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Having a busy yard full of horses, in order for everything to run smoothly we have a very regimented routine, as you might expect. I’m a creature of habit; I’ll start every day with a bowl of Alpen. The girls all start on the yard at 7am, with the horses’ morning feeds, mucking out, and then tacking up. I give the girls a list of instructions for the week – as in which horses I want to ride in what order, and they work through the list. I’ll get down there to start riding at 8am and keep riding until we’re done.
In the case of all our local events, Aldon, Bicton and Pontispool, I aim to take ten to twelve horses. There’s a three day turnaround – and each day is rapid to say the least. Come the Monday after each competition I’m wiped out, wondering where my mind’s gone, but you just climb aboard the next horse and carry on with your weekly routine.
To the average rider, it will sound physically exhausting but professional riders are used to it. We need to keep as fit and supple as our horses, and with the daily routine you maintain a good level of fitness just by riding. If your fitness is off, your balance can be off, which is no good at all in this sport!
I regularly see a physiotherapist who has taught me the importance of lots of stretching. My physio’ works with the horses as well as me. As I’m in the World Class programme our physio’ is the UK Sport Physio’ – so she’s the best in the country and has given me lots of tension bands to stretch into. This helps to sustain suppleness and symmetry – to help keep and maintain your balance.
I also have an inversion table, which helps me by hanging upside down on it, which stretches and relaxes me. I also build my core strength by doing sit-ups on it. I tend to try and multitask – amazing for a man, I know - and will be doing stretches whilst I’m brushing my teeth in the morning, and anytime I’m not on a horse. I would notice if I didn’t do it.
You can feel yourself not being so manoeuvrable on your horse if you have any stiffness or tension in your body. Whilst I may not run up the gallops any more after the horses I do find that course-walking also helps to keep you fit.
I’m very aware of the importance of rehydrating – I find that on competition days there are lots of bottles of water left everywhere for me to help me keep sipping away. The girls and my wife, Simmone are very good at reminding me and making sure I do keep taking on water. Another thing I have a good supply of on competition day is Jelly Babies – they really help keep the energy levels up, plus I find them quite addictive – maybe @MaynardsBassett would like to sponsor me?! #jellybabies