Horseback riding is a dangerous sport. Equine care in general is dangerous. It’s easy to throw out your back when picking up hay bales or emptying water buckets. A rearing horse can clock you in the head during turnout or drag you across the dirt in their haste to head to the paddock. Working with a Maryland physical therapy clinic is one of the best ways to reduce chances of injury during any equestrian activity.
Stretching on a regular basis helps you develop more elasticity and flexibility in your musculoskeletal system. Over time, stretching creates appropriate posture, making you less likely to throw out your back when hauling around that hay bale. Stretching makes any movement easier and more fluid, lowering your chances of injury during exercise. This is particularly true if you stretch before and after riding.
Have you ever pulled a muscle getting on and off your horse? Stretching can help with that by increasing your flexibility. Regular stretching increases the blood and nutrient supply to your muscles. Increased blood flow and nutrients allows your musculoskeletal system to work more efficiently and better support your body.
Building strength via resistance training can greatly decrease your risk of injury. Also known as strength training or weight lifting, adding resistance training into your regular workout routine allows you to benefit from increased strength in your bones and soft tissue and higher bone mineral content. Resistance training doesn’t just add muscular bulk to your body, but actually helps you grow stronger bones and ligaments that are less prone to tearing or breaking.
A strong body is also less prone to overuse injuries than someone who doesn’t strength train. As an equestrian, we need our bodies to be able to take a hit and keep going. It’s guaranteed that we’ll fall off our horse at some point. Strength training ensures that you’ll be able to get back on and keep riding.
If you’d like to add weight lifting into your daily routine, check out a local Maryland physical therapy clinic. They can guide you on how much weight to start with and proper techniques. Even working on building strength just once a week can help you become a more resilient equestrian.
Taking Time to Warm Up and Cool Down
A good trainer will have drilled this into your head. “Every ride should start and end with work on a loose rein.” But in all my years at barns in Maryland, I have rarely seen equestrians warm up or cool down their own bodies.
Warming up with stretching and some light exercise increases blood flow to your muscles and raises your heart rate and temperature prior to riding. This helps to reduce injury by slowly ramping up the exercise intensity. Otherwise, you’re asking stiff and cool muscles to expand and contract rapidly– a recipe for disaster. A good warm up allows you a small portion of time to strengthen any biomechanical weaknesses prior to riding. For example, if your hips are an issue in the saddle, your warm up can include prescribed exercises from a Maryland physical therapist that will increase their flexibility prior to riding.
Fatigued muscles are prone to injury. The more tired you become, the faster you lose proper form and posture. This doesn’t just prevent you from communicating well with your equine partner, but also leads to a higher risk of injury due to poor equitation and lack of ability to stay on. Cardio fitness helps to increase your muscle endurance and efficiency.
Having good cardio fitness allows your body to efficiently oxygenate your muscles via increased blood flow. Efficient blood flow also provides your muscles, tendons, and ligaments with the nutrients necessary for optimum performance during a workout. When you add cardio fitness into your workout routine, you can expect your muscles to provide you with the support you need to maintain balance, resilience, and a successful partnership with your horse.
Flexibility can be tricky. If your body is hyperflexible you could find yourself with increased incidents of joint dislocation and a lack of balance. On the other hand, if you struggle with inflexibility, you’ll notice your muscles tire more easily, you’re more prone to overuse injuries, and increased wear and tear on your joints. Maintaining optimum flexibility is best done with the help of Maryland physical therapy clinic, where you can learn new ways to stretch for your particular issue. As an equestrian, it’s important to understand which side of the spectrum you fall on so you can work with a Doctor of Physical Therapy to maintain the right level of flexibility for your biomechanics.
Working with a DPT
A Doctor of Physical Therapy evaluates your body for inherent weaknesses and prescribes several different treatment strategies to get you back on track. Proactively evaluating and working to solve weaknesses in your musculoskeletal system is the best way to prevent injuries for equestrians.
Many horseback riders struggle with several different “conformational” issues at the same time. You may be hyper flexible in your ankles, but nonmobile in your hips. You can’t assume that one exercise or a generic online equestrian exercise program will be right for your specific situation.