riding exercise, especially dressage

riding exercise, especially dressage

Post by Teresa Plyma » Tue, 25 Apr 1995 04:00:00


Hi All-

  I've been meaning to post this for a while....but you know how time
sometimes escapes from you! We have a riding instructor who used to live
here and comes back about quarterly. She has been studying human and
equine physiology, and riding exercise. She gave us a seminar on how
our anatomy works with the horses' in dressage, and what sorts of
exercises we can do to help us ride better. I will try to remember the
exercises and explain as much as I can remember (Tracy, what do you
remember?)

  Of course, tummy crunches are highly recommended. NOT sit-ups. And we
were cautioned to not cup our hands behind our heads and possibly hurt
our necks by jerking them upwards. You only need to raise your shoulder
off the ground to get the full effect. You should do a good number of
side-to-side tummy crunches also. As the horse must develop his abdominals
to do dressage, so must the rider.

  Lying on your side, straight, lift your UPPER leg, and point your toe
downward and inward. This strengthens the muscles that tie in at the knee
and wrap around to the bottom of the buttocks. All of us have overdeveloped
quadraceps (the big muscles on the front upper leg), so we need to stretch
these and develop the opposite set of muscles. To stretch the quadsn bring
the other leg back, grab that one by the toe with your other hand and
carefully bring it back to stretch the quads. Most folks cannot straighten
the upper leg. And do be sure to keep your pelvis perpendicular to the
ground, don't tilt. I try to do 20 leg lifts each side each night, and then
stretch the quads.

  While sitting in a chair, alternate lifting the toes to strengthen the
muscles at the front of the lower leg (the heels-down muscles). Apologies
to physiologists, I don't remember the names of all the muscle groups.
Also stretches the calves.

   While sitting on the ground, bring the knees up, wrap your arms around
them, and push your back out, then in, to strengthen the long muscles that
run down the middle of the back.

   Now let's see if I can describe this one: while standing next to a wall,
in case you need to grab for balance, lift one leg and bring the heel
across the shin of the other. Without really moving the lifted leg, pull
it up, against the shin. Feel the pull in the underside of your upper leg
muscles.

   Sit on a wooden kitchen chair, on the edge. Tuck your rear end using
your abs and tilt the chair onto it's two front legs. If your abdominals
are strong enough, it's easy. Repeat numerous times. No hands!

   Well, that's all I can think of at the moment. Several of us in the
group also run, so we asked her about that. Of course, running tends to
tighten the muscles rather than loosen them, but she didn't discourage
us from running as aerobic exercise, that you actually do, is better than
not getting any at all. But stretch before and after. I run 4-5 times a
week about 3 1/2 miles, and try to do 75 tummy crunches, 20 leg lifts
each side, stretch the quads, do the back exercise, each night. And I
have noticed an improvement in my seat and ability to use my muscles
more effectively when I ride. I am sure my descriptions are probably not
adequate, so I'm more than willing to answer questions if I've confused
more than explained.

Teresa

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riding exercise, especially dressage

Post by Imonics Developme » Thu, 27 Apr 1995 04:00:00


Quote:

>    What I remember from the seminar that was most fascinating to me
>was the description of the difference between male and female anatomoy
>with respect to riding.  In particular the fact that most women have the
>hip bones inserted into the socket at a different angle than men.  Because
>of this it is very difficult, virtually impossible, for many women to
>ride with that dressage perfect, toe-pointed-forward, long-leg, look without
>also tightening the seat to such an extent that following the horse is
>not possible.

Is there a medical person reading who can confirm this?  At this point
the sex of top level dressage riders is very mixed, with most riders overall
being women.  Are the women at the top level of the sport (with dressage
perfect seats) somehow different anatomically?

--
Michael Czeiszperger   | http://crsc1.math.ncsu.edu/~becker/czei.html


 
 
 

riding exercise, especially dressage

Post by Bruce Sa » Thu, 27 Apr 1995 04:00:00

Quote:

>  I've been meaning to post this for a while....but you know how time
>sometimes escapes from you! We have a riding instructor who used to live
>here and comes back about quarterly. She has been studying human and
>equine physiology, and riding exercise. She gave us a seminar on how
>our anatomy works with the horses' in dressage, and what sorts of
>exercises we can do to help us ride better. I will try to remember the
>exercises and explain as much as I can remember (Tracy, what do you
>remember?)

