Being an outstanding rider has as much to do with your state of mind, and your spirit, as it does with your physical fitness. It is the natural flow of your integrated body, mind, and spirit that can bridge the gaps in your partnerships, be they equine, or not.

Often times our extrinsic self, our body, our attitude, and our behaviors, is a sign of inner
discourse. If, for example, we make neglectful food choices, perhaps we are not honoring our sense of pride, or our sense of worth. If we choose to live unconsciously in any area of our life it affects the whole.

As a long standing student of physical fitness, health, and an incorrigible horse fanatic, allow me to suggest the following stretches, exercises, and disciplines to enhance your equine and human experiences.

While these suggestions are not specifically designed for your individual body, or circumstances, they can enhance your overall performance. They are what I have found to be most valuable to myself, as a trail and team penning equestrienne, my clients, and my mentor sister, Maryse Shank, a national dressage champion.

Please see your health care provider before starting any fitness related exercise program.

Always warm up and move your entire body for 8 to 10 minutes prior to the following protocols. Getting your horse from the turnout area, grooming her, doing some simple ground work, and tacking her, may be a sufficient warm up.

Stretches are mandatory if you want to keep riding. Every time you are in the saddle you repeatedly tighten and tense up specific muscle groups. If you do not bring these muscles back to a more relaxed state, that stressed area may hinder, not only your riding, but also your daily activities and your state of mind.

Here are some simple pre and post riding stretches. Remember to hold all stretches for 30 seconds.
Chest muscles - use a barn post (for one arm at a time), or barn corner, raise your arm(s) to create a 90 degree angle at the elbow, lie your forearm(s) on the post, or walls, and lean in causing a pulling across your chest.
Shoulders, upper-mid-and lower back, back of legs, forearms and hands - stand at an arms length distance from a stable post, wash rack, or fence, grasp the fence with your fingers, palms down, arms out stretched, move your feet in closer to the fence and plant them 8 inches apart, push your hind end out behind you, while bending from the waist and hanging into the stretch. Keep your head aligned with your spine.
Buttocks and hip - sit in a chair, or on a mounting block, knees bent out in front of you, bring your left foot up and lay it over your right thigh, so it is perpendicular to the thigh, gently lean from your hips, forward, then switch sides.
Neck - look right, look left, look up, look down, then gentle roll the head back and over to one side then the other.
Calves - use the lower step on a stable mounting block, or any step at the barn, hold on to a stable object, stand on step, toes forward and heels and mid foot hanging off the edge.

With body awareness, acute listening, core strength, and presence, the rider becomes balanced or centered. By the same token, when we take conscious responsibility for the fit between who we are on the inside, and how we behave and look on the outside, we become balanced, and life is more fluid.

Body Exercises
Abdominals - pelvic tilts, put your back against a wall with knees slightly bent, press your lower back flat into the wall, release and press it again, this strengthens your abdominal while making you mindful of your positioning, do 15 times.
Hips and lower back - seated on a 65 cm stability ball, legs towards the front of the ball, rotate your pubic bone gently forward, then aft, there is little movement anywhere else but the hip area, do this 15 times, then rotate hip out to the right, center, then to the left, and again to center. Do this 16 times counting each right and left movement. Now circle right 15 times and then circle left 15 times. Your objective is to keep all the movement in the hips area while making the movement as large as possible. Use a mirror.
Legs - place stability ball against a wall, place your mid back against the ball, lean back into the ball while stepping your feet out away from the wall, squat down to a position no deeper than thighs parallel to the ground, knees stay aligned with your ankles. Do this 15 times.
Chest - kneel with the ball in front of you, put your stomach on the ball, roll yourself over the ball until your hands contact the ground on the other side, walk yourself out with your hands until your knees are the only contact with the ball, do 15 pushups, roll back.
Back - sit on your ball with an elastic band, or elastic tubing, strapped around a stable object chest height. Hold ends of band or tubing in each hand, row elbows straight back while bringing your shoulder blades together in your back. Repeat 15 times.

Simple Mounted Stretches - works for bareback, english saddle, or bareback pad only.

Focus on keeping your hips centered and planted on your sit bones, reach your right arm back and touch horse's croup, hold 30 seconds, repeat to other side.

Reach right hand to horses left shoulder, hold 30 seconds, and repeat to other side.

Reach down and circle your arms around the point of your horse's shoulder, your cheek on him, hold forever.

Advanced back stretch, lie the back of your head on your horse's croup, hold 30 seconds.
Lie your right leg straight across the top of your horse's shoulder, bent from the hip towards your toes, hold 30 seconds, repeat other side.

With your right leg out of the stirrup, bend knee back and grasp your ankle with your right hand, hold 10 seconds, repeat other side.

Author's Bio: 

Danielle Vindez holds the vision of optimal health, conscious eating, proper exercise, and mental balance, for all those seeking to transform their lives. She serves as a role model, a health coach, a personal trainer, and a fellow student in the search for excellence. She has opened a world renowned health club, worked at exercise and nutrition clinics, has been active in national research studies, makes presentations on well-being in her local community, and implements worksite health programs. Danielle received a BA in Sociology from UCLA, is a graduate of Coach University, holds certifications from ICF (ACC), ACSM (CHFS), NSCA (CSCS), and ACE (LWMC).