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Rider Fitness | 8 Essential Stretches for all Riders with Physiotherapist, Elizabeth Rourke

lifestyle riding training May 29, 2020

Chartered Physiotherapist, Elizabeth Rourke, MSc, BSc (hons) guides you through 8 essential stretches for all horse riders. In only FIVE minutes a day you can make a real difference to your riding.  Elizabeth has a wealth of knowledge and experience as a Physiotherapist assisting her patients with rehabilitation and pain management.

As riders, so often we suffer from countless aches and pains. We are always the first to call the Equine Physio or therapist to check our horses and keep them performing in tip top condition, but so often we forget the importance of keeping ourselves performing at  our very best too.  

Read on for full instructions to effectively follow these simple stretches for yourself.  Remember to breath deeply with all of these stretches, and to expand the rib cage to deepen the stretch.

Now, follow along with our video and get into a routine of regularly stretching, to help you riding as well as overall flexibility, suppleness and health. You will see massive benefits in your riding by getting into a habit of spending just five minutes a day on these essential rider stretches. 

Here is your guide to  the 8 Essential Stretches for ALL Riders

These are suitable for those who can get comfortably on and off the floor. If you suffer with any musculoskeletal conditions please see a GP or Chartered Physiotherapist before participating in these stretches to double check they are suitable for you.

Puppy Pose 

Hold for 40 seconds, if comfortable to increase further lift head. 

Come onto all fours, heels together, knees wide and stretch your hands as far forward as you can and then gently bring your head down towards the mat. If you lift the head up, this will give you a slightly different stretch. Make sure you take a nice deep breath as this will deepen the stretch too, hold for 40 seconds. This will benefit a rider as they often get increased stiffness around their thoracic spine and this will help to stretch this out, as well as the shoulders.  

Hip flexor stretch with thoracic rotation

Hold for 20 seconds each side

This is a good stretch for riders, as you are spending a lot of time in a sitting position.  This will open up the hips with an added thoracic rotation to increase movement in the thoracic spine. To do this successfully, come onto your knees, step one leg forward and lean into it, the arm of the back leg reaches up, and then place that arm on the bend leg and open the arm up. Again take nice deep breathes to deeper the stretch through the thoracic spine and hold for 40 seconds in total, 20 seconds on each leg. 


Lying down glute stretch

Hold for 20 seconds each side. This can be made easier by resting the lifted leg on the floor. 

For this stretch, lie on your back, bending your knee up and place the heel of that opposite leg on that knee, hug it into your tummy and again taking a nice deep breath in, to deepen the stretch and hold for 20 seconds. This is good for anyone who spends any time in a sitting position, particularly for riders. 

Hamstring stretch

Lift the leg as far as you feel comfortable and keep the knee straight.

Once you have stretched your glutes, you can stretch the hamstring by putting your hands behind the thigh and straightening the knee up. Think about pushing the heel up to the ceiling as you do this. Only go as far as you feel comfortable, and make sure you don't get any pins and needles in your feet. If you do, stop the stretch. 


 Adductor stretch 

Hold for 20 seconds.

The next stretch laying on your back is for your hip adductors, riders tend to use this a lot to fix through when sitting, so lying and letting the knees drop to the side, you will feel a stretch in the inner thighs. 

Knee Hugs

Hold for 20 seconds. Gently rock from side to side

Next, give the knees a good hug in and rock from side to side to massage the lower lumbar spine. 

The following two exercises can also be done on a chair:

The final stretches are for the shoulder and chest, again getting a good stretch over the back of the shoulders, reach arms forward and tuck the chin into the chest and feel the stretch at the back of the shoulder blades, then bring your arms behind you, push the chest forward and again take a nice deep breath in and hold for 20 seconds in each position.  

Shoulder Stretch

Hold for 20 seconds.

Chest stretch 

Hold for 20 seconds.

Practicing stretches regularly will help you to be as supple and flexible as possible, which will help you perform at your best when riding. 

Please note, if you get any pain whilst doing these exercises stop and consult your GP or Chartered Physiotherapist.

Elizabeth is a Chartered Physiotherapist within the NHS and has many years of experience in rehabilitation and pain management. 



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