        What I remember from the seminar that was most fascinating to me
was the description of the difference between male and female anatomoy
with respect to riding.  In particular the fact that most women have the
hip bones inserted into the socket at a different angle than men.  Because
of this it is very difficult, virtually impossible, for many women to
ride with that dressage perfect, toe-pointed-forward, long-leg, look without
also tightening the seat to such an extent that following the horse is
not possible.  What she said was that we have to remember that the most
important thing was to have an effective seat that followed the horse
well and was relaxed enough to allow the free movement of the horse rather
than a picture perfect look.  To do this she emphasized that if you have
the kind of hip joint that requires that your toe turn out 30 to 45 degrees
then allow them to do so and concentrate on having your hips follow the horse's
movement and on relaxing the leg.
        According to her many muscles that we normally use for things like
running (as Teresa has already pointed out) are the enemies of dressage.
The iliopsoas (hip flexors), quadraceps, biceps femoris (hamstrings),
gluteals, and adductors all cause us to collapse in a heap on top of our
horses and draw our legs toward our chests.  What she said was that in
working out in a gym try not to work too *** those areas, in especial
don't do any adductor exercises as those muscles are already quite strong
in horse back riders and making them more strong only lifts us up off the
saddle like a clothespin.  The muscles we as dressage riders need to work
on are the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus) but particularly the lateral
abdominal muscles that allow us to twist at the waist (serratus interior),
the sartorius which is the muscle that runs along the side of thigh between
and under the quadriceps and the biceps femoris which helps us to twist
the knee in while rotating the hip out and forward, the top part of the
erector spinae which helps us support the head and sit tall, and the
portion of the trapezius which is between the shoulder blades that allows
us to draw our shoulders back, and the muscle that lies along the front
of the shin that allows us to draw our toes up (remember toes up, not
heels down).

Quote:
>  Of course, tummy crunches are highly recommended. NOT sit-ups. And we
>were cautioned to not cup our hands behind our heads and possibly hurt
>our necks by jerking them upwards. You only need to raise your shoulder

        She cautioned that we should not do sit ups unless our knees are
bent because any other way actually winds up working the hip flexors
rather than the rectus abdominus.  She also said that we need to think
about doing half-sit-ups because the top part of the sit-up tends to
exercise the hip flexors (iliapsoas), thats why tummy crunches are favored.
She suggested crossing arms across chest rather than holding them behind
the head since behind the head causes people to pull on the head and neck.

Quote:
>off the ground to get the full effect. You should do a good number of
>side-to-side tummy crunches also. As the horse must develop his abdominals
>to do dressage, so must the rider.

        The horse has to use his abdominals unilaterally, as does the rider,
therefore it is necessary to develop the serratus interior by twisting
when we do sit-ups, alternately to one side and then the other.

Quote:
>  Lying on your side, straight, lift your UPPER leg, and point your toe
>downward and inward. This strengthens the muscles that tie in at the knee
>and wrap around to the bottom of the buttocks. All of us have overdeveloped
>quadraceps (the big muscles on the front upper leg), so we need to stretch
>these and develop the opposite set of muscles. To stretch the quadsn bring
>the other leg back, grab that one by the toe with your other hand and
>carefully bring it back to stretch the quads. Most folks cannot straighten
>the upper leg. And do be sure to keep your pelvis perpendicular to the
>ground, don't tilt. I try to do 20 leg lifts each side each night, and then
>stretch the quads.

        These are two separate exercises (I didn't think that was entirely
clear).  The first are leg lifts, however our instructor said that we
must do these with the toe pointing down toward the floor and heel up
in order to prevent the use of the quadriceps.
        The second exercise is to stretch the quadriceps which are often
too tight.  In order to stretch the muscle correctly we must immobilize
or preflex other muscles that would interfere with correct stretching.
To do this lie on the floor on your left side, bring you left knee toward
your chest and reaching with your left hand grab the left foot.  Now that
leg is immobilized and the back is flexed so that it cannot arch.  Now
bend your right leg back behind you and reach back and grab the right foot
with your right hand, pull gently to stretch the right quadricep.  To do
this correctly you must remain on your side.  If you feel like a pretzel
you're doing it right!  Now do the other side.

Quote:
>  While sitting in a chair, alternate lifting the toes to strengthen the
>muscles at the front of the lower leg (the heels-down muscles). Apologies
>to physiologists, I don't remember the names of all the muscle groups.

        I don't remember the name of that muscle either.

Quote:
>Also stretches the calves.

        Our instructor cautioned against doing too many calf raises as that
tends to make our ankles tight and inflexible.

Quote:
>   While sitting on the ground, bring the knees up, wrap your arms around
>them, and push your back out, then in, to strengthen the long muscles that
>run down the middle of the back.

        That muscle is the erector spinae.  It runs the whole length of the
back and most people are too strong in the lower part and too weak in the
upper so strengthening the upper section is most important.

Quote:
>   Now let's see if I can describe this one: while standing next to a wall,
>in case you need to grab for balance, lift one leg and bring the heel
>across the shin of the other. Without really moving the lifted leg, pull
>it up, against the shin. Feel the pull in the underside of your upper leg
>muscles.

