Apr 27, 2020

USEA Podcast #256: Coach Sando on Rider Fitness for Performance and Safety

By USEA

"If your horse had to pick a sound rider, would they pick you?"

That's the question Tony Sandoval, aka "Coach Sando", asks as Nicole Brown talks to him all about the role that strength and conditioning can play, not only on performance but also on safety and injury prevention.

  • Nicole dives right in with Sandoval, asking him about his background and his philosophy towards coaching, as he did not begin with an equestrian background. Sandoval has been a collegiate strength and conditioning coach for more than 15 years but only began working with equestrians in 2016.
  • Sandoval’s motto is “redefining equestrian performance” – his goal is to build the most athletic, healthy, and injury-free rider as possible. This requires the application of a variety of different principles to address a range of variables.
  • According to Sandoval, fitness does not necessarily equate to performance. Without the proper tools and training, fitness won’t serve you to the best of your capabilities when it’s time to perform. Strength and conditioning training aims to arm athletes with as many tools as possible to achieve their objectives.
  • Strength and conditioning training is also an important component for rider safety. For example, neck strength is an important contributing factor for head injuries, and there are specific exercises that riders can train that strengthen the neck and reduce risk of injury in the event of an accident. Sandoval even leads listeners through an exercise to test the range of motion in your neck.
  • Sandoval was also quick to point out the mental aspects of sport and the importance of sports psychology. One of the strategies he employs for his athletes is called an “After Action Report” where riders have the chance to set goals and evaluate performance.
  • Performance at a competition is simply an extension of the habits you form during training, said Sando. That includes warming up. Sando suggests that taking even a few moments to warm up your own muscles can make a significant difference in your ability to perform in the saddle. He provides a couple of suggestions for exercises riders can do before hopping into the saddle to increase performance.
  • Sandoval closes out the podcast with a list of quick top tips:
    • Make time to train! Maintaining a routine is key to success.
    • Train to acquire tools, not to tone. Is your training giving you tools to perform? Make sure your exercises are serving you!
    • Work with a professional that understands how to give you the tools you need to succeed and keep you safe and healthy.
  • Small adjustments in everyday life can lead to big improvements in the long run!

Jam-packed with top tips that can be used on a day-to-day basis, we hope you enjoy this episode!

Want to learn more about Coach Sando? USEA members can read an article about him in the January/February 2020 issue of Eventing USA, but logging into the magazine archives in their Online Services profile.

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