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B.F.F Rider Challenge and Clinic: Ground work for the horse and rider

Is one stirrup longer than the other? Do you have a strong side? Is your horse chronically lame or sore? Are you chronically lame or sore? Then it's time to take a look at you and your horse from the ground up. Take one of the clinics or join the on-going Challenge.

The B.F.F. Rider Challenge is a point based incentive program to reward the rider for taking care of themselves.

Here's how it works: Points have been assigned to various activities that will make the equestrian athlete more well rounded.Such as:

Once the rider has reached the chosen amount of points, he/she simply mails in the tracking form and the requested incentive prize is received! It's easy, fun, and most importantly benefits you and your horse! It doesn't get much better than that. Read below for more information on the benefit of cross training to improve your riding.

For $15 dollars you can earn a $75 incentive prize and become a Balanced, Fit and Flexible Rider.

Strenghtening

Why should I train as an athlete?

Riding uses specific muscles and different movement patterns unlike any other sport. Simply participating in a sport is not enough to get or keep you fit- especially in riding. Riding is considered a sport; therefore, you need to train like the athlete you are! It has been well documented that the well- conditioned athlete is better able to handle the repeated stress of their sport. Additionally a well- conditioned athlete can recover more quickly from an injury and in some cases not sustain as many or severe injuries. Proper conditioning of the horse and the rider is fundamental to predictable communication and execution.

Why should I participate in off-horse strength training?

Participating in off- horse strength training allows you to focus on learning and performing the correct version of various strength training moves. Understanding what exercise develops which muscle is an additional component. Once a move is learned, the rider is better able to acknowledge that muscle and understand its importance and use as it relates to horse handling. Focusing on these and other areas such as mind-muscle connection, muscle memory and developing physical stamina is more effective when you can hone these skills while out of the saddle.

What type of strength training and cardiovascular exercise should I perform and how often should I do it?

Utilizing light weights such as dumbbells or rubber tubing/ bands are the most effective and easiest way to increase strength and muscular endurance. Using dumbbells allows the rider to train each muscle with a multitude of exercises and challenges their balance. What commonly is recommended for riders is low weight, high repetition lifting regimes performed three times weekly. Riding involves complete muscle involvement so preferably all of the major muscles of the arms, back, chest, legs, shoulders and core should be trained in all planes of flexion/extension, abduction/adduction, and internal/external rotation.

Incorporating a cardiovascular workout into your program for 20 minutes 2-3x week will develop your stamina to ride during long training sessions or trail rides. A healthy cardiovascular system will also supply oxygen rich blood to your muscles and organs keeping them energized, flexible, and well nourished. Try running with your horse, jumping over hurdles, play a game of basketball, soccer or tennis, or ride your bike. Always start slow and gradually increase time and speed.

What benefits will I gain from strength training and cardiovascular workouts?

Benefits of strength training and cardiovascular workouts are:

How will strength training improve my abilities on the horse?

Like sport-specific conditioning in other fields, off-horse fitness for the equestrian athlete enhances neuromuscular development and overall physical ability that have a direct impact on your sport performance. Improve arm strength so you can deal with checking, half-halting and turning your horse. Develop a strong back and shoulders to help hold your position in the saddle and aid in balance and control of the horse. Enhance the strength of the chest and you will improve upper body posture and better control of reins. Strengthen your butt and lower back so you can assist in stopping, jumping and controlling your horse. Increase core strength to avoid muscle soreness and back pain from spending long periods in a sitting trot, controlled canter, or when a horse makes a sudden movement sideways. By enhancing leg power you will assist your ability to perform the inward squeeze of muscles that are important in keeping a horse moving smoothly; controlling your balance while moving and making the horse and rider one unit of movement.

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Flexibility and Body Alignment

What benefit is yoga to an equestrian?

The benefits of yoga to an equestrian are many.

How can I get myself more structurally aligned?

Myofascial Release realigns the body and changes your tissue memory. Imagine your body like a car. If the alignment goes out in a car, moving forward in a straight line requires quite a bit of correction by the driver. Horseback riding is no different. If the rider is out of alignment, the horse will struggle to move forward, backwards, and to the side without significant amounts of compensation. Yoga, Tia Chi, Chi Gong, stretching, and exercising the body equally on each side is the first step to attaining symmetry in the body.

Sometimes, like when you fall off your horse or sustain a jolting impact, this is not enough and you need the hands of a skilled professional to adjust your body back into alignment. Myofascial release (MFR) is a gentle hands on technique combining stretching and deep tissue release and elongation to naturally realign the body by releasing fascial restrictions and unconscious holding patterns. Techniques such as chiropractics, the Alexander technique, and acupuncture also facilitate structural alignment in the body.

For more information visit MFR for the Equestrian.

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Mental Clarity and Calmness

How will being more focused improve my riding ability?

When the rider is alert, calm, able to process information in regards to their surroundings, and anticipate their horse's behavior and moves, they stay safe and prepared. If I'm in the woods and see an animal ahead, I have time to react before my horse spooks. If I am in the show ring, I want to be able to drown out the background noise so I can focus on the clear, concise communication between my horse and myself. Most importantly, your horse can sense when you are not grounded and present in the moment. Your cues get blurred and you get frustrated with the horse. Basically, the horse will take on your frame of mind. So set a good example for your horse.

How can I be more focused and calm while I ride?

Yoga is the perfect answer to improving your ability to be focused and grounded.

We recommend spending at least 5 minutes prior to mounting your horse visualizing the interaction you want to happen between you and your horse. Set goals for yourself and your horse to keep you organized and motivated. At home, take 20 minutes a few times a week to meditate, clear your mind, and organize your thoughts. And always practice and use your deep belly breath to center and ground yourself in the present moment.

Using visualization provides a structure and a goal for riding. Prior to mounting the horse, the rider should picture what they want to accomplish with the horse. The rider then creates a positive frame of mind increasing the likely hood of having a flawless, enjoyable rider. After using visualization or meditation, the rider will be more apt to concentrate on their present actions than on distractions around them while they ride. This also helps them get into their focused "zone."

Another technique to staying focused and calm is to find a focal point and breath with your diaphram . Beginning this off the ground and practicing it throughout your day will increase the muscle tissue memory for use in those stressful situations.

Practicing yoga is a great way to begin the process of learning how to remain attentive and calm. During yoga, riders learn different ways of breathing to fit various situations, visualizations to envision their perfect ride, and finding a focal point to increase their balance and level of attention.

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Nutritional Impact

How does eating healthy foods effect my riding?

Food is energy. Feeding your body the right foods and at the right intervals will keep a steady flow of energy in your body. Eating the "wrong" foods can cause drops in blood sugar levels and can cause drops in energy levels. In addition, eating a variety of foods is like a support system...nutrients in one food may be needed for your body to properly metabolize another food. It’s also important to eat healthy foods to maintain a healthy weight so you don’t carry too much weight as you are trying to ride your horse. Being overweight can cause poor flexibility, lack of stamina, an insecure seat and difficulty sensing the horse’s movement.

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Take on the challenge and join the revolution of Balanced, Fit and Flexible Riders!

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