        I believe that was to exercise the sartorius and should pull the
knee in toward the other leg if done correctly.

Quote:
>   Sit on a wooden kitchen chair, on the edge. Tuck your rear end using
>your abs and tilt the chair onto it's two front legs. If your abdominals
>are strong enough, it's easy. Repeat numerous times. No hands!

        Teresa remembers more exercises than I can, so I can't add to
this list.  
        The seminar also explained the movement of the hips during riding
and the shape and construction of the pelvis.

                                        Tracy and everybody

 
 
 

riding exercise, especially dressage

Post by Martha Selle » Fri, 28 Apr 1995 04:00:00

Quote:


>>In particular the fact that most women have the
>>hip bones inserted into the socket at a different angle than men.  Because
>>of this it is very difficult, virtually impossible, for many women to
>>ride with that dressage perfect, toe-pointed-forward, long-leg, look without
>>also tightening the seat to such an extent that following the horse is
>>not possible.
>Is there a medical person reading who can confirm this?  At this point
>the sex of top level dressage riders is very mixed, with most riders overall
>being women.  Are the women at the top level of the sport (with dressage
>perfect seats) somehow different anatomically?

I am not a doctor, but... ;-)

Mary Wanless also makes this point about anatomy.  I think
the answer is not that successful women in dressage are
lucky enough to be built like men, but that they ride
appropriately for their build.  (ha, and have gorgeous
horsese!)

Fortunately, it seems that one is not scored lower in
dressage for turning the toe out 30 degrees, and that seems
reasonable.  The goal is to achieve the horse's potential and
the scoring supports this.  On stirrup length, does
anyone have a comment from Volvo?  I noticed that the
Europeans at the Olympics had some angle at the knee.

I see a lot of people in lower level dressage trying to emulate
Robert Dover by lengthening their stirrup leathers and pointing
the toe dead ahead.  The result is that their seat and legs
become ineffective.

Martha
--
Martha Sellers
Oakland, California

 
 
 

riding exercise, especially dressage

Post by r.. » Sat, 29 Apr 1995 04:00:00


Quote:


>>                                                     most women have the
>>hip bones inserted into the socket at a different angle than men.  Because
>>of this it is very difficult, virtually impossible, for many women to
>>ride with that dressage perfect, toe-pointed-forward, long-leg, look without
>>also tightening the seat to such an extent that following the horse is
>>not possible.

>Is there a medical person reading who can confirm this?  At this point
>the sex of top level dressage riders is very mixed, with most riders overall
>being women.  Are the women at the top level of the sport (with dressage
>perfect seats) somehow different anatomically?

I'm not a medical person, but I can clarify part of that.  Female pelvis is
wider (across) than male.  As a result, men stand straight and women stand
"base narrow"; i.e., a man's legs hang straight down whereas a woman's legs
go inward from hip joint to knee and then go straight down.  I don't see
how the different hip-joint angles are a problem, but what is a big problem
is that most saddles are designed for men, whose narrower pelvis places the
seat bones closer together.  Since the man's seat bones are close together,
the man can ride on them comfortably in a saddle with a narrow twist.  If
a women sits in the same saddle, her seat bones (farther apart) do not
contact the saddle before other tender parts do.  I rode in one of these
saddles and it felt like I was balanced on the apex of a triangle (ouch).
But if a women uses a saddle with a wider twist (which will be more nearly
level at the top), her seatbones will contact the saddle and all will be
okay.

Another problem stemming from male and female pelvises is the hollowed or
hyperextended lumbar area of the rider's back.  I believe that male tail
bones are longer and extend forward more than female tail bones (both this
and the difference above are related to getting a fetus through the pelvis
so it can be an infant).  A man can arch his back by tilting the pelvis
backwards and still be resting on the dorsal side of his tailbones.  If a
woman tilts her pelvis backwards the same number of degrees, she may find
that her tailbone is pointing straight down at the saddle (ouch).  So she
tries to compensate (and she's hearing the intended-for-male-bodies "up
straighter!") by hollowing her back a LOT to get her weight forward (ouch
again) and off the tailbone, or by tucking her tailbone under and forward,
and if she isn't extremely careful with her shoulders this tucking will
make her look like she's slumping.

But people differ.  A number of studies of sex-related physical differences
show that the average man and average woman are more similar than are the
man with the narrowest pelvis and the man with the widest (or woman with
the narrowest and woman with the widest).  I think the greater number of
women in the "oh yes, she's superb" category now indicates that women are
learning how to use their female bodies to ride well and finding saddles
that fit them-- instead of trying hopelessly to make their bodies do
exactly what men's bodies do while riding, instead of trying hopelessly
to sit comfortably and effectively in saddles designed for a different
anatomy.  

Rosemarie,  
in Pleasant Valley, PA  (50 mi N of Phila)