Ouch, Ugh, Eeek… With each step you take and every stair you climb you feel it. It’s the after riding soreness. You feel it in your thighs, your calves, even in your back. Actually, for many, it’s not the same day or even the next day after riding when your muscles are most sore, but the second day after riding. By the third day, you’re usually feeling better, and beginning to move normal and walk straight. When the forth day rolls around, most are starting to look forward to the next week’s lesson… only to start the cycle all over again!
Repeat after me – we need to stretch and warm up our muscles before we ride people! Too many people leave warm ups for aerobics and work outs – but isn’t riding the most strenuous activity most of us participate in? For many, it’s the only activity we do!
Warming up and stretching is an important part of riding, and should begin and end every ride. It prepares you by heating up and stretching out your muscles, increases your circulation and pulse rate, and delivers more oxygen to your muscles. Not only will it increase your performance when you ride, but also help to prevent injury. Often you will see a rider picking up their horse’s legs for stretching exercises, but avoid their own.
Cathy Ruprecht developed The Barn Stretch Poster to remind YOU to stretch both before AND after each ride. The poster is the perfect size for your barn, trailer or tack room, and includes photos for each technique being performed. From upper back to hips, the poster covers all areas needed for riders, and features additional tips on spine alignment, breathing, and safety as well.
For our review we wanted to use various riders with different physical capabilities. We chose 3 riders. Rider A is a beginner who rides once a week, does no additional physical activity, and is in average shape. Rider B is an intermediate rider who rides 3-4 times a week, does no additional physical activity, and is also in average shape. Rider C is also an intermediate rider, rides twice a week, however, she also goes to the gym daily (we don’t like her very much, just kidding.)
All three riders were advised to use the Barn Stretch techniques before and after each ride for a period of two to three months to see if they noticed a difference in how they felt after riding (and for days later, ha-ha.) After two months… the results are in!
Rider A reported a significant decrease in soreness and fatigue both during and after riding. She felt the pre-riding stretching prepared her muscles and open her airways for exertion. This rider compared the stretches to the feeling she gets when riding without stirrups for a bit, then having to pick them up again – the feeling of the lower leg being longer when getting her stirrups again. The stretches made her muscles feel more relaxed and willing, yet stronger at the same time. Rider A actually began using the Barn Stretch techniques at home on a daily routine in attempts to keep her riding muscles in better shape all around!
Rider B also reported a decrease in soreness when she used the Barn Stretch techniques. Since she rides more often, her riding muscles are in better shape then Rider A’s are, however she rides more aggressively and therefore is at greater risk of injury and strain. Rider B admittedly has bad posture and was very excited to see the Alignment Tips for posture! She has felt that the combination of the stretching exercises with the breathing tips for relaxation has made her a more relaxed rider. I think she has turned the Barn Stretch techniques into Barn-Yoga for herself.
Rider C – the athlete of the bunch, unfortunately, reported that since she is in perfect shape, did not notice much of a difference. This is likely due to the fact that being at the gym every day and stretching already, her muscles are good to go. Again, we don’t like her very much - she’ll even miss a riding lesson to go to the gym – imagine that!
Overall – we have to give kudos to Cathy Ruprecht for developing The Barn Stretch Poster. It should hang in every tack room – especially for those trainers who are teaching beginner and young riders. They need to learn early how important it is not only to care for your horse, but yourself as well.
Visit BarnStretch.com to order a Barn Stretch Poster for yourself, your trainer or anyone who rides - they make a great gift too!