One of the great things about Lendon Gray's Dressage4Kids and Courtney Dye and Robert Dover's Horsemastership weeks are their desire to increase access to resources for youth riders who might not have competitive horses (or any horse) or might live far away from top trainers (or any trainer)!
I know I have been blessed to have a family that supported my goals enough to let me move to train here with Christine Traurig; but not everyone has that opportunity. The desire of Lendon, Courtney and Robert to open our sport is also one I am finding that Nike shares. I am learning from them how to increase my riding athletic potential by increasing my overall fitness and health. This is one way that I think it is practical for all riders, young and adult, to improve without needing a certain horse or a certain trainer.
I know I learned from Bob at the Horsemastership weeks that I am not as fit as I thought a competitive young rider is! We all moaned, groaned and had tough times walking all three years. I think this process made us make promises (which sometimes lasted) to increase our overall fitness when we got home.
I have tried to do this in some ways with regular Pilates classes, running, massages and regular chiropractor visits. I know at first this was hard to coordinate. I looked in the city recreation sports class schedules. They do offer some cheap and fun yoga, Pilates and Barr classes that are all helpful for dressage riders. But the times (and often the times at paid gyms) are early in the morning.
Barn people, particularly in the warmer southern climates are always at the barn in the morning. So morning classes aren't possible. I then checked out times at private gyms and that was tough to coordinate as well. I finally called Rachel, my instructor, directly and asked what it would take to have her do a private lesson at a time that fit in with my crazy barn schedule. This was a bit more expensive and I had to cut out a few other things from my budget, but it not only allowed me to make the classes possible, but I get so much done in one hour that is concentrated solely on what I need.
I have learned so much about core strength and balance it has been amazing. My whole body shape has been changing. I can sit on a balance ball crossed legged, using only my core and watch a whole episode of Vampire Diaries without falling off! Grandma can't do it for even a minute without holding on to something. Maybe I could convince her to start coming with me.
Anyway, I know it is hard to maintain outside fitness with our schedules. Work, school and barn take up most of a young rider's schedule. Then we all live so far apart that we can't do this together.
Let's face it, exercise alone can be kind of boring and not
nearly as rewarding as going together. We all live
stretched out across the U.S., so how can we help each other with fitness?
Using the Nike+training and Nike+running apps! Download these free apps and connect with me! They are great to connect and challenge each other to develop and meet outside training goals. There are videos of demonstrations for exercises you can do for different results, from top Nike trainers. You can plan a workout that develops and challenges your goals. The apps also track your progress. This helps to stay on track. I absolutely love that the app logs in my motion when I am in the saddle. It records so much activity when I am in the saddle it is fun to show people how active riding really is. You can share your workouts and exercises with each other. You can post goals to your social media or challenge other users directly. You can earn Nikefuel points and work your way up rankings in different user groups. You can even send photos of your runs!
So, if any youth riders out there want to join a fitness network with me (or create one for your barn or your region) let's get started! We could work together to make dressage youth riders more fit. Maybe we could challenge the young reiners, jumpers, eventers and vaulters at NAJYRC this year and find out who is the most fit!
See you at the gym or on Nike+training and Nike+running!
Author Ayden Uhlir is a Nike-sponsored dressage rider. She lives in San Diego and trains with Christine Traurig at Albert Court in Rancho Santa Fe. This article is reprinted from Ayden's blog for young riders: www.dressagespot.blogspot.com.