Pilates In The Barn

I have come to believe that behind every young, fit, successful, equestrian athlete there is a slightly-bloated, middle-aged, under-employed, suburban housewife with a mousy brown short hair cut and 125,000 miles on her odometer. Yeah, there are Horse Show Moms that look fresh and happy and fit but that’s not what I was seeing in the mirror. If you have fitness goals for a month then dynamic Pilates manly is for you.

After years of driving our youngest daughter to the barn every day (and still trying to keep the rest of the family fed and supplied with clean socks and underwear), I was worn out and I looked it. Something had to change.

For me, change came when my husband sat me down at the kitchen table and said, “I want my wife back. “I wasn’t sure if he was referring to the fact that I was never home or that I was no longer the slender, funny and energetic girl he had married.

Either way. . . ouch!

Then he said, “If we are going to continue encouraging our daughter’s addiction to horse riding we need to include the needs of you, me and the rest of the family. And we will do it with before tax dollars which means we do it as a real business.

“Since that day, I have learned that our conversation is not unique. It happens at kitchen tables and in the parking lots of horse barns all across the country. It usually starts with something like, “That horse cost how much? Who do you think I am, Michael Bloomberg!

“The strategy we chose to meet the “before tax dollar” dictum was to purchase a small horse boarding facility near our home. Our trainer, Mariano Bedoya, helped guide us through the process and he helped us recruit our barn manager, Jorge Viton, from Wellington, Florida.

Owning a barn is a lot of work but it has also become a place that the entire family can enjoy. Our youngest daughter is enjoying her rides more than ever, the older girls are promoting our facility by taking lots of photographs and posting them on Facebook, the boys are willing to do chores as long as they involve a tractor, ATV or power tool and my husband even has an “office” filled with a new drill press for making jumps and an assortment of fishing poles.

But the best part of our barn, to me, is the brand new Pilates Reformer Studio. When we bought our barn, I insisted that we include space for a small Pilates Reformer Studio. I was initially seduced by Pilates while recovering from a knee surgery, years earlier. It looked elegant and safe and easy. Easy? Ha! As the trainer guided my every move, I learned the beautiful and challenging nuances of proper, effective Pilates work. There were many days when I told her, “There is absolutely no way that I can do that move correctly,” but I ended up blushing like a little girl in my first pony class when “I did it!”I was transformed through Pilates and believe that it is the perfect on site program for my daughter and the other serious equestrian athletes in our barn. With the proper instruction and supervision, it is possible to experience strengthening and lengthening and balance without pain.

Pilates teaches you how to quiet down and listen to your body and respect the movement of the equipment. Can you imagine a more perfect training for riders? Our Pilates trainer does not have specific experience in training equestrian athletes so we are counting on Dressage Rider and Trainer Betsy Steiner to host regular clinics, throughout the year, at our barn. Betsy helped coin the term, “Equilates,” and is the author of the book entitled A Gymnastic Riding System – Using Mind, Body, & Spirit.

I will always love sitting in the viewing room, watching our daughter train. It gives me true joy. But with a Pilates Studio on site, I look forward to a more balanced and fit life for this Horse Show Mom, too.

Six Principles of Pilates

Pilates is a series of controlled thought-filled movements usually performed on specially designed spring-resistant exercise equipment. It is focused on improving flexibility, core strength and body awareness. In the book The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning, six “Principles of Pilates” are described. The list below applies those principles to the unique challenges of the equestrian athlete.

1. Concentration!
Pilates trains the body and the mind. Just like riding, one must be habitually “ever present” in mind and body, to be successful and safe.

2. Control!
The original name for the Pilates exercise method was “Contrology”. The exercises are all about staying collected. In Pilates, and riding, one perfectly executed exercise is better than 100 poorly executed.

3. Centering!
All physical moves spring from our core. When the core is engaged posture is better, the rider’s seat is deepened and the chance of injury is reduced.

4. Flow!
Pilates and riding are all about fluidity, grace and ease. Pilates equipment, and a horse, are very good mirrors of flow and concentration. If the flow is lost, the Pilates equipment begins banging around. The rider must marry their moves with their horse to avoid collapsing, twisting or bouncing in the saddle.

5. Precision!
Correct Pilates training requires an intense attention to detail that quickly becomes second nature. Adult students of Pilates find that their new mindfulness changes their daily posture and some have a measurable increase in stature. Better posture results in a more elegant ride.

6. Breathing!
Deep, controlled, cleansing breaths are part of the maximization of the Pilates moves. Deeper stretches, more elongated muscles and oxygenated blood means fewer cramps and tightening muscles while in and out of the saddle.

More information about breathing control.

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