Do you have what it takes to be a rider? Are you up to snuff athletics-wise, or are you relying on your horse to do all the work?
I’ve devised a “simple” test for riders to try, to see if they meet what should be a standard for equestrians across the sport in terms of fitness level. This exam will test mobility, cardiovascular, and strength capacity in a way that all riders are expected to meet in order to perform.
While you may not pass this test, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep working at it. Unless you’re trying out for the next Olympic team and are on a strict schedule, fitness and health are dynamic aspects of life. Try this test every month for a year and see how your results change. It will be great motivation for training outside of the tack.
Task One: Strength
Rocking Plank — One minute — Make sure you don’t collapse through the body. A straight line must be maintained.
Dead Bugs — One minute — The low back should be pressed into the ground throughout.
Push-Ups (Knees or incline are allowed) — One minute — In good form, make sure the body stays straight and the spine does not collapse. If it does, youdo not pass this exercise.
Wall Angels — One minute — The entire back should be touching the wall.
At MINIMUM you should be able to complete these exercises for a minute at a time. The dynamic planks are excellent demonstrations of what our core and stabilizing muscles need to do during a ride, whether you’re completing a dressage test, jump course, or hacking.
Task Two: Cardio
Cardio Intervals — Two minutes at 80 percent effort and then one minute of recovery, alternating for 15 minutes.
Test this by finding a piece of cardio equipment you are comfortable on and bumping the intensity up as high as you can handle for two minutes, and then dropping down for one minute of recovery, and repeating for 15 minutes total. You can also do this without cardio equipment by running, or doing jumping jacks, jumping rope, or other dynamic total body movements.
Task Three: Mobility
A 3/3 Hinge— Using a broomstick, align it with your spine.
If you struggle to hold it there because of restriction in the shoulders, you lose a point. Now, with a relaxed knee position (don’t lock them), hinge forward from the hips. Have a friend or a mirror close by to watch if your spine hinges instead of your hips. If the broomstick leaves your spine, you lose another point. If there is any pain, take away another point. You should ideally be able to hinge to about 90 degrees, pain-free, from the hips with a straight spine.
A 3/3 Squat — Interval of five
Use a friend or mirror and go through five squats. Your feet should be approximately hip width apart. Do not go below 90 degrees for the purposes of this test. As you squat, your knees should not cross your toes, or collapse to the inside, and your back should remain straight (if you failed the hinge test, you automatically will fail this squat test). Your weight should remain in the heels. If you have pain anywhere here, you drop to zero. If you have any of the above movement compensation, you lose a point. Try this standing facing a wall. If your head or hands hit the wall, something is compensating!
A 3/3 Rotation – Both sides
Laying on the side with your knees bent up to 90 degrees and arms straight in front of you, open the top arm up to the opposite side. If you can get all the way to the opposite side ground with no pain or your hips moving, you pass.
This is guaranteed where many of us equestrians will struggle. 3/3 means that you are pain free, restriction free, and in good form.
** Not sure if you’re doing the tests right? Send a video or questions to katmahtraining[at]gmail.com (or on Instagram at @integrative_movement).
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Kathlyn Hossack is a Certified Athletic Therapist and Kinesiologist from Winnipeg, Manitoba dedicated to helping riders improve their movement.