Horses Improve Riding Riding

7 Pre-Ride Equestrian Stretches That Will Improve Your Riding

If you are tight throughout your body while horseback riding it can really hinder your performance. Stretching before you ride your horse can greatly benefit your riding experience. 

Unfortunately, I struggle with a lot of tension and stiffness in my body and this is something I need to continually work on. Luckily I found that certain stretches before I ride make a huge positive impact on my riding performance. I believe it can do the same for you.

Why should you stretch before you ride your horse? You should stretch before you ride for several reasons. You will be able to move more fluidly with your horse. Your aids will be more effective. It will be easier to hold your riding position. Lastly you could help prevent a muscle strain or injury. 

Let’s go over how to do these stretches properly and go over safety precautions to prevent you from getting hurt.

Disclaimer: I am not a physical therapist or doctor. If you have any muscle or joint pain that is chronic or recurring, consult with your physician or physical therapist before doing any of the stretches listed here.

About These Pre-Ride Stretches

All these stretches are done standing on your feet. So you don’t have to worry about getting down on the ground and being squashed by your horse. 

These stretches you will be doing are ideal before riding. They are slightly different than stretches for after your ride, which focus more on helping with muscle soreness and after riding tightness.

The muscles we will be stretching today with these exercises:

  • Hip flexors
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Lats
  • Lower back
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Groin
  • Calf

Before You Start The Pre-Ride Stretches

You want to do the stretches right before you get on the horse but there are a few things to know before you jump right into the stretches.

  1. Make sure your horse is tied up safely or ask if someone can hold your horse. It’s okay if the horse is already tacked up with the saddle on. 
  2. Never tie a horse by the reins on the bridle or a rope clipped to the bit. If the horse is wearing a bridle have a halter over the bridle and attach the rope or cross tie to the halter.
  3. Make sure there is enough space between you and your horse for you to do your stretches safely.
  4. When doing these stretches don’t over stretch. This is especially important if you are very tight and stiff. You could end up pulling a muscle if you stretch too deep. 
  5. Only go into the stretch until you feel some tension and hold it. You shouldn’t go so far that you feel pain. If the stretch feels intense back off a little bit. 
  6. Always warm up your body before stretching. You want to stretch warm muscles. Stretching cold muscles has a higher risk of pulling or tearing your muscles.
  7. Keep an eye on your horse while you are doing these stretching exercises, to make sure none of the exercises are scaring the horse.
  8. If your riding muscles are weak and you just do stretches. You may feel wiggly, loose and insecure in the saddle. Especially if you are used to your muscles feeling tight. Make sure you are also working on building your muscle tone for riding. Pilates can be great for that because it focuses on your core strength which is one of the main muscles used in horse riding.

These are just guidelines meant to keep you and your horse safe as well as to get the most out of these stretches. 

I have learned some of these things about stretching the hard way. Many times I have gone into deep stretches thinking it was helping me get more flexible and instead ended up with painful pulled muscles. 

I just want you to be careful and actually benefit from this instead of hurting yourself. 

Tips For Doing The Pre-Ride Stretches

  1. Warm up before stretching. This can be done in different ways. Rigorous grooming of your horse, marching in place, side to side stepping, standing mountain climbers. Do this until you start to feel some heat in your body.
  2. Slowly move into each stretch position.
  3. Breathe deeply, rhythmically to relax as you hold the stretch.
  4. Hold the position for 30 seconds or longer if you feel like you need it.
  5. Slowly move out of the stretch into standing.
  6. It is beneficial to repeat each stretch a couple times but you don’t have to if you only have so much time.

1. Standing Shoulder Stretch

What Muscles This Stretch Works

  • Shoulders
  • Chest

How This Stretch Will Benefit Your Ride

  • Helps shoulders to stay back and down while riding.
  • Helps the chest to be wide and open.

How To Do The Stretch

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Keep your legs straight.
  3. Clasp your hands together behind your back.
  4. Lift your chest as you press your hands down to the ground.
  5. Stretch tall through the top of your head.
  6. Roll your shoulders back and down.
  7. Hold stretch 
  8. When stretching is done, release your hands and relax.

2. Doorway Stretch

What Muscles This Stretch Works

  • Shoulders
  • Chest

How This Stretch Will Benefit Your Ride

  • Opens up your chest. 
  • Helps to keep your shoulders back while you are riding.
  • Helps you sit up tall.

