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how flexible do you have to be to ride?

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  • how flexible do you have to be to ride?

    Just curious to hear what people think regarding flexibility.

    So what are your thoughts? How flexible do you have to be to ride well? What do you do to achieve that? How much does lack of flexibility hold back a rider?

    Also interested in strength. How strong DO a riders legs really need to be? Arms? Etc. When teaching, how do you handle when a riders physical limitations are holding them back? Do you encourage them to do strength training etc. outside of riding? How does the rider know when they've "done enough" (as in, achieved "enough" strength?"

    I realize it's all dependent on the horse and the goals but I'm just wanting some open dialog.

  • #2
    I am a terribly inflexible person, specially for my age. I ride well enough. I am naturally a muscular stronger person.

    Comment


    • #3
      Riding well is more about "looseness" than flexibility. You have to be able to go with the horse's motion--many riders have the flexibility of Gumby but ride like sticks. To get loose, though, it does help to stretch before riding, after riding, and if you want to while watching tv at night. Not to necessarily gain more flexibility (but cant say its a bad thing), but to loosen up the muscles so you don't lock them up while riding....we have all been guilty of wondering why our horse is suddenly hating us, then realizing our elbows and shoulders have cemented in place!
      "It's great that you have a favorite animal, but how about picking a cooler one like a horse? Or a miniature horse?"

      Comment


      • #4
        According to my doctors I'm pretty flexible. I used to do (recreational) gymnastics and dance, so maybe some of that's left over. It's been more detrimental for me though, I think. I'm tall and long in the legs and torso and my back is the flexible part. My jumping position sometimes suggests that I have a hidden joint in my mid-back. Not cool.

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        • #5
          I'm not flexible at all. I've met brick walls that were more flexible than I am, but that has not stopped me from reaching most of my goals. Actually, I would say that my inflexibility has not stopped me from reaching any of them, but my occasional tendency to ride like a coked-up lemur has
          I'm really strong, though, and was always taught to be a soft rider from the moment I was riding without being in front of my mom.

          My crappy joints, on the other hand, have proved to be an issue as they keep sidelining me!
          http://www.youtube.com/user/supershorty628
          Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!

          Comment


          • #6
            I'm relatively flexible and I can't say that it has helped or hindered my riding. I think being more aware of your body and how it moves helps more. Although I have known a girl who was very very tight in her hip flexors and not very flexible who had a hell of a time learning how to mount and how to get the "swing" of the right leg going over. Pure weight lifting strength isn't necessary for riding, but endurance type strength (low weight, more reps) is pretty useful. Core strength is extremely important and I notice a significant change in my ability to do things when I'm working out.

            Comment


            • #7
              I don't think riders need to be very flexible. However, I agree that core strength is VERY important. I don't even think legs need to be very strong. I think the strongest part of a ride should be the core from chest to thighs. I notice a huge difference in my riding ability when my core is stable/ strong vs when I am out of shape in that area. When my core is strong, I am able to follow much more softly with my hips and allow my arms to follow properly. When I am weak in my core, I notice I get more herky jerky in both my seat and my arms. I think it happens because I am tensing things to try to control them, but when my core is stable I can relax and just let things follow and flow. I also have a better position jumping when my core is strong. When I am weak, I tend to pivot on my knee and duck. When I am strong, I can relax through my heal better and hold my upper body throughout the jumping effort.

              Comment


              • #8
                I am not, nor have I ever been a flexible person. Heck, somedays I'm lucky to get my own socks on! Yoga/Pilates class is an embarassment.

                I ride just fine. Over the years I have frequently received compliments on my riding from people who know.
                ::With age comes wisdom. Apparently "wisdom" weighs about 40 pounds.::

                Comment


                • #9
                  Add me to the non-flexible group. Gymnastics when I was a kid was a joke (I loved doing it, but as supershorty said, you'd get more flexibility out of a brick wall)
                  I am quite strong, although currently my upper body strength is much better than my core strength. Need to work on that.

                  I think strength is much more important, strength to be able to stay loose. Flexibility certainly may have its advantages, but lack thereof is not as much of a problem as lack of strength. Depends what you're trying to accomplish, too, of course.
                  Right now, I'd like to start taking lessons again. But I'm not going to until I've built up the strength to ride my very athletic horse for the duration of the lesson and not feel like a dead log at the end, lol. In my case, not riding regularly is the culprit as I get and stay fit pretty easily.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I almost think flexibility can de detrimental in certain situations. I know girls who are very flexible and ride, and they have to fight to keep things in certain positions (heels down but not so far down they slip right out, back arched but not over arched and posed looking.)

                    On the other hand, I am not flexible at all so once I get into the correct position I am stuck there

                    As far as physical strength, I agree with it being a lot about core. But as far as things like strength in a rider's leg, in my opinion execution can overcome physical weakness.

                    For example, I have a leg that is very strong physically. But with my old saddle it was up on my horse's shoulder and didn't help me at all. Someone with a physically weaker leg who is using it correctly is still going to get more out of a horse. In that same vein, once I had my leg under me I didn't realize just how strong it was and wondered why I was revving up everything I sat on. Again, there were physically weaker riders who could get much more out of certain mounts because I was being too strong.

