What is ‘Rider Specific’ Training?

What is rider specific training?

I often get asked what exercises people need to do to be fit to ride, how many times a week a rider should train, whether yoga or pilates is better for them, how to ‘sit’ to the sitting trot etc etc. It is not that simple, if it were, those of us in this industry would be out of a job!

The reality is that there is no one answer! Training is a myriad of complex processes, some scientific and some an art like process put together by practitioners with years of experience! Some people will need more cardiovascular adaptations that others, some will need more mobility work. There is no one formula that can be applied to each rider! For a start the equestrian disciplines are completely different physiologically and mechanically, we need to consider the movement patterns, physiological profile of both the training and competitive demands imposed upon a rider combined with a thorough knowledge of an individuals training background and functional movement patterns before what type of training method will be suitable for each individual equestrian athlete can be analysed.

The whole point of training off the horse is to develop areas from both a strength and conditioning perspective that will allow effective transfer of these traits whilst you are riding your horse. Sports specific training does not (in my opinion anyway) equal sitting on a swiss ball holding resistance bands wobbling about pretending you are riding a horse – you spend enough time riding, that’s where your skill specific training adaptations occur and in this sport is for sure the most important aspect. Equestrian sports fall into a category of highly concentrative and skill based, and as such physiological adaptations, though beneficial are not the sole predictor of performance here.

Sports specific training is looking at what traits a rider requires and manipulate training to develop those adequately. For example when I first start working with a rider, I look at their basic movement patterns and function. Can they squat, can they lunge. If no, we get that right first! I look at the cross sling mechanisms, can the left arm and right leg work synchronously? If not we work on that!

Typically riders are rounded in the shoulders, they are weak throughout their entire posterior chain, their glutes do not activate effectively and they have limited scapular stability. These are usually my focus points with 70-80% of riders for 3-4 months before we move on to anything ‘sexy’ like single leg hops, pertubated training, reactive core training methods etc.

We need to make you a functional human being, without pain, before we can make you a sports specific training machine! You need to be patient, trust the process, you need to undo years of not training and correct one-sided dominant patterns, stretch tight muscles and strengthen weak ones.

Then, I will progress you and include balance exercises, single leg exercises, loaded jumps, I will advanced cardio methods and use aerobic interference to mimic the physiological fatigue built up in competition.

I have spent years analysing riders both in practise and throughout my PhD research and time lecturing and I have helped many riders 1:1 achieve success in their competitive and leisure riding situations but also made them fitter and healthier for life too! I am now privileged to work with riders online via EventFit and I am so happy when each client sees progress.

So in short, rider specific training is training that has been designed by a thorough analysis of the sport/discipline where the demands of the sport are replicated using various training methods progressively over time, based on the riders access to equipment, time, training history, goals, competitive season, individual genetic responses to training and much more!

I hope this blog has given you some food for thought! If you have any specific questions each month on my members site I do a Q&A video and I would be pleased to answer them. If you would like to sign up for training with me via my bespoke programming packages or would like to find out more please e mail me on info@eventingfit.com.

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