EquipilatesTMhas opened a new door for me. It’s a fascinating insight into how body and mind work together and influence each other. There is so much to learn and the best thing about EquipilatesTMis that it has allowed me turn my passion into my job. I would not change it in million years.
This is one of my all-time favourite exercises for riders. It has many benefits and I will try to explain them one by one. Most people have sedentary jobs or spend long hours sitting behind a steering wheel which makes the spine less mobile, ‘stuck’ at certain positions and less able to go with the horse’s movement. It becomes a poor shock absorber. This in turn will cause the rider’s body to compensate in order to cope with all the movements which puts more stress on the joints, muscles and ligaments, causing aches, pains and changes to the correct body alignment. Not to mention that it is also going to adversely affect the horses way of going.
I will start with the Basic Shoulder Bridge. The best thing about this one when performed correctly is the mobilisation of the spine. By focusing on peeling the body off the floor vertebra by vertebra we open the intervertebral spaces which allows the spine to lengthen and become more flexible. It strengthens the core muscles which help us to stabilize the body in movement. When doing this exercise for the first time with clients I find that it highlights the areas that are ‘stuck’ in the spine and over time it’s great to see how the mobility together with better body awareness and control improves.
Adding variations to the Basic Shoulder Bridge is going to challenge and improve stability of the pelvis and the trunk. But there is more. We are going to strengthen the hips, glutes and hamstrings whilst simultaneously actively stretching the quads and hip flexors. From my short videos you willalso be able to see how working one side of the body helps with isolation and strength.
When teaching any exercises I always make a big fuss about lateral breathing which is a very effective way of breathing-amongst other things it supports the spine as it allows for good core activation and makes riders focus on breathing while riding, preventing the breath from being held while concentrating.
Points to be aware of:
Points to be aware of:
As you can see there are lots of challenges in this exercise and that is why I like it. It makes people more aware of their body, how it moves or doesn’t, and where the ‘stuck’ areas are. Over time it improves spinal flexibility, core awareness and activation and which muscles may need strengthening, releasing, or just to be ‘woken up’. This is certainly going to have an effect on your position in the saddle (the spine being lengthened so that you will be sitting taller), the movement-your whole body will move with the horse, making you look like you are as one, and be a better shock absorber = less aches and pains. It is going to improve the aids you give to the horseas your body will be functioning more symmetrically and effectively. Always check with your doctor first if you have back issues. Simple pelvic tilts are also great for mobilising the spine and will prepare you for the Shoulder Bridge.
How to do it:
Begin by kneeling down (it might be a good idea to put a pillow under your knee) as if on all fours. Bring your right foot forward so that there is a right angle under your knee. Your hands will stay on the floor. Now start to lean slowly back as if you want to sit down on your heels. You will begin to feel a stretch in your right hamstring-stay in this position and focus on your breathing, trying to relax the hamstring. If you feel any sort of tingling/pins and needles in your foot you have gone too far and need to come forward a little. You can also increase the stretch by moving the right foot more forward. Hold for 20-40 seconds. Now begin moving forward, past the starting position until you feel the stretch in the front of your left thigh-this is your hip flexor and quadriceps. Hold for 20-40 seconds and then repeat on the other leg. Always do the stretching when your muscles are warmed up-after your riding, any exercising or a long, hot bath. If it hurts, you are overstretching!!