Four Ways Learning from Human Sports Can Up Your Game in the Ring

By Dr. Tim Worden

As equestrians, we know our sport is tremendously different from most other sports out there, and it can be hard to draw comparisons between other athletes and ourselves. However, there is a lot we can learn from other sports to help us gain a deeper understanding of equestrian sports. Like a basketball player or a long-distance runner, horses are incredible athletes, and they need to be cared for as such.

As riders, we are athletes, too, and the way we treat our bodies is equally crucial to top performance. Dr. Tim Worden of the Equine High Performance Sports Group shared with us some of the ways that learning from human sports can help equestrians up our game:

1. Study how other athletes prepare for competition.

Understanding the similarities and differences between how humans and horses prepare for competition gives you a deeper sense of why we train horses the way we do and how you can improve your own methods to benefit the horse. Top athletes don’t skip the most important steps that are beneficial to their health or overall performance, such as rest and proper nutrition. Many professional athletes also take career longevity into consideration, which is a top priority for sport horses. There could be a lot to learn about how they preserve their bodies for the long haul, despite the high level of impact caused by performance.

2. Ask the experts in other sports.

Do you know a college coach or a current or former professional athlete? Ask them for tips on training, recovery, gearing up for competition, and other topics that could be applied to equestrian sports. Learning from human coaches and athletes who have had prolonged success can provide you with new strategies for handling pressure, managing relationships with sponsors, prioritizing health, and more. You can also gather information from a personal trainer, sports therapist, or nutritionist to learn even more about how other kinds of athletes care for their bodies both pre- and post-competition.

3. Do the research.

For every research article examining sport horses there are more than 100 studies published on human athletes. While there are certainly differences between humans and horses, there are also many similarities, so read up on how human coaches apply the latest research to their own athletes to get that winning edge. The Sport Horse Series, presented by the Equine High Performance Sports Group, does just that, pairing renowned experts from human sports with equestrian thought leaders to discuss the application of human sports focused research to equine athletes.

4. Study the change over time.

Human-centric sport training methods have evolved rapidly over the last forty years while some aspects of equestrian training have moved more slowly. By learning from human sports, you can apply some of today’s frameworks to manage equine athletes. Many modern sports medicine practices have resulted in far fewer injuries and have pushed the boundaries of human athletic potential, and the same could be accomplished in equestrian sports.

Learning from the top competitors across various sports is a great way to learn about optimum performance and how it can apply to equine athletes. Look at your favorite athletes from other sports competing at the top of their game. Research how they take care of their bodies, physically, mentally, and emotionally before, during, and after competition. While equestrian sports may still be its own world with unique practices and methods, all sports have the common goal of healthy, top-performing athletes.

If you want to learn more about the parallels between human and equestrian sports, and learn about applying the research and methods from human sports to equine sports, check out the library of courses in the Sport Horse Series. And be sure to follow the Equine High Performance Sports Group as they announce new topics, new speakers, and new discussions each month.

 

Five Alternative Fitness Ideas for Riders

5 Alternative Fitness Routines for Riders

Five Alternative Fitness Ideas for Riders

Anyone who has ridden a sport horse can make the powerful argument that what we do is, in fact, a sport. We laugh off those who say the horse does all the work because we truly know what a full-body workout it can be and the strength and conditioning required to execute the sport successfully.

But even the fittest of riders need to complement their riding with other forms of exercise. Football players do yoga to keep them balanced and focused. Why shouldn’t riders work on outside exercises that aid them in their riding? Many riders already know their preferred workout method, but if you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas to expand your fitness routine outside of the saddle.

1. Pilates

Known for targeting specific muscles and utilizing smaller movements in order to strengthen the whole body, Pilates can be a great workout option for riders looking to gain strength all over. Small, repetitive movements can help solidify muscle memory and help stabilize your muscles to be a stronger and steadier rider. Many Pilates studios are offering online classes. You can also find outdoor pop-up classes near you that foster social distancing and follow COVID-19 safety protocols.

2. HIIT

Any hunter/jumper rider knows the feeling of exiting the show ring completely winded, after a very intense, but short, two-minute workout. It’s hard to build endurance for those high-intensity moments since we can’t really replicate them outside of a show environment. That’s where High Intensity Interval Training can be your best friend (or worst enemy, depending on your workout style). Many gyms and trainers are offering virtual HIIT classes that help athletes get their heart rate up, recover, and repeat. These exercises feel like a ton of work. But they will increase your fitness level to a point where those jumping rounds will feel like light work.

3. Yoga

Though the exercises in yoga don’t translate directly to what you do when riding, the benefits of yoga are evident in many aspects of the sport. Riding is a mental sport, and being strong mentally is often equally as important as being strong physically. Yoga helps to center your focus, relax your body, and prepare you to take on challenges that lie ahead. It also focuses on strength and stretching, leaving you more nimble and easing any pain or tension that may keep you from performing your best. Yoga can improve your balance as a rider, as well, keeping you centered during tough situations. Horses also benefit from balanced riders, helping to resolve any imbalances the horses may have themselves.

4. Cycling

We all know the value of a strong leg and solid core for helping your horse effectively use its hind end and jump clear rounds. Cycling is an excellent exercise to help strengthen your leg muscles and engage your core at the same time. Because it’s such a high-intensity workout, cycling is a great way to get your cardio in. This will also help to increase your endurance in the saddle. Though cycling studios are mostly closed due to COVID-19, there are many ways to get stationary bikes set up in your own home, or you can buy a street bike that you can ride (safely, of course) through the hills of your city or town. Pro tip: after an intense cycling session, practice stretching deeply down through your heels with your feet in the “stirrups.” This will loosen your calf muscles and help you keep your heels stretched down next time you sit in the (real) saddle.

5. A personal fitness trainer

Doing the same workout every day or not knowing what workouts are best for your goals are common issues for athletes working without supervision. Personal fitness trainers are now more accessible than ever, so if you have specific goals that you’re not sure how to achieve, look into working with an expert. It doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment; many trainers will teach you work-out circuits to implement on your own, after learning how to do them properly and safely. Though personal trainers are on the more expensive end of workout options, their expertise can be priceless. So if overall fitness is an ultimate goal of yours, do some research about personal fitness trainers that have experience in training equestrian athletes.

 

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