                    So while strength is a part of it, for sure, I think effectiveness can overcome a lack of strength (to an extent.)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I also think that muscle ENDURANCE is as important as muscle strength. Like a sprinter vs. a marathon runner.
                      Adversity is the stone on which I sharpen my blade.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I am not very flexible at all and I think thats from riding all these years.
                        I love cats, I love every single cat....
                        So anyway I am a cat lover
                        And I love to run.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          My one comment on this is that hip flexor flexibility (psoas) is pretty relevant, and something I think a lot of riders unknowingly face difficulty with.

                          I don't ride currently, but when I did, I'd often have bad rides immediately after driving for a lengthy distance to get there. I'd just feel like I couldn't stop leaning forward, and I couldn't SIT on the horse. And my back would hurt until I worked out of it.

                          Year later, I got familiar with anatomy and figured out what was happening to me and many others. When you sit in a chair/car for a period of time, your psoas muscle in the front of your hips gets contracted. So, drive out to the barn for an hour, and when you get there, that muscle's very tight. Then try to ride, and the tight muscle keeps you from relaxing into your seat. So you tip forward and bounce (and likely miss distances consistently) until that muscle opens up. And your back hurts, because that muscle attaches to your spine, and pulls on your back when the muscle is shortened.

                          If this sounds like you, try a psoas stretch before your next ride, and see if it makes a difference. Here's one example: http://stronglifts.com/the-psoas-is-...ing-your-back/

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            What about the old hammies folks? Don't you worry about your heel depth? For those of you that are brick walls - can you at least touch your toes? I listen to clinicians like Bernie T and GM go on and on about deep heels but what if a rider just can't...? If you can't get a deep heel can you still have a good supportive base and be hips back properly?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I haven't tried to touch my toes for a while, but I suspect I would be unsuccessful. My heels go down just fine though.
                              http://www.youtube.com/user/supershorty628
                              Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I too am horribly inflexible, both from riding (adductors-no v-sit for me!) and a fused spine. My back does not bend for most of the length, and my lower back muscles are super tight. I can reach just past my knees However, this does not hinder my riding, my trainer still says that I am a beautiful rider, which gives me hope for the fact that I had to give up gymnastics with the fusion.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I just got up to see if I can touch my toes without bending my knees. Apparently, I can.
                                  http://www.youtube.com/user/supershorty628
                                  Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by M. Owen View Post
                                    I don't think riders need to be very flexible. However, I agree that core strength is VERY important. I don't even think legs need to be very strong. I think the strongest part of a ride should be the core from chest to thighs. I notice a huge difference in my riding ability when my core is stable/ strong vs when I am out of shape in that area. When my core is strong, I am able to follow much more softly with my hips and allow my arms to follow properly. When I am weak in my core, I notice I get more herky jerky in both my seat and my arms. I think it happens because I am tensing things to try to control them, but when my core is stable I can relax and just let things follow and flow. I also have a better position jumping when my core is strong. When I am weak, I tend to pivot on my knee and duck. When I am strong, I can relax through my heal better and hold my upper body throughout the jumping effort.
                                    Core strength, IME, is probably most important to getting that loose, fluid ride. If am weak, I tend to get tense trying to hold myself in proper position. It does not make my horse happy.

                                    I think I am averagely flexible. Though, as I reach middle age and spend more time at a desk and less time moving, I am slowly getting less and less flexible. I can touch my toes, touch my knuckles to the floor, and maybe with a little stretching place the palm of my hands flat on the floor. I can get decent weight in my heels, but I have never been accused of having them too far down. I had to spend a lot of time with my heels hanging off steps when I first got back into riding. I don't spend as much time doing yoga and pilates as I like, so every once in a while they will get tight and I will need to dedicate some time to stretching them.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I've been doing many different sports for my entire life (skiing, soccer, rugby) and I've found that as long as you're flexible enough to actually perform the movement you'll be fine for the sport....until something goes wrong. I'm also lucky to be fairly flexible (I actually have hyper mobile joints with extra stretchy tendons according to my surgeon) and have found that this flexibility has helped me bounce whenever something goes wrong. If you fall off and can't bend you'll be much more likely to pull or tear something than if it can just bend that way. I've always had a very strong core and riding since I was 8 has lead to strong legs. Currently I'm training brazilian jiu jitus and judo 8.5 hours a week and doing weights 5 hours a week with some light cardio added on top (bjj and judo also hit cardio). I'm lucky enough to have the time to put into the gym (think 4th year university student with easy course load) and I know that most people don't have this much time.

                                      I'd say, in terms of bench mark - what most riders should be able to easily do, type of activities, we should all have the core and body strength to do 10 push ups, 40 sits ups, 30/40 air squats and hold a 30 sec. plank. For flexibility, normal ankle range is about 12 degrees less than 90 and you should be able to touch your toes standing or sitting.

                                      With strength and flexibility comes a decrease in the likelihood of injury. Weight training helps build not only muscles but also joints and helps stimulate blood flow. I've also found that the stronger I am, the more aware of my body I am and thus I become a better rider.

                                      Hope this helps!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I actually find that I am LESS flexible in my dance classes because I ride. I feel like if I was a flexible as some of the people in the class that my legs would be too loose when I ride.

                                        Plus I am 37 years old - why the hell do I need to do the splits anymore? (yes - I could do it when I was younger, and NO sexual innuendo please! )

                                        Comment

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