How To Do The Stretch

  1. Find an open doorway to stand in front of. If you have a sliding stall door nearby you can use that. Just make sure it is slid to a suitable width.
  2. Bring each arm up to the sides of the door frame. 
  3. Bend your arm at 90-degree angles with palms forward. 
  4. Let your palms rest on the door frame.
  5. Take one foot and step forward. 
  6. You should feel the stretch in your chest and shoulders.
  7. Stand up straight and make sure you don’t lean forward.
  8. When the stretch is done step back and relax.

3. Wall Lat Stretch

What Muscles This Stretch Works

Refrain from this exercise if you have shoulder pain when you raise your hands above your head.

  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Lats
  • Back

How This Stretch Will Benefit Your Ride

  • Lat stretches support good posture.
  • Helps with keeping your shoulders open and back.

How To Do The Stretch

  1. Stand about 2 feet from the wall.
  2. Move your feet to shoulder width apart.
  3. Brace your hands against the wall.
  4. Sink back into your feet to make an upside down L shape with your body.
  5. Keep your back straight and parallel to the ground.
  6. Don’t let your head sink down.
  7. Hold stretch 
  8. Bring your foot forward and slowly roll your body to standing.

4. Side Lunge

What Muscles This Stretch Works

  • Quads
  • Gluetes
  • Groin

How This Stretch Will Benefit Your Ride

  • Stretching the inner thigh muscle that helps to lengthen your leg in the saddle.

How To Do The Stretch

  1. You want to spread your legs out wide.
  2. Keeping your shoulders level, slowly shift your upper body over to one side and squat over that leg.
  3. You should feel the stretch in your inner thigh.
  4. Hold this position.
  5. Then come back to center.
  6. Repeat on the other side.
  7. Slowly come back to center.

5. Lunge Stretch

What Muscles This Stretch Works

  • Hip flexors
  • Lower back
  • Psoas 

How This Stretch Will Benefit Your Ride

  • Hips are able to move more freely with the horse’s movement.

How To Do The Stretch

  1. Stand with one foot forward out front and one foot straight back.
  2. On your leg out front bend your knee at a 90-degree angle coming forward into a lunge position. 
  3. Place your hands on your forward knee. Keep your looking straight ahead, your hips are even, chest is open and shoulders relaxed. 
  4. Press your hands down and drive your hips forward until you start to feel a stretch from the front of your hip, groin, and thigh on your leg that is behind you.
  5. Hold the stretch.
  6. Release and slowly come to standing.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

6. Cross Leg Stretch

What Muscles This Stretch Works

  • Lower back
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves

How This Stretch Will Benefit Your Ride

  • Helps getting your heels down easier.
  • Loosens back for the sitting trot and canter.

How To Do The Stretch

  1. Cross one of your legs over the other one.
  2. Your leg in front will have a slight bend and you want your leg behind straight. 
  3. With equal weight in both feet, bend down from your hips reaching toward the ground.
  4. Rest your hands on your front leg.
  5. Hold stretch.
  6. Release slowly and roll up to standing.
  7. Repeat with switched leg position.

7. Figure 4 Squat

What Muscles This Stretch Works

  • Hip flexors
  • Glutes
  • Piriformis

How This Stretch Will Benefit Your Ride

  • Hips will move with the horse more and restrict less.

How To Do The Stretch

  1. Stand shoulder width apart. 
  2. Cross your ankle over your thigh.
  3. Keeping your back straight sink down from your hips.
  4. Bring each arm up to the sides of the door frame. 
  5. Bend your arm at 90-degree angles with palms forward. 
  6. Let your palms rest on the door frame.
  7. Take one foot and step forward. 
  8. You should feel the stretch in your chest and shoulders.
  9. Stand up straight and make sure you don’t lean forward.
  10. When the stretch is done step back and relax.
  11. Repeat.

Final Thoughts

Reminder! Don’t overstretch. Only stretch until you feel the tension not until you feel pain.

Stretching after riding can be just important if not more important.

You can use the exercises here to stretch after your ride. You can also stretch at home after a ride with floor stretches that can offer a deeper stretch.

If your muscles have cooled down you will want to warm them up again before you stretch.

Stretching after you ride can help you stay flexible after riding. It can also help you recover faster if you are sore after riding.

Stay tuned for a future blog post on Post-Ride Stretches you can do at home.

Like This Post? Here Are Other Posts You May Find Helpful!

If you found this post helpful people share it with other people on your social media. I am working hard to provide helpful content and my desire is for people to see it. 🙂

Cheers,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.