guide and aid the horse with symmetrical actions.
How is it that top level athletes can change their sport and still be successful? Is sport about skill or is it attitude?
To be successful at a sport one has to have an aptitude to the sport and a plan of how to get there …. training regimes, mentors/coaches, mental strength, understanding of the hours to put in. Once the athlete has chosen a plan it is then about commitment – and probably commitment to listening, taking advice and going with it – immersing.
What probably stops many people from achieving big goals is possibly the fear of failure and so a lack of commitment to the “plan”. If one doubts the plan – one will search around for better options/ideas/other methods/fall backs and in doing this one does not ever fully commit to the original plan and wastes a lot of time.
Look at Victoria Pendleton’s journey:
For a start a similar action or stance is needed in the sport of road bike racing and horse racing – ability to cope and think at speed – ability to concentrate and be single minded and commit to the race. But then it comes to coaching and listening.
This lady had not ridden a horse of note before 12 months ago.
So how much of success is in fact diving in head first and getting the mind set right.
I was asked this question when I bought a new horse in July and was planning on hunting it 3 months after settling him into his new home.
“How are you going to get him fit?” ….. How would I get a human fit I thought. I would write a training diary and regime and use the heart rate as a gauge as to how fit the animal was.
On looking into this I realised horses and humans are animals and whilst having the obvious differences they are essential muscle, fat, bones, organs and water. They need the same dietary requirements of protein, fats and carbohydrates for the same things. Food sources are different obviously. But we can learn a lot about ourselves form our furry neighbours – we find similar things too much as well – sugar, starch and fats … should be in limited supply. Protein – the big question is always how much because we have to get rid of what we don’t need which is where it taxes the system.
So on the exercise – how do I know how puffed he is – the perceived rate of exertion with humans is about talking to the client and seeing how fatigued they are. I can look at his demeanour or see how much puffing he is doing, but to really know I need a Heart Rate monitor, then I can see when he is getting anxious, when he is tired, what he looks like when he is concerned – I can learn my horse much quicker. So I spoke to a contact at “Polar”, we use their equipment in the gym. They have two different types of monitor, a belt like us – but this is actually quite hard to use with a girth and saddle or even a lunge roller. So they have devised a system with just sensors which you poke under the girth. I have yet to try that, but have definitely learnt the merits from using this equipment so far and can now make my training more meaningful and more specific.
For more info google “Equine Heart Rate monitors”, for use and how to etc.
“Strengthening from the core … a study has shown that an unmounted rider core fitness program can improve rider symmetry and equine welfare.”
Finally a proper study shows the importance of posture and rider core fitness work on the ground is important to improve riding posture and the posture and wellbeing of the horse. Something I have bee saying for months. How sitting up straight is going to help your horses performance and ability to carry himself proper. Read more in the “Horse and Hounds” magazine, page 8, 29th Oct 2015.
There is such dynamic movement required to play polo. Control the pony, hold the mallet, rotate to hit the ball, and keep on board. It is essential that the rider is agile, supple, has full range of motion. The rider needs to be strong and injury free, so it is imperative that he is rehabilitated correctly after any accident or fall and is kept fully mobile all the time to avoid any injury through the sport itself.