British Performance Coach, Jon Pitts, points out that at the highest level, riders do not force or fight their horse, they work with it and do everything they can with their bodies to enable the horse to be at its optimum. The obvious things like greater flexibility, cardio fitness, reaction time, balance, muscular strength and endurance come to mind. But Jon points out that fit and strong body may still not be optimal if pelvic function, effective breathing control, balance and co-ordination are not in the mix. This is where body awareness becomes crucial.
Neural pathways serve to connect relatively distant areas of the brain or nervous system. The more a neural pathway is used, the more sensitive and developed it becomes, allowing reactions to be more immediate. Neural pathways that are not stimulated tend to wither away, often becoming unusable. If the neural pathways required for good posture in the saddle are lacking, the brain cannot focus fully on other parts of the job - the result: making mistakes in your riding.
Metal visualisation, exercises on a fit ball and pilates based exercises are all great for working on your mindfulness and body awareness. We'll be back with more specific exercises in blogs down the track.
Riding is unlike any other sport, but the best riders in the world are true athletes, albeit in an unconventional way.
Excerpt reproduced with kind permission of Hoofbeats Magazine.