For motorcyclists and horse riders, ankle strength and stability are critical. Unstable ankles degrade the pleasure of your ride and increase your risk of falling. Your ankles act as a force transmission device between the stirrup and your body. This is critical for maintaining balance during sharp turns or spooks, but can also have a subtle influence on weight distribution and symmetry during ordinary riding. This symmetry improves the precision of your assistance and protects both you and your horse’s back.
Many horse riders have damaged their ankles at least once due to our frequent exposure to uneven terrain and unpredictable horses. The issue is that once an ankle sprain occurs, it is more likely to occur again. A previously sprained ankle is weaker and less stable than a non-sprained ankle unless it is fully healed.
Fortunately, basic workouts such as calf raises can teach your brain to regulate your ankles properly, so preventing instability and reinjury. Also, I will give you 4 exercises on how do you strengthen your ankles for horse riding.
How do you strengthen your ankles for horse riding?
1. Light seat with short stirrups
The dreaded two-point or light seat rears its head once more! Event riders are all too aware with the calf burn that results from spending an extended period of time balanced in a proper two point position with your torso out of the saddle and your lower leg absorbing the horse’s movement.
To do this, shorten your stirrups by a couple of holes. Begin with a walk to ensure you can maintain balance without using your hands before on to the other paces. Be aware that trotting in a light seat is more difficult than cantering, but it works wonders for the lower leg.
Naturally, the shorter stirrups and the fact that you are up and slightly out of the saddle put an extra strain on your calves. This alone will increase leg strength and muscular tone.
Due to the requirement for proper balance, two points is also beneficial for leg posture. If you feel yourself off balance on a light seat, it is most likely due to your lower leg moving forward or backward.
Developing a strong two-point stance teaches you where your leg should be to maintain your security and also teaches you how to put your leg on for a reaction without kicking, flapping, or elevating your heels.
2. Two-beat Rising Trot
Normally, when you rise, you sit for one beat and then stand for one. It comes easily to the majority of riders and is relatively simple to accomplish since the horse’s trot automatically propels you out of the saddle with each step.
Changing diagonals per step is one workout you can undertake. There are two methods for accomplishing this. The first choice is to sit for one beat and then rise for two consecutive beats (i.e. remain standing for two steps), whereas the second option is to rise for one stride and then sit for two. It’s frequently beneficial to devote one day or chunk of your ride to one method and the next to the other.
This improves your body control and teaches you to remain in sync with the horse’s motion. Additionally, it enhances balance and assists you in achieving an independent seat, which is critical for maintaining a solid lower limb.
3. Step Stretch
If your heels begin to creep up as you ride, the following exercise can assist extend your leg and keep your heels down:
At home, take a position on the edge of a step or curb, or on the lowest stair.
Maintain a straight back and bend your ankles to enable your heels to slide down.
The stretch will be felt in the calf muscles and around the ankle.
Ten seconds later, return to normal, and repeat ten times.
Daily practice may help build flexibility and suppleness, as well as assist you in keeping your weight in your heels when riding.
4. Leg Lifts
This exercise can be performed on or off the horse and takes on a variety of forms. It works because it engages the hip flexors, a region that is extremely tight and/or weak in a large proportion of riders.
Hip strength and flexibility development may significantly enhance your lower leg position, as it enables you to properly align your entire leg and allows you to follow the horse’s movements with your hips, eliminating the need to compensate with your lower leg.
This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including the following:
Face a wall with your arm at your side and your left shoulder contacting the wall. Maintain a straight right leg with your toes facing ahead and lift it directly out to your right side without bending your left knee or tilting to the left. Carry out this movement slowly (during a count of five) and with control; then hold for five seconds and gradually lower your leg. To make this more difficult, put a resistance band around both ankles.
Lie on your left side, hands clasped in a prayer position, knees bowed and together. Open your right knee and hip to rotate your right leg outwards and upwards without moving your hands or upper body. To make this more difficult, wrap a resistance band over your knees.
Remove both feet from the stirrups while seated on your horse. Maintain straight legs and toes in front of you. Maintaining a straight back and your weight in the saddle’s center, carefully lift one or both legs away from the saddle and hold for a few seconds before gradually lowering them to your horse’s sides.
How do you strengthen your ankles for horse riding at home?
On a Step, a Calf Raises
To strengthen your ankles, you must test your balance and concentrate on ankle control throughout your range of motion. Calf raises are a straightforward yet efficient workout for doing this. They are typically performed on a level surface, but adding a slight step allows riders to focus on ankle control while maintaining their regular “heels down” stance.
To begin, choose a safe step for this exercise. It must be substantial and sturdy, similar to a step or bottom stair. You should have something to grasp onto, such as a banister, to provide additional support if necessary. Avoid step stools and other unstable surfaces when standing on the edge.
As with your stirrups, stand on the edge of the step with your weight through the ball of your foot. Allow your heels to fall to the ground (Photo 1), then propel yourself up onto your toes (Photo 2). Repeat slowly, taking around six seconds to ascend and descend. Your objective is to maintain control of your ankle wobble by avoiding rolling your foot in or out. While a few wobbles indicate that you are suitably pushing your balance, if you find yourself frequently wobbling or stepping forward/backward, attempt the exercise while hanging onto something. For a more difficult workout, try standing on one leg only.
Two minutes of these calf lifts twice day can help you improve your ankle stability and control. Once you can perform the exercise comfortably without using your hands, continue a few times each week to maintain your progress. Do this exercise only if the motion is painless. If you’ve just injured your ankle, you may need to wait a few weeks before attempting this exercise.
When to Seek Assistance
This exercise is for those with weak ankle control and those who have already had sprains. New injuries or discomfort that lingers beyond six weeks following an accident may necessitate assessment by a medical expert, such as a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist can ascertain the underlying reasons of instability, discomfort, or weakness and devise a treatment plan that is appropriate. While orthotics and ankle braces may be beneficial in certain cases, proper exercise is a critical component of any effective treatment regimen.