Working on My Riding Muscles at Home

This week I could not ride at Debbie's because she had her first summer riding camp. I could have ridden after the kids went home, but with highs above 90°F this was not possible for me (oh I miss the days when I could ride in the 90's!) Thinking back to past summers I remembered losing muscle strength during my week off, and then desperately trying to regain it during the summer heat—as in I did not recover until the fall when it got cooler.

However, since I got my own Equicube to keep at home I have been exercising with it on foot, mimicking the “rider's push-ups”. For my week off I decided to try doing more with the Equicube at home, in a desperate attempt not to lose my hard won muscular strength during my involuntary idleness. Working in the air-conditioning is a lot less draining for my body than trying to work out in the heat and humidity. This seems to be working some, I can do more and I last longer.

I had been mimicking the “rider's push-ups” already, going slow to strain my muscles more. I had been stopping at three repetitions at a time. For my week off I added some movements to my modified squats, thinking back to when I was still jumping horses decades ago I mimicked cantering up to a jump and when I squatted down I thrust my hands forward like I was doing an automatic release over a jump. Then I also pretended I was posting to the trot, concentrating on keeping my hands, holding the Equicube, in one place, like I would when posting the trot on a horse. I started up doing three of the “rider's push-ups”, and after three days I was able to add a fourth repetition. I seem to be stuck with doing just ten “posts” before my thighs get really tired. I do these repetitions 8 to 10 times a day, and I rest between them for an hour or so.

I also added carrying the Equicube while walking in the house. After a few days of getting so tired that I HAD TO take a nap I decided that I would have to limit carrying the Equicube while walking to just before bedtime. Since I have started this I have had absolutely no problems with getting to sleep at night, and before this it often took me 30 minutes to an hour to finally fall asleep. The first day I just walked the length of my house once, then I added a circle through my kitchen, and after a few days I could handle doing this twice. The first few days my back ended up really hurting so I slept in my BOT back brace and neck dickey which took care of my painful muscles. My back muscles are getting stronger because the pain is a lot less and it is easier for me to do this.

Previous summers I had hopelessly dreamed about getting a riding simulator, like the jockeys use, just so I could “ride” during these summer camp weeks. However I never could afford one of the mechanical ones, and all of the mechanical ones and the non-mechanical mimics of riding all come with warnings to have a “spotter” around. That would mean I could not use them when my husband is not around, and since he frequently travels I just could not see spending thousands of dollars on a simulator. The BIG advantage of using the Equicube at home is that I never need a spotter, I am never at risk for falling, and I do not have to climb on or off a piece of equipment. Plus an Equicube costs less than a hundred dollars, a lot, lot, lot cheaper than thousands of dollars for a simulator, money that I would really prefer to spend on saddles and other horse gear.

While I am doing the mimics of the “rider's push-ups” and posting I also try to mimic gripping with my calves especially when I noticed that I was trying to “grip” with my knees. Gripping with the knees just about guarantees a swinging lower leg, a fault that I have working on eradicating for years. I keep my face vertical, keep my shoulders back and down, and I count on my Equicube to help keep my back straight. Previous summers I had tried to exercise some but I rapidly gave it up, I think my body was telling me that I was not working the proper muscles for riding. Using the Equicube and keeping track of my position seems to be working the proper muscles for riding, at least at the end of the day I seem to be equally tired as if I had ridden, and the same muscles feel tired.

I will not know for sure if this will help my usual summer degradation of my riding ability, but my back, core muscles, thighs and arms are already feeling stronger. It is easier for me to sit up (I usually slouch), and it is easier for me to keep erect when I walk. I will not know for sure if this exercising will help my riding until I get feedback from Debbie during my lesson next week. Previous lessons after my week off because of the summer camp had Debbie giving me a long, long list of how my riding had deteriorated and how much weaker I was in the saddle. Maybe this year I will get praised on my seat and riding!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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