While our horses’ fitness is a high priority for most riders, not all of us take our own fitness so seriously. We’ve all heard “Riding isn’t a sport. You just sit there and the horse does all the work” but watch anyone try and walk around after riding if they have been out of the saddle for a long period of time. All riders should have a strong core, good balance and good general flexibility. Lack of fitness not only results in soreness and muscle strain at a time when you need to be performing at your best, but it can contribute to lower scores or even accidents when your body doesn’t respond precisely when you need it to, or starts to collapse with fatigue throwing off your horse’s balance.
After a number of accidents in the eventing discipline, the United States Eventing Association and the United States Equestrian Federation examined rider fitness and how it was connected to horse performance at their annual safety summit. One of the speakers, Hilary Clayton, BVMs, PhD, MRCVS, Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University, said “a horse performs better with a physically fit rider who controls his or her positioning. A tired, unfit rider’s lack of balance or unpredictable movement disrupts a horse’s rhythm and balance, and it requires the horse to use more energy.” http://www.thehorse.com/articles/21323/eventing-safety-the-question-of-rider-fitness.
Rider fitness can also affect the soundness of your horse. Most people are generally asymmetrical and although this can be corrected through training programs, when we are tired we naturally revert back to old habits. Reducing uneven pressure points on the horse’s back allows the horse to work more freely through his body and achieve a longer, more reaching stride.
A study performed in 2015 examined the effects of an 8-week unmounted rider core fitness program on rider symmetry (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/uwic/ujpa/2015/00000015/00000003/art00031). Although the researchers noted that further larger scale studies were needed, there was sufficient evidence to support the development of evidence-based, sport-specific equestrian rider fitness programs.
Equine Canada is in the process of creating an Equine Long Term Athlete Development Guide, whose goal is to develop a systemic approach to maximize participants’/athletes’ potential and involvement in equestrian sport. They currently have draft guides published for the sports of dressage, eventing, and hunter/jumper and are currently working on creating guides for most of the disciplines. http://canadiansportforlife.ca/resources/equestrian-ltad-equine-canada
There are many articles out there to give you ideas on different exercises that you can do to help improve your fitness. Remember to start slow and it would be wise to consult with a doctor or fitness expert to help create a program tailored to you and your needs.
To get you started, here are a few stretching exercises that you can do prior to hopping in the saddle: http://trailridermag.com/article/three-stretches-to-prevent-horseback-riding-injuries.
“Get fit to ride, not ride to get fit.”
March 14, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski
Personalized gifts are always the best to receive. Not only are you guaranteed a one of a kind item, it means the gifter put a lot of thought into what they thought you would most likely appreciate. If you are looking for that special gift for a barn owner, coach, or fellow horse-crazy friend, Painted Flanks offers some very unique ideas.
Tri City Horse Sports had the opportunity to chat with the owner of Painted Flanks, Rebecca Laforet, about her passion for creating these gorgeous works of art.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Rebecca Laforet. In addition to my 2 lovely daughters and encouraging husband, I have 2 dogs, 2 cats and 4 horses (can’t ever just have one!) I am based out of Georgetown Ontario. When I’m not painting I ride western, mostly for fun and in trails.
What is Painted Flanks and how did you come up with the idea?
I created Painted Flanks as an outlet for my love of horses and painting. I have one very unique looking gelding, so it is impossible to get anything that looks like him short of commissioning a portrait. Rather than do that, I decided to create a business that allows people to send me pictures of their horses, dogs and cats and have a totally custom and very affordable item created just for them.
What sort of options can customers choose from?
I offer many styles and breeds including classic, fancy, draft and Arab styles. The beauty of this is I work closely with an excellent wood cutter, and anything I can draw he can cut. Hair trimmings of horses can also be sent and used on flanks so it’s a really personal item. It started with just flanks (or bum) portraits, then I started offering heads as well. So really the sky is the limit. I’ve done really special projects like 3 legged dogs, chickens, even Cowboys.
Approximately how long does it take to complete a custom creation?
Creation time varies greatly. If it’s a simple bay or chestnut I can have one done in an hour or so, more complicated markings take longer. I’m very fussy on getting markings just right so that’s a monster of my creation.
Where can people see samples of your work?
Currently I operate on Facebook.com/paintedflanks and etsy.com/PaintedFlanks
How can people place an order?
Orders can be placed through Facebook messaging or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
March 8, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski
With many locations in southern and central Ontario reaching into the teens this week, it feels like spring is almost here. Although most of us would rather be riding in this gorgeous weather, we should take the time to do some spring cleaning around the barn. Here is a short checklist of activities to do in order to get your barn warm weather ready.
March 7, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski
- Remove cobwebs. Not only will it make your barn cleaner, it will make your barn safer. Cobwebs can be a fire hazard and with all of the barn fires in Ontario this year, you will want to reduce your risk as much as possible.
- Now is the time to go through your tack collection and figure out what needs cleaning, replacing, repairing, or giving away. There are lots of tack swaps this time of year so you could potentially make some money to put towards new tack while getting rid of the items you no longer need or use.
- Spring time is probably when your hay supply is at its lowest. Cleaning out all of the loose hay not only prepares the loft for when fresh hay comes in, removing any mouldy hay will reduce the chances of any of it spontaneously combusting and causing a fire.
- Go through your horse (and human) first aid/medical kits and throw out and replace any items that have expired.
- Schedule an appointment with your vet to have a physical exam done, vaccinations administered, and answer any questions you may have
- Take your truck and trailer in for a safety check. After sitting all winter, your rig may have been damaged in some way from either winter weather, rodents or general wear and tear from the previous season.
- Clean winter blankets by either sending them to the cleaners or doing it yourself. Cleaning and storing blankets will tidy up your barn aisles.
- While this should be done on a regular basis as well, take the time to check your fences, stalls and any other areas your horses frequent for anything that needs repairing. Spending the time and effort now could save you from dealing with any injuries later on.
Chances are if you live in Canada, you are going to experience a cold winter at some point. Even if you are lucky enough to have an indoor arena, you have probably experienced those weeks (or even months) of not riding. However, when the temperature starts rising again and show or trail riding season starts coming up, if your horse has not been in regular work, you will need to develop a routine to get back into it in order to reduce the risk of injuring him in the process. Imagine your first day at the gym after a long break. You may be all gung ho, but it’s best to work up to where you want to be slowly to avoid injury.
It may be a good idea to have your vet out to perform a complete physical exam to ensure there are no bumps, or lameness issues that could be aggravated in the conditioning process (much like you would consult with your doctor before beginning a new diet or physical activity routine).
Conditioning is not just about how far or fast your horse can go before breaking a sweat or start to breathe heavy. You need to work on a number of different body systems such as the cardiovascular system, muscular system, supporting structures, temperature regulating system and the central nervous system. Everything that you do should be done gradually. It can take up to 4-6 months for adaptations to take effect. Start off with low impact exercises such as walking and gradually increase time and speed (never both at the same time).
If you have a solid conditioning foundation, you will probably find that not only do you have a reduced risk of injury (and therefore less time having fun riding), but you will probably notice that you have a happier horse since he it will be easy for him to do the job at hand.
March 4, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski