Question # 12: (Current freebie!) I'm 50 years old have not done any jumping in about 10 years. I had a back injury about 5 years ago, which is repaired and cleared.

My main focus is dressage and I have been riding almost daily for about two years but I am itching to try cross country. OK maybe not the big jumps and ditches. It's dead winter and I'm planning my spring and summer. Any suggestions on how I can get started in a small way and any advice to preparing my body. (Cheryl)

Hi Cheryl!

Yes, you should definitely give it a try! There is nothing like it. Nothing creates a stronger bond between horse and rider. That's when it's going well, of course!

Here's what you can do now in the middle of winter to prepare:

Exercises off the horse:

1. Calf stretch - There are several ways to do a calf stretch, but I usually use one of these two methods. One is to stand on your stairs (if you have stairs!), balancing on the front of the balls of your feet on the edge of a stair. Hold on to the banister, and let your weight sink into your heels until you feel the stretch. The other is to stand facing a wall, about 2 feet away from it. Put your hands on the wall, and let your hips fall towards the wall until you feel the stretch.

2. Wall sit - This one is a killer, but it really strengthens your legs. Stand with your back flat against the wall, with your feet about 2 feet in front of you. And gradually slide down until you are in a sitting position, with your knees at a 90 degree angle, like this:

wall sitYou will feel how difficult it is after just a few seconds, but if you can gradually build up the length of time that you can stay in that position, it will make all of your jumping muscles very strong!

3. The Plank - This exercise is to strengthen your core muscles, which will help all of your riding. This one is very hard too. You may be familiar with this one, having rehabbed from a back injury. Lay on the floor, and rise up so that you are balancing on your forearms and toes like this:


Start out with three sets of 30 seconds, and build from there. The stronger your core muscles are, the more strong you will be as a rider!

Exercises on the horse:

1. Two point - Jack LeGoff, who was perhaps the most succesful US Olympic coach of all time, used to say "bottoms up" to the USET riders, and make them just spend hours in the two point position. You certainly don't need to go that far! But the more time you spend in two point, the stronger your jumping muscles will be. Start off with just "once around" in the trot, and build up to 10 - 15 minutes of continuous two point in trot and canter. Go ahead and curse me while doing it, if you want. ;) But nothing will make your jumping position stronger.

2. Ride without stirrups - Again, a classic exercise that makes you stronger and develops an independent, secure seat.

Ok Cheryl, that should give you plenty to work on until spring. Make sure that you have a good instructor with you when you are ready to begin cross country jumping. As even if you are already an experienced jumper, there are some important differences when you venture out on cross country with varied terrain.

I hope this helps you! Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

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