Many of us are guilty of not stretching before we ride, whether it be because of time constraints or otherwise. It’s a great way to loosen up before a ride, but there are certain things that can be accomplished on the back of a horse that can’t be accomplished on the ground. If you have a well-behaved horse, stretching in the saddle can be a great way to start your ride, although sometimes people that do this feel more comfortable on a lunge line. The following are some stretches to try:
Leg stretches. Reach down to your leg, hold the toe of your boot, and pull back so that your heel is almost touching the back of your thigh. Make sure that you’re still sitting deep in your seat and not leaning forward in the saddle. I like to do this with both legs for about ten seconds each, sometimes twice per leg.
Leaving the reins on your horse’s neck, hold your hands behind your back. Push them upwards for about ten seconds, leaving your seat deep. I like to do this two or three times.
The jockey stretch. At a walk, bring your knees up towards the pommel of the saddle. Stretch your arms out towards the horse’s ears and hold the mane. Allow the horse’s movement to help loosen up your back and shoulders.
“Around the world”. Although this may not be a stretch to some, I find that this helps loosen my hips to help me follow my horse’s movement and get a deeper seat. Facing forward in the saddle, take your right leg and swing it over the horse’s neck so that both legs are now on the left side of the horse. From here, take your left leg and swing it over the horse’s rear so that you’re facing backwards in the saddle (a lot of people like to do this either halted or on a lunge line). Take your right leg and swing it over the horse’s rear so that both legs are on the right side of the horse, then take your left leg and swing it over the horse’s neck so that you are again facing forward. This stretch can be done in both directions, just make sure that you’re not kicking your horse as you swing your legs over!
Torso twists. Put one hand on the pommel and one on the cantle as you turn your upper body to one side. Hold this for about ten seconds on each side. Be sure not to pull on the reins while you do this and continue to sit deep in your seat, letting the horse’s walk loosen the muscles in your torso.
These stretches should help loosen you up for your ride. I like stretching while in the saddle at a walk because it also counts as part of my horse’s walking warmup. This gives them a chance to put their heads down and stretch out before we start the workout. Stretching is also a great way to ensure that your body is ready for the ride and it gives you a chance to focus on what you’re going to work on that ride. Allowing the horse’s movements to help you will give your muscles a stretch that they’re not necessarily used to, and it ends up helping your riding as well.