Fitness for This Equestrian

I am blessed to be acquainted with a number of equestrians who are in their seventies and beyond.  They are inspirations to me to keep fit so that like Her Majesty the Queen I can still celebrate the start of each year when I’m in my eighties with a ride about on a pony.

To successfully achieve that goal, I realize that I have to invest in my physical health.  This isn’t an unnatural act for me, as I’ve been athletic most of my life.  But my body doesn’t forgive transgressions like it used to.  Recently I’ve had some pretty annoying pain in one hip from a tight hamstring.  I’m sure it’s related to feeding last winter in deep snow.  When I first had ponies, I was feeding small bales.  Then they became hard to find, so we changed to one thousand pound bales.  Last winter the bales were fifteen hundred pounds.  When we were bringing in one bale a week last winter, I realized I was carrying more than 1500 pounds of hay every seven days.  Trudging through our record snow pack, it’s no wonder my body started to complain.

I knew I needed to strengthen other muscles to let that hamstring relax.  I investigated Pilates because friends and family had found great benefit from it, but it seemed like a lot of work.  I had toyed with yoga, doing a little routine some nights, and it did seem to help, but I never got very serious about it.  Then last month I saw on a social network that someone had married horsemanship and yoga, and it was even a type of horsemanship that I study.  (1)  The marketing information promised positive results in as little as two weeks with just three thirty minute sessions a week and ‘mastery’ at four to ten weeks.  Though I was skeptical of these claims, I decided to give the DVD a try after an equestrian friend said it was a type of yoga that she had personally found beneficial.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that the marketing claims were accurate.  I did indeed see benefit within two weeks with only three sessions a week, try as I might to fit in more.  In just that short time, I found I was walking taller when I hadn’t even known I wasn’t standing up straight!  Now I definitely notice improved strength and that annoying pain in my hamstring is nearly gone.  Thank you ‘modified half-pigeon’!  I’ve also been surprised where else tightness has manifested that I didn’t even know I had.

Yoga has always seemed like more than a physical practice to me, and I have indeed found that on the days I spend that thirty minutes, I have more peace of mind.  That can only be good for everyone in my life, ponies included!

The instructor on the DVD repeats often that “it’s your practice,” and I’ve definitely come to appreciate the wisdom in this instruction.  There are parts of the routine that I find especially beneficial so I take more time for them when I can.  For me, spending a few more moments stretching after the core strengthening series is important, and taking a little longer on ‘upward facing dog’ really helps me stretch my abdomen.

As a young person in school, soccer was my sport of choice, and I even got recruited onto my college team.  After graduation I was a runner and was thrilled when I won one race while on a business trip.  Then I got into aerobics and enjoyed the combination of dance and fitness.  I also went through my mountain biking, cross country ski machine, and martial arts phases.  At this stage of my life, though, yoga seems to provide the right balance of stretching and strengthening to complement the physicality of my equestrian life.  It’s given me greater hope that I can be like my senior friends who still enjoy their horses.  Even if I don’t make it to eighty, at least every day right now is good!


© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012


About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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