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!
Whether you are a rider preparing for a move-up or a trainer looking to ensure your training program is well-rounded, the soon-to-be released USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is the go-to guide to assist you in navigating key decisions. Lucky enough, attendees of the 2022 USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) Symposium at Barnstaple South Farm in Ocala, Florida on February 8-9 will be the first people outside of the those involved in its creation to access this passion project that the ICP Committee has put two years of research and hard work into developing.
In 2021 Cynthia Smith recorded 536 hours and 59 minutes of volunteer time, setting the standard with the most amount of volunteer hours recorded in a single year since the creation of the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program in 2016. The record-breaking number of volunteer time earned Smith the 2021 USEA Volunteer of the Year title.
Tamie Smith’s year has been nothing short of action-packed as she packed up all 25 of her competition horses and made her way to the East Coast for the first part of the year before hopping on a jet to Tokyo where she served as the U.S. team reserve for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She then stayed overseas and competed abroad for a little while before returning home to the West Coast. While this year has been full of opportunities to show, her aspirations are bigger than just competition. The 2021 Bates USEA Lady Rider of the Year has been full steam ahead chasing goals in both her riding career as well as in her impact on the sport’s future.
Get to know each United States Eventing Association (USEA) Areas a little better in this new series, Meet the Areas! This month’s feature is USEA Area I which is comprised of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Founded in the 1960s, Area I was the birthplace of the United States Combined Training Association (USCTA) which was founded in 1959 and would later evolve into the USEA in 2001. In 2021 just under 800 members made up the membership count in Area I.