Eventing Worldwide is delighted to introduce to you, Carys Jackson – Active Rider.
Carys will be talking us through why rider fitness is so important.
For now we leave Carys to introduce herself and look forward to bringing you her first article very soon …..
Yes, the photo above is me on my first pony at Pony Club, and yes, apparently I can still look equally stuffy when I ride. You see I wasn’t born into a horsey family – my mum loved riding but my grandfather was in the Royal Marines so they travelled too much for her to develop her passion for riding. However, what we lacked in knowledge, we made up for with sheer effort. I am not a natural rider, struggling for years to grasp the idea of ‘feel’ but I am quite a natural sportswoman. I would spend most of my school days in my PE kit, avoiding wearing school uniform (it was a tartan kilt!!) and swopping any free periods for riding or down the yard. My parents ‘convinced’ me to carry on school with A’ levels with the promise of funding my riding. The same promise was reissued as decisions on university came round, but with extra sparkle – they bought me my horse of a lifetime – Crust, a 6 year old who had done pre novice and had oodles of talent. We had so many differences – he had a fifth leg when disaster struck, whereas I am as accident prone as they come; he had elegance in the dressage ring, whereas I was asked to leave ballet as a youngster, and he had patience beyond belief, whilst I can be somewhat, well, um, fiery?? We did, however, have quite a few shared personality traits – cheek – he used to throw his bucket at me if I hadn’t given him enough food. Excitement – he kicked several start boxes down as we set off, and determination – if he lost a shoe cross-country, he carried on, without a drop in speed or jump height.
So how did owning Crust lead me down the rider fitness pathway? It started with me working on my balance when he bucked me into a ditch on our first hack, in front of all the footballers playing a match – a bit embarrassing for a 18 year old, especially when I had to chase him through the village and back to the yard. As we started competing, I wanted to be fit enough to last the cross country with ease, making his job easier. Then, after being reared on top of on concrete by my new youngster and breaking my back, it became about core strength so that I could ride pain free. Finally, as we neared my life long dream of competing around our first advanced track, it became about performance – becoming as stable, level and controlled as possible. And yes, we did achieve our dream – clear round our first advance, and if you had been anywhere in a 3 mile radius you would have heard my ‘encouragement’ as we went round (I have to watch the video on mute as it still makes me cringe).
So why am I sharing this with you? Simple – rider fitness is more than just fitness. It covers a multitude of areas – strength, cardio fitness, balance etc, and at multitude of levels – beginner, intermediate and performance. No area or level is generally more important than any other, instead it is about what you need and what will improve your riding. So take the time to think about what is important to your riding and then commit to making an improvement – whether it be general fitness, activating your core, or developing the finer touches of feel, as I promise you, you will be glad you started your rider fitness journey.
And as for Crust, well he really was a horse of a lifetime. He stayed with me until earlier this year, when I held him in my arms and made sure I was the last thing he saw at the grand old age of 22.