My name is Jason Hill, founder of Equestrifit® and principal trainer of the Equestrifit® Core Rider Fitness Program.
I started riding at age thirteen and like most other young aspiring riders had big dreams of going to the Olympics. After some considerable amount of money spent on riding lessons and competitions I realised my progress had reached a plateau. After many years of riding I wound up injured and very frustrated. I had excellent riding instructors but showed limited improvement season after season.
Then in 1995 I developed a serious lower back injury that confined me to bed for 3 months. I had prolapsed my L4/L5 disc and it was pressing on my S1 nerve root. A common injury that creates numbness and often searing pain into one or both legs. I was on course for surgery!
With my confinement to bed I had plenty of time to think! I began studying the physiology of the spine and possible causes associated with my injury. It ignited an interest for me to understand more about surrounding musculature and most importantly the balance between these muscles. Core stability and strength became a focus in my rehabilitation process and I began to lay down some foundations of pelvic floor and lower abdominal strength. Improving my alignment and awareness of how I was using my body became a new principle for movement control. My condition began to improve. Within the 3 month period of reporting back to my specialist I had made a significant improvement. So much so my specialist commented he had not seen a patient with symptoms as progressed as mine to make a recovery so quickly. I had managed to escape surgery but needed to change the way I was using my body.
If I wanted to get back on a horse I needed to find out more! I needed to know more about the muscles important for riding stability and control. Then how I could target these muscles to improve my condition and ultimately my riding. I soon realised it was little to do with conventional gym training. So I began to investigate what types of training could help improve all the components of better riding. I also needed to understand the challenges of each rider and their environment.
The journey then lead me to investigate the different methods of training best suited to equestrians. It needed to improve mobility and stability with a large focus on good core function. The resistance required needed to create the right tonicity in the muscles without them becoming stiff. These modalities I decided needed to be suspension and resistance band training which lead me to design StrapX.
StrapX training incorporates core stability and control in all exercises and improves your functional core strength while on the horse. Functional means that your core is doing what it should be doing while on the horse. Providing stability and control so that the limbs can remain independent and soft.
StrapX resistance band training has the advantage over free weights or other forms of resistance training as it provides resistance in all planes of motion. For this reason resistance band training can be used to strengthen movement patterns. Another property of resistance bands is they increase their resistance as they are extended to full range and therefore core recruitment and end range strength is improved.
Balancing on the sit bones is a challenge to replicate and arguably the most significant factor that sets horse riding aside from most other sports that are on the feet. As we are made to perform on our feet it makes sense to train for most part on our feet so we can incorporate fully integrated kinetic chain movement. Just meaning groups of muscles working together harmoniously as they are required to do while on the horse.
Harmony and flow are factors that every rider needs to perfect and is a significant property that resistance band training provides. It will develop toning strength with softness and elasticity. The bands work almost like an extension of your musculature which the rider needs to feel. You can train to improve feel and sensory feedback with this continuous form of resistance provided in the bands. You will become more of an extension of the horse with that same feeling of elasticity and flow.
This is a new innovation in rider fitness training that I call ‘Core Rider Fitness’. It has benefitted me and I’m sure it will benefit you!