The vast majority of riders who compete at the lower levels of eventing are amateurs and most of them have “proper” jobs. After all, horses and eventing need paying for! Often, this means these riders work at a desk and are what strength and conditioning coach Tony Sandoval refers to as “desk jockeys.”
“Sitting in a chair for a long time means that certain postural adaptions occur so that you can sit there and work, but those are not good for your riding,” says Tony. “What can you do to make yourself aware of the way that you are sitting, so that you can start to do some stretches to keep things mobile and functional? Then you will be able to do good work when you are riding your horse.”
Tony recommends an easy set of four exercises that you can fit into your working day and your workspace. Do them and you will undoubtedly see the difference!
Check out this handy video which outlines the exercises Tony suggests, as well as the descriptions and benefits of each below.
1. Seated Chest Butterflies
One of the main contributors to rounding of the shoulders is tightness in the pectoral area. This is caused by long hours working in front of a desk or on your phone. Until you stretch out your chest muscles, it will be difficult to use your posterior back muscles correctly.
2. Neck Floss (forward to back)
If your shoulders round forward, it is likely that your head will lean forward as well. It is a cascade of muscular compensations that the body creates to make sitting as economical as possible; the problem is that it’s not so good for anything else. It also weakens the anterior muscles of the neck, which help position your neck in an optimal position and aid in lowering the risk of head injury. Performing this neck flossing exercise will alleviate some stiffness in the neck caused by prolonged hours of sitting, help reduce low back pain, and aid in proper posture.
3. Chair T-Spine Extension
Another important region to address when stretching is your thoracic spine. Having the proper amount of extension through this area will help improve movements like rotation, increase stability in the mid back area and aid in proper posture. This exercise assists in helping the mid-back area to create healthy extension, which will also alleviate any type of lower back stiffness
4. Half Kneeling Glute Squeeze
Many people complain about tight hip flexors and how sitting for long hours feeds that dysfunction. The first thing that comes to mind for people is to stretch their hip flexors using various types of exercises. If you sit for a long time the last thing you want to do is try to stretch your hip flexor. Instead, you should focus on strengthening your glutes to help make those hip flexors looser. The glutes are the muscles that lose their tension and strength because of lengthy hours of being dormant. So if you want to get more movement through your hip flexors, strengthen your glutes through extension. You’ll start noticing that your hip flexor will loosen up and have you back to riding optimally in no time.
This routine should not take you too long - it should be around 10-15 minutes, depending on how many sets you perform. Try incorporating this into your daily routine for maximum results both in and out of the saddle!
Hannah Warner wears many hats: student at the University of Kentucky, UK Eventing Team President, competitor, and head groom for Alexa Ehlers. Fitting in all of her roles and responsibilities into her day-to-day life can be a challenge, but it is a challenge that Warner finds rewarding. The college senior is working towards a business degree through UK's online business program, so Warner is able to get creative with her schedule to pursue all of her academic and eventing related goals.
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