Feb 2016

Weeks 2,3 And 4 Of Our 12 Week Programme

Thanks Motion Photography for their gorgeous photo

Week two complete, and I have some new-found skills and have been able to put my best Blue Peter talents to good use! First, though, I'd better introduce myself a bit more fully than last week. I work full time as an editor for a farming newspaper, so trying to fit in work, riding, competing and keeping fit and healthy can sometimes seem like quite a tall order.

I've owned Moley, a cheeky 17.1hh KWPN gelding for about 18 months and we compete in everything from dressage to music to eventing. Before I bought Moley, I'd owned Giant, a 17.2 ISH for seven years, so a new horse was a bit of a shock to the system and it took me a long time to get used to the change - Moley has much bigger paces and a different outlook to life than Giant.

I know Moley goes much better when I ride well, which has really driven me to become a better rider and much fitter. I've been doing some work on my strength, fitness and especially on making my core stronger, but thought the chance of doing the 12 week programme was too good to pass up.

This second week has been good - and I have become better at planking as time has gone on, but I was pretty shaky at 30 seconds to start with. I've also learned about gliding - whether it's running, skating or shimmering! I was wondering what to use for the gliding and it suddenly dawned on me that the A4 plastic pockets you can use to put things in ring binder folders would be perfect - and they were! Blue Peter, eat your heart out!
The articles on the site have been interesting this week, and I found a really good blog post about sitting better at work which should help with riding - I just need to make sure I put it into practice regularly now. Here's the link if you are interested:

I'm just about to start week three now, and also have a physio appointment for Moley and an osteopath session for me booked in, so it's going to be a busy week. I'll let you know how it goes.

Blog 3 - An unscheduled dismount!

Falling off my 17.1 horse wasn't part of the programme this week, and it was quite a surprise...The combination of blue sky and sun, a sharp wind and a passing cyclist proved too much for a fresh-feeling Moley, and my (very slippy!) winter riding overtrousers were no help whatsoever when he decided to have a mini explosion in the outdoor school. Never mind, at least I had a prebooked appointment with my osteopath to look forward to!

It was an interesting visit, and tallied with Carys' assessment from the videos and pictures I send as part of week one of this course. I've been feeling blocked in my thoracic spine for a while now, so the appointment concentrated quite a bit on that, and I now have some additional exercises to add to the growing list.

I've enjoyed this week's programme, and can see some improvement. A plank for 30 seconds is much less of a challenge than it was last week, and the cardio circuit is short and sweet, so not too scary, but it still makes me puff.

Even though I have been away for a few nights with work this week, it's been fairly straightforward to keep going on the programme as I didn't need any specific bits of kit.

One thing which has helped with the 30 second bursts of exercise is an app I discovered - I've programmed it for 40 second intervals, which gives me enough time to get organised and do the 30 second exercise before the sound of grasshoppers kicks in and I get on with doing the next task on the sheet. It's amazing how quickly three circuits of exercises passes when you have no time to think about it.

Moley has also had a treat this week, as our regular physio, Fiona Johnstone, came to give him a check up. I think a regular physio session is a good idea for horses, and Moley certainly seems to enjoy the attention. Like me though, he's got some exercises to do for the next few weeks as we work to build his core strength as well as mine!

Blog 4 - Falling behind!

It's a couple of weeks since I last wrote, and that's mainly as I've repeated week 4 of the 12 week course. I seemed to be so busy last week that I didn't really get a chance to get properly going, so I decided the best thing was just to do week 4 all over again. It's been good though, and some new exercises have challenged my balance! I'm not sure I've quite got the hang of the single leg straight leg dead lift, even though Carys makes it look quite straightforward in the accompanying video. At least no-one can see me wobbling through that one, but I'm pleased with how much better I am managing to do the press-ups.

The posture workout, of reverse flyers, scarecrow arms and cobra, has been very quick to do. It has also worked really well with some of the additional exercises my osteopath has given me to do, and I am feeling much freerer in my thoracic spine. Now I think it's just a matter of making sure I keep doing them to make sure I don't revert back to being 'stuck'.

Moley is on good form, and feeling well, especially after a good canter round the farm ride at Somerford Park in the sunshine last weekend. We were supposed to make our BE 2016 debut this weekend at Askham Bryan in Yorkshire but unfortunately the weather meant it was abandoned. It's disappointing news for everyone involved, especially the organisers who put in so much hard work, all for nothing. So, instead we are off to do some working hunter and then a lesson on Sunday. It's all go, but it's great to be out and about and making progress!

Equine Anatomy & Performance Facts


  • The equine spine - Horses like humans have 7 cervical (neck vertebrae), 18 thoracic vertebrae (humans have 12), 6 lumbar vertebrae (humans have 5), 5 sacral vertebrae and between 15-21 caudal or tail vertebrae.Horses unlike humans do not have a collar bone or clavicle. Instead their shoulder girdle is attached to the thorax (or ribcage) by a series of muscles comprising the thoracic sling.

  • The equivalent of the human wrist in the horse or carpus is often incorrectly referred to as the knee. The actual knee of the horse is called the stifle. Imagine a human on all fours or a horse stood up like a human on two legs!


Emma Penny Starts Our 12 Week Plan

Thanks Motion Event Photography for their photo

Getting going....

You know when you come out of the arena having just done a jumping round and you're breathing like you've done a 400m sprint and requiring oxygen that you really DO need to do something about your fitness..... So it's probably a good thing I've started The Active Rider 12 week plan, and I'm pleased to be blogging about it. Hopefully, I'll be a good bit fitter by the time the eventing season starts, and writing this means I will be able to track my progress over the weeks.

It's been a good first week - and it's great that I actually have to write about it as it means no shirking! I wasn't quite sure what the plan would involve, so I spent a while reading the first week's programme and the other articles that are part of it, and then decided I really had to get going. The programme is quite in depth, with video links to explain everything, and it is specifically targeted at riding, which is great.
I've found the two workouts quite straightforward so far, and they really don't take long at all - but the more aerobic one (especially the 30 second bursts of 'fast feet') does make me puff, which is good. I'm also feeling more aware of my core having done the core workout, but it still takes quite a bit of discipline to remind myself to sit better at my desk at work or when I am driving. I've alternated the workouts each day, which has worked well, and have been trying to drink more water as part of this programme too.

So, a good first week and I do feel a bit better already. Bring on week two!