Introducing Louise Towl
Louise Towl has been working as a Chartered Physiotherapist for 20 years, and as a Veterinary Physiotherapist for 16 years, and now spends her time running Ready To Ride Physio & Pilates – helping horse riders to maximise their riding ability, reach their goals and learn about their body through horse rider pilates.
Why It’s Not Just About The Horses
Hands up – honestly – if you are great at making sure your horse is primed for their job, warming up, cooling down, massage pads, therapist appointments and so on…..yet don’t really apply the same principles to yourself.
I totally understand this situation. There is never enough time in the day to get everything done at the best of times, and as we care so much about our horses, we naturally want to put their welfare first.
However, let’s just remember that as horse riders, we are 50% of the partnership with our horses. Put very simply, this means that we have a huge responsibility to make sure that our bodies are in the best possible condition if we want to ensure the same for our horses. If you compete, ignoring the 50% that is the rider means you risk underperforming, regardless of how much time and effort you put into your horse.
The unavoidable truth is that we really need to spend as much time looking after our own bodies as we do our horses. The question is, what is the best plan for this?
Ultimately, this has to come down to what you can fit in, and to a certain degree what you enjoy. If exercise is a chore, it is not sustainable and likely to be less effective.
Whatever you choose to do, there are a few key components to include; cardio fitness, strength and balance, and because riding is a skill it is also essential to include training that supports this and assists the development of
dynamic stability through the low back and pelvis. We know that riders become more asymmetric with age and experience; this is thought to be due to the long term effects of the body working to absorb the forces that come up from the horse. The fitter and stronger we are, and the greater our control around the low back and pelvis, the better our bodies will cope, and the better we will ride.
Obviously, I am biased, but I consider Pilates to be a great way to address much of these requirements in our off-horse training. In 1 session it is possible to work on strength, balance, mobility, control, precision of movement, co-ordination, stamina, and even cardio fitness. It is also possible to tailor content to individual requirements and time constraints. For example, ideally you might do an hour once a week, working on your whole body. Once or twice in the week you can then do 10-15 minutes working on your specific needs, such as mobility or balance. Finally, you can have a selection of 2 or 3 exercises that you do to prime your body before you ride. What is not to like?!
Of course this form of exercise won’t provide all your needs as a rider, especially if you event for example – for real cardio stamina you need to incorporate exercise such as running or cycling – but for many of us it is an excellent foundation.
Keep it Green – Go Outdoors!
One of the other aspects to Pilates that I find hugely beneficial – and I know my clients do too – is the relaxation of body and mind that comes with focusing on movement in a positive way, combined with breathing. I find it a very holistic form of exercise. For the full effect, Pilates outside is perhaps the ultimate, alongside Yoga, when it comes to a ‘Green Gym’ exercise. I teach my online class outside whenever possible, and all my YouTube sessions are filmed in my garden. Not only is birdsong a great accompaniment, but doing balance work on an uneven lawn is an excellent challenge! I now encourage my clients, where possible, to do their exercises outside too.
Pilates is also something you can do with little to no fancy kit. A mat for comfort, and resistance bands are really the only items you ‘need’ – although even these can be created from household items – as equipment such as weights, rollers and balls can all easily be substituted with homemade versions. You certainly don’t need any specific clothing, as long as you are comfortable and can move easily. So if you want an environmentally friendly form of exercise, Pilates ticks a lot of boxes. And, if you want to go the whole hog and reduce your carbon emissions by doing it all from home, you can join my Facebook group, or subscribe to my YouTube channel! This way, you can also incorporate using any heat/massage equipment you might use normally as well, as part of your warm up/cool down.
If you don’t already do Pilates then I recommend giving it a try. It’s not for everyone, but if you enjoy it you will reap many rewards.