The de-stress pose.

This is a pose that is super to do just before you ride, but also is easy to do during the day when you need a de-stress breather…enjoy!

The pose: Table Top

Its great for your riding because is targets 3 areas of the body while relaxing you before you get on.

3 targets for the rider’s body: 

1. Opens the upper back

2. Stretches the front body

3. Lengthens the back of the legs

2 de-stressing actions: 

1. In order to get a deep opening, the pose requires long, deep breaths to truly get the most from the opening of the pose.

2. Lowering your head to or past waist level is a great relaxer.
I use this pose when ever I feel tight, stiff or just wrung out with work or other such stresses.


Stand with feet shoulder distance apart. Hold onto a rail close to your hip height. Bend at hips to get a 90 degree angle. Focus on keeping your abs firm to support your back as you open your chest and press your shoulder blades together.  With each breath allow the lengthening of your hamstrings.

Table Top Pose - The de-stress pose.

Table Top Pose – The de-stress pose.


Introduction to Sassy F.L.A.B.

After being asked many times to put together a program for riders using the bodywork exercises I use daily, I have finally come to the table with Sassy F.L.A.B. In a nut shell I have put together over 45 poses in a specific order that work to stabilize the rider’s body for the advanced levels of riding. This doesn’t mean you have to be advanced to do them, it means they will help you on your journey to becoming a rider working toward the advanced levels of your chosen discipline.

Surprising name at first. Who wants to associate themselves with flab!?!?! Knowing my students and myself, I knew a certain crowd could handle it. Laughing at our foibles is much more fun than stewing over them, or worse, being self conscience about them!

So, I decided to take a tongue in cheek approach to my rider bodywork program. It has little to do with actual flab and much more to do with specific parts of the body that I recommend riders evaluate and work to develop.

This is a bodywork program for riders. The program helps the rider identify 4 major areas of the body that effect the ride the most and then gives them a short program (under 15 minutes) to do just before they get on that works to stabilize those 4 areas. These four areas are as follows:

F: Flexors (hip flexors)

L: Legs (hamstrings, inner thigh)

A: Abdominals (all layers therein)

B: Back (upper back muscles)

Sassy F.L.A.B. Stability Poses for the rider
Four area’s that tend to be weak in many riders.

Once your area of F.L.A.B. has been identified, it is time to address the solution. The solution lies within three areas of athletic fitness.

S: Stretching

A: Body Awareness and Focus

S: Strengthening

In a nutshell, the weak areas of the rider are first identified, then the solution is the stabilizing strategy under all three categories of S.A.S. You will be stretching those areas, mentally engaging through “mind to body” techniques, and finally adding more challenging corrective exercises to improve your stability as a rider.



Stretching, Awareness and Strengthening Poses from Sassy F.L.A.B.

There are two inspirations for Sassy F.L.A.B. First the results I have seen in myself and riders after following the program. These results are stability in the saddle and an independent use of the aides along with a mental preparedness for the tasks at hand. Secondly, the need for a tool to prepare the rider for advanced work with an instructor. Being physically prepared allows them to benefit the most from instruction, thus saving them time and money. Too often I work with riders who simply are not fit enough to get through a lesson. If they would strengthen their bodies just 10% more, the effectiveness of the lesson would go a long way and they would expedite their learning.

Becoming an Athlete

“Nobody’s a natural. You work hard to get good and then work to get better. “  Paul Coffey

Cross training is how I have developed as an athlete, not just a rider. (And yes, the first exercise is at the bottom!)  In what other sport do you find athletes only willing to practice their particular sport with the expectation of achieving a fully trained and complete specimen.  Shoot, we don’t even expect our horses to be complete dressage athletes by solely practicing dressage!  We trail ride, hack, jump, gallop and what have you, all as a means of developing the well-rounded athlete.

So I must remind riders that if they expect their mounts to be an athlete, and they certainly should, then as the leader of the dancing pair they must first become athletes.

Merriam Webster definition of an Athlete: a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina

The words I take from this definition aretrainedphysical strengthagility andstamina, all words that require an action to develop.  Put another way, its not so much talent, but hard work that develops the athlete.

What?  Dressage riders must commit the act of physical work to develop as an athlete?  “Wait a minute”, one might ask… “whatever happened to the sport of dressage that I picked because of its grace and ease?”

Lets not forget that to get grace and ease, we must “crack some eggs” as Dale so kindly puts it.  And as Kourtney King-Dye put it “You go through a lot of ugly to get pretty”.  The process of egg cracking takes athleticism folks!

Training the upper levels of dressage proves that dressage takes balance, a certain amount of strength, agility and the endurance to “stick through a tough spot” for the duration until you and your horse can wade out of your particular situation.  This all takes physical fitness.

As a fellow area trainer complained to me in exasperation: “I’m just getting them (out of shape student) started when they look at me, out of breath, and ask to take a break.  How are we to get any real work done?!”

So this is my aim, to develop myself and other riders with the result of attaining physical strength, agility and stamina resulting in a trained athlete that has worked hard and achieved the highest level of the sport possible to them.

On to the first exercise for the dressage athlete.

Before we ever begin any real work, it’s a must to loosen the body and breath. So the first exercises is simple yet very important.  This is an opening exercise, and great to do just before your ride as it begins your deep breathing, gives you a chance to focus on the ride and get rid of any “extras” running around in your brain from that days chaos (no thinking about paying bills, chores that need to be done or family troubles!).  Your ride becomes your “happy” place. When you enter the barn, you are problem free!  I find that riders need to take a specific action to clear their mind and enter this place of calm, so this is why I picked the “Standing Opening” as our first exercise.

With your shoulders square to your hips and your hips square to your feet, raise your hands directly overhead. This motion in itself stretches and opens your chest.  Pull your shoulder blades together, keep your back straight and engage those abs. Now, with your hands directly over head reaching up as far as is comfortable, sink your arms deeper into their sockets and begin deep breathing.  While you breath, begin to focus on the ride ahead and stop thinking of the “extras”.

My disclaimer:  I am only sharing what has worked for me and fellow students.  Exercise at your own risk! If done incorrectly, injury is possible.  Please consult your physician first, and especially if you have any previous injuries, back pain etc.  Some of these exercises may not be recommended with previous conditions.  Always stop all exercises if you feel pain!