Monday, June 13, 2016

PT and Cross Training

I'm a pretty fit person. I can easily lift 50lb sacks of feed and toss them into the bed of my truck, I can easily jog around after a loose horse until I catch the bastard, I can easily spend 40 minutes at a time doing a reasonable impression of someone who knows about dressage.

What I suck at is things that aren't heavy lifting, chasing down bastards, and pretending you're not doing anything when really you're riding your ass off. And now I'm also beginning to realize that may be a contributing factor in my back problems. 

All the stuff I'm asked to do in PT is hard, and when I try to make it easier by using movements I'm more familiar with, I get corrected. Not because I'm not good at my old familiar things, but because only using certain sets of muscles is tearing my back up and that's why I need PT. I may be able to throw 50lb bags of feed into the bed of my truck, but the 90 year old lady I sit next to in PT totally skunks my ass at straight arm lifts with a 2lb weight. 

This is why cross training is important, both for us and our horses. I know loads of people who cross train their horses, but not very many who cross train themselves. And I'm not talking about the "20 Ab Exercises For Riders" articles you see in Dressage Today and USDF Connection, those are just strengthening the muscles you're already using, I'm talking about actual cross training. 

Actual cross training strengthens the muscles you aren't using for riding and barn chores. That's important, because the muscles that stabilize our joints generally work in opposition to each other. If you're only doing one type of activity (dead lifting feed bags, pretending to be a dressage rider, chasing bastards..), then you're only working one set of muscles and that puts too much strain on your joints. 

One thing I'm learning in PT is that the exercise routines for riders that I see posted everywhere are not tailored to strengthen our whole bodies, and I wonder if this is why I see a glut of riders with hunched shoulders and tight hamstrings. If you're just working your abs and glutes, which is what the riding workouts do, you're definitely going to end up riding this way.

Abs and buns of steel don't help you ride better if they destroy your back and knees. Remember to work other parts of your body, too. 

Once I'm done with my PT, I'm going to try rowing. Not on the water, because I hate boats that don't have jacuzzis and bars, but with one of those rowing machines. I'm also going to keep up with my PT exercises so that I hopefully don't end up back in PT.

I don't have any relevant photos of my own, but here's a photo of a mule doing dressage way better than I have ever done. There's a metaphor in there somewhere. 


  1. I couldn't agree more. I started going to a fitness class a couple years ago and I was amazed at the difference it made in my riding by making me use my muscles differently and making me realize how I was using them.

  2. Cross training has really helped my endurance in the saddle. I can ride more effectively and for longer without losing my breath or without my muscles dying.

  3. Does carrying small children on your hip count as cross training? (Surprise: trainer says no).

    Good luck with the plan.

  4. I like this line of thought. Not sure I'm smart enough to follow through on it, but I like it.

  5. I have this same problem every time I go to PT and realize I am functionally incapable of doing even simple exercises. But then I go home and lay on my couch instead of going to the gym, so I dunno. Porter is an awesome mule.

  6. Probably the reason I hate PT too. But, a caveat....after my broken hip, I spent weeks in PT, and then when I tried to ride again, I simply could not. The pain was excruciating. PT had built up all my muscles exactly WRONG for riding. A horse with Lyme and winter intervened in my efforts to get back in the saddle. No excuses now, however. Need to try again. Just make sure you do not PT yourself to the detriment of your riding. It's a bummer.

  7. That mule is actually going Grand Prix now. :)


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