Why Training for Success in the Saddle Doesn't Stop When You Dismount

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ore strength, balance, postural stability — these are some of the cornerstones for an effective seat. But the big question is, do you really know how to activate the proper muscles to achieve a higher level of efficiency for all three? 

The physical demands of riding are far more complex than civilians give us credit for. It's not only the overall fitness of our horses that we're concerned with. The dedicated time to our own strength is equally important so that we're both able to perform at our best. Suffice it to say that being an equestrian athlete requires us to extend our fitness focus far past our time in the stirrups.

According to physiotherapist Britta Pedersen, the biggest misconception about the riding and fitness relationship is the opinion that, "riders do not need to do any ‘off-horse’ training to help them become better in the saddle."

A New Zealand native and current dressage rider, Britta is supporting an industry shift in rider fitness and wellness. Her extensive research, knowledge, and practical application and teaching of resistance band workouts has led to the development of her company Performance Refinery and the P2 Rider Performance Band System.

Featured in our NF.edit subscription box, this six-band kit includes two sets of three bands: one set is for arm resistance training to utilize while riding, and the second set is for unmounted glute strengthening. Designed to improve core strength and stability, the bands are simple yet powerful training tools to help perfect hand and arm position and engage your seat and leg more correctly — hello, effective aids!

A weak core, sore back, occasional swinging lower leg, and a chicken wing-esque left elbow were big issues for me when I was competing. I worked out on a regular basis but it was mainly basic weights and cardio. What would've made the world of difference were exercises specifically geared towards the muscle groups and movements we use every day in the saddle.

Seems like common sense, but I think part of what equestrians struggle with is using a fitness regime that actually works for our unique needs when we ride. A key part in that is first, identifying and understanding what muscle groups need to be targeted and second, knowing the exercises that will be the most effective in engaging and strengthening them.

A buzz phrase that I've personally latched on to since using the P2 bands is S.M.A.R.T principles, as Britta calls them:

  • Strength
  • Mobility
  • Awareness
  • Rider Training

It's empowering to have not only a physio professional but a rider who 'gets it.' Even if you can only incorporate resistance training into your routine for a few minutes every day, it can still impact overall riding performance.

From one rider to another, let this Q&A with Britta bring you more insight and guidance on ways to elevate a dedicated workout regime or support you in getting started.

NoelleFloyd.com: When were you first introduced to resistance band fitness?

Britta Pedersen: I’ve been using resistance bands off the horse for over a decade, and they have been the primary reason for changing my own body’s ability to activate and use its stabilizers. This means less compensation, better balance, improved performance, and a decreased chance of injury! I spent some time training under dressage rider and trainer Leonie Bramall in Germany who introduced me to the concept of using resistance bands on the horse. From there my brain took over and this led to the creation of the P2 Rider Performance Band System.

NF: What inspired you to create Performance Refinery?

BP: I was very fortunate to land working for one of New Zealand's leading physios, Murray Hing, of FlexaClinic, straight out of PT school. I worked in his facility for six years juggling my PT career with my professional riding career when I realized that there was nobody that specialized in the rider — and we are as much of an athlete as any other sport.

For some reason as riders, we tend to put so much time and effort into our horses, forgetting about a very vital part of the equation — ourselves. I wanted to make it my mission to change this phenomenon, and that’s how Performance Physiques, now The Performance Refinery, was born in 2010.

Funny enough, Noëlle [Floyd] and I first met at FlexaClinic in New Zealand when I was her physio. Our coinciding outgoing and go-getter natures immediately connected us and has seen us keep in touch over the years.

NF: What are some of your favorite, tried and true self-care routines that elevate your life, riding or otherwise?

BP: I run very much to a structured plan, but that’s just how my life flows best. Each day has an outlined self-care aspect which may include: strength training, cardiovascular training, yoga, and occasionally deep tissue massage (my foam roller is my best friend!).

NF: What would you recommend for anyone working out/riding who is struggling with pre-existing injuries or pain?

BP: Invest in yourself by seeking out the best health care professional who is passionate about seeing you succeed. You don’t want to be dedicated to doing a program, riding or not, that is not custom designed for you and could be causing you further injury.

Think you're fit? Try this workout.

NF: As a rider and working professional, what does self-care mean to you?

BP: Self-care means exactly that — caring for yourself! If you are not prepared to put the time into yourself, you can bet your bottom dollar that no one else is going to do it for you. From a rider performance aspect, you are in control of your own success. If you are prepared to put in the time, you will see rewards for your efforts.

NF: What is the philosophy you live by in work, in life, or both?

BP: My philosophies in both life and work are aligned. There are three main points that I stand steadfast by:

The first is that life has no remote; you have to work hard, dedicate yourself, and get up and change it for yourself.

The second regards the thought of fear. Successful people/athletes do not let the fear of failure dictate them. They have the resilience to face up to failure, learn the lessons and adapt from it. Do not fear failure — it's inevitable. Instead, fear not trying!

"You are in control of your own success. If you are prepared to put in the time, you will see rewards for your efforts."

Lastly, to be the reason that someone smiles. This world needs more love and I always strive to help make a difference for the better in someone else's life, whilst always looking for the goodness in people.

NF: What does the phrase #RideLikeAGirl mean to you? What about being a female rider and professional in this industry gives you the most pride, hope, or strength?

BP: #RideLikeAGirl to me resonates with the inner strength that we as women have. Girl — you are strong, you are beautiful, you can do anything you put your mind, heart, and soul into! Along with this, I believe that it also symbolizes the unity of women in sport — we need to be a positive example of women supporting women and lifting each other higher. 

Meet the #bossbabe behind the leisurewear label taking empowerment to the next level.

Check out these P2 Bands workouts. Here we come, equitation perfection!

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If you have ever heard your trainer/coach remind you to “Get your Shoulders Back”, “Tuck your elbows by your side” or “Keep your thumbs ontop” then these are for you! ➖ Grab your P2 Arm Band & a stopwatch ➖ 3 Rounds, 1 min per exercise ➖ 1️⃣ Banded GHJ Flexion 2️⃣ Banded External Rotations 3️⃣ Banded Scap Add/Retraction 4️⃣ Banded Tricep Extensions 5️⃣ Repeat Kneeling On Stability Ball ➖ 👇🏼▶️Full Youtube Link Below . https://youtu.be/hdbM4La4zK0 ➖ 📍Tag a buddy who would benefit from some Shoulder love for their riding ➖ #equestrian #riderfitness #horse #dressage #hunterjumper #eventing #stability #alignment #balance #p2performancebands #p2bands #performancerefinery #strength #ridelikeagirl

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📍18min At Home Glute Activation Workout for Equestrians. ➖ You will need a band and a stop watch ➖ 3 Rounds: 30secs per exercise & remember that if you are working unilateral (a single side), you need to switch over and do 30secs on the other side before you move on to the next exercise! ➖ 1️⃣ Clams 2️⃣ Hydrants 3️⃣ Bent Leg Hip Extension 4️⃣ Straight leg hip extension 5️⃣ Bridge 6️⃣ Frog Pump Bridge 7️⃣ Sit - Stand (📍60seconds here) ➖ Bands: P2 Performance Bands ➖ www.p2performancebands.com ➖ Tag a fellow equine friend who would benefit from this 🙋🏼‍♀️🍑💪🏼 ➖ #equestrian #riderfitness #riderstrength #gluteworkout #posteriorchain #physiotherapy #performance #performancetraining #dressage #eventing #showjumping #hunterjumper #horserider #noexcuses

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Photography by Heather Fulbright Grambergs for NoelleFloyd.com.

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