Is Running Good For Dressage Riders?
Is running good for dressage riders and what type of running will have the best results in the saddle.
I often get asked is running good for dressage riders. The short answer is yes. But I will tell you the long answer too because it comes with some advice.
First, to run well, you need a certain amount of strength; this isn’t an Olympic lifting kind of strength. What I am referring to here is more biomechanical strength and good postural strength so that you can move in alignment, ie the right muscles working to do the job and not overusing the wrong ones.
Along with this strength, you also need supple hips and healthy joints and ligaments that can handle the impact created by running.
Running can improve all these things, but if done when your body is out of alignment and/or without adequate strength and stability through your pelvis, hips, knees and ankles, you are likely to put unnecessary force through these areas and cause niggles.
This is why I suggest working on your overall posture first through strength and mobility as the best place to start. The better mechanically aligned you are, the better served you are for running without injury or wear and tear.
Similar to riding.
Before I go further, I wrote an article here about improving your cardio fitness, and I talked about the office worker Judy and what her best approach was to improve her cardio for riding with the option of running. I won’t talk about Judy again here, but I highly suggest you read that too, its here.
Instead, I will talk about why we need that strength first and how this strength and mobility can also help your riding.
Requirements for dressage riders
When riding, we need a good base of stamina, overall fitness and good symmetry and posture. Having horses in general and riding itself is a good start, but to enhance your riding further and if you are someone who wants that 1% improvement, it is best to work on this off the horse too. The fitter you become, the more effortless riding is for you versus the main event.
I get that we are all busy, so it’s about deciding whether or not this is something you want to improve. Your call, of course, but I know the fitter you are off the horse, the easier and more enjoyable your riding will become; plus, it’s a way to preserve your riding in the future. The more muscle mass and the better VO2 you have today, the fitter your tomorrows are.
It’s important to know this is not me saying we all need to run to ride well because you certainly don’t. This is just for those who want to run and want to know if it helps their riding or not. I want to explain the relationship between the two and help you successfully run if you wish and what type of running will best help.
Relationship between running and dressage riding
To ride well, we must create stability through our torso and mobility through our hips. This is similar to running.
To run well and ride well, we need good pelvic support to help balance our torso. Meaning the base of our torso needs to be strong as well as our torso itself. In other words we not only need good core strength, but you also need strong, stable glutes to create a stable pelvis as well as mobility through our hips. Sound familiar?
Without a stable base, your torso has difficulty staying aligned and balanced. Imagine a car with unbalanced wheels, the whole body of the car would have trouble staying level.
To stabilise our pelvis, there are lots of muscles involved; these include the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, abdominals, hip flexors, hamstrings, and many other small pelvic floor muscles.
Often what is missing in poor running technique and poor riding technique is that symmetry of strength and support as well as good biomechanical alignment. Tight weak muscles under firing, while other muscles overcompensate. Many factors contribute to poor alignment our job is to do our best to keep improving our posture and alignment and make it a daily habit to do so.
It is that baseline of strength and stability that supports the structures of our body in proper alignment. Most of us have certain muscles getting overused while others are falling asleep. There is a reason why 8 out of 10 people suffer from lower extremity running-related injuries each year and why I highly suggest that baseline of strength and building a solid foundation first.
Through everyday life, we are getting pulled in different directions or compensating on one side. It’s very common to have tight muscles overworking and correct muscles deciding not to fire.
So to run successfully, it is super important to address your alignment issues first and gradually build up over time. Only after you have worked on that baseline of strength and improved the structural integrity of your body will you have a better chance of running without injury.
If you can run well without injury, you are certainly doing great things to help your riding fitness because, yes, someone who can run well with good running technique is then likely to be able to run without injury to help improve overall stamina and cardiovascular fitness.
So to continue to improve your running, keep improving your strength and alignment and by continuing to improve your strength and alignment you will also help your running and overall riding fitness.
Best type of running for dressage riders
There are many different styles, types and duration of running, but what will help your riding?
The best type of running I believe is short interval styles with fabulous form and technique. So running in those shorter durations, that engage your core, push your intensity, use your legs full range of motion and require perfect posture and technique. When these are done once every 7-10 days in short duration the results and gains are huge.
This in comparison to a slow long shuffle with poor technique, that you repeat five days a week without adequate recovery. One will deplete your hormones, repetitively load your joints and use up valuable energy. While the other will give you more bang for your buck and enhance your riding. To understand more about this, again I refer back to Judy, check out the article here and learn how to structure your running for results.
So to summarise the question is running good for dressage riders. Yes!
That is, if you run well with good technique and I personally believe intervals to be the best approach. That being said don’t feel you need to run to improve your riding, if running is not your thing.
There are loads of ways to improve your riding without having to take up running. And that is what our DRT programs are all about. We even include running training in the later programs after a foundation of strength has been developed. This is of course just an option for those of our participants who want to add more of that to their training, but definitely not a requirement.
Want some help improving your strength for running and riding? Check out these articles.
Want some help with your riding? Check out our sister site Dressage Horse Training