We start the month of July 2015 with a guest blog by Amanda Shores, a young equestrian, author, and literary student from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Amanda also teaches lessons and volunteers at Perfect Fit Equine Rescue in Morgan Hill California. Thank you to Amanda for these great words of wisdom.
by: Amanda Shores
Horseback riding is not to be isolated from other sports. Though it may seem as though it’s a solitary sport with no connections to anything else, I can assure you it’s not. Not even close. I am both a horseback rider and black belt in karate, and I can honestly say that my karate experience has contributed greatly to my riding physically and mentally.
Riding requires great flexibility and athleticism. Riders can obtain this through karate, as it involves – first and foremost – conditioning. With conditioning, one is training his or her body, building muscle. In order to hold oneself in a steady, poised position while riding (as in not letting the core sag or the arms grow fatigued) the rider needs to have toned arms, legs, and core muscles. Karate’s strength training (running, push-ups, sit-ups, etc) is perfect for this. As for flexibility, I know what I am constantly stretching; if I did not stretch, I would likely injure myself. But it is not simply the stretching that creates this flexibility. It is apparent in my kicks (which rotate the core, the lower back, and the legs) and my punches (which, as my instructor frequently stated, “Stretch the muscles”).
As a result of my karate experience, I am more flexible than I would have been if I just jumped onto my horse and rode without any preparation or martial arts background. My muscles would lock up and restrict my movement, effectively killing all potential for muscle control and coordination in riding. I have seen riders who have trouble stretching their heels down due to tight calves. This can potentially be prevented with karate’s stretches, conditioning, and movements.
Horseback riding also has much to do with mentality, just like karate. In both sports, breathing exercises are necessary to clear the mind and relax the tension in the body. In both sports, keeping a level head is of the utmost importance – because if a person is caught on a spooking or bolting horse or is attacked by a stranger on the street, that person needs to be able to think quickly and assess the situation in order to keep everything under control. The horse could potentially throw the rider and the stranger could potentially kill the victim, but only if there is a lack of mental preparedness.
Discipline, conditioning, and endurance can provide a rider with all the tools he or she needs in order to control all movement and coordinate both mind and body. This can make the difference between good riding and great riding. Karate can be used to help here.
Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).