Last month, I was honoured to have been asked to input into the extra-curricular offerings at a weekend camp for horse-owners, run by fabulous instructor Emma Drury (BHSAI, MRPCH). Emma has a very holistic approach to her instruction, focusing not just on riding skill, but on full management of the horse, including the importance of groundwork and therapeutic/conditioning techniques to get the best out of her pupils. Due to her personal interest in the subject, Emma requested that I run supplementary sessions at the camp, providing theory, demonstration and assistance in attempting some ideas for maintaining and optimising suppleness post-exercise.
Obviously, there were a multitude of stretches and core conditioning exercises that sprang to mind when given this brief, but being fully aware of the risks of untrained hands carrying out such interventions, my main challenge was hand-picking those techniques that I deemed simple, low-risk, physically accessible whilst also adding therapeutic benefit to a horse-owner’s day-to-day schedule.
With anatomy being such an enormous subject, I opted to focus on the main muscle groups that will have been referred to during their flatwork lessons with Emma just prior to my input. We discussed the muscles and functioning along the topline and corresponding underline musculature, and used models and a bit of yoga(!) to highlight the relationship between the two and the importance of posture and strengthening/stretch in these areas.
Following this introduction, we then looked at a few of my hand-picked exercises which would be suitable to enhance their workouts, all to be carried out after exercise, when muscles are still warm and supple, and I was on-hand to observe and assist while participants attempted these techniques with their own well-loved steeds! Exercises selected included a mixture of low-intensity active, passive and dynamic stretches.
As a trained primary school teacher, the enthusiastic educator side of me certainly came out over the course of the day, and I absolutely loved sharing some of the knowledge I have accrued over my 3 years as an Equine Massage Therapist. I hope the lovely horse-owners I met took something away from my sessions to help maintain the muscle health of their equine partners throughout their future equestrian adventures!