Equestrian activities can be very beneficial to physical fitness. They help to develop endurance and stamina, but riding horses can also help to straighten the spine and increase flexibility. The following stretches you can do while on a horse offer an added element of conditioning to your exercise routine.
Stretching the Intercostal Muscles
The intercostal muscles along your sides require frequent stretching to achieve their full potential. These muscles allow you to increase your reach. While you are sitting upright in the saddle, extend your right hand down toward your right stirrup. As you go, begin to bend forward at the waist. Keep bending forward until you can feel the muscles on your sides begin to elongate and stretch. When you have reached a point where you can feel a significant stretch along your side, hold this position for ten to fifteen seconds. Repeat the procedure for the left side of your body.
Stretching Your Core
Your core is vitally important to horsemanship. It helps you to maintain the correct posture you need for riding. A strong core is also good for many routine daily activities. This stretching exercise is very good for increasing rotation at the core as well. While sitting upright in the saddle, rotate from the waist as far as you can toward the right. Hold this position for just a few seconds before swinging in the opposite direction to your left. Continue alternating these movements until you have done ten repetitions for each side.
A key to the effectiveness of this exercise is only rotating from the waist. You also want to try and bring your shoulders parallel to the side of your horse on each side. Ideally, your face should be looking straight forward to the sides with each completed rotation.
Something that you should always remember when performing stretching exercises on your horse is using care and caution. You should test the exercises mildly before doing them fully so that your horse can become used to the movements you are making. Failure to do this can cause your horse to spook and put you at risk. Most horses, especially those which are ridden often, will recognize after just a few moments that there is nothing to fear from these stretches and remain still.
You should also work hard to keep your reining hand as still as possible while performing the exercises. If your horse is accustomed to leg cues, take care to avoid giving them when exercising.