Why do we lunge our horses before we ride? To warm them up and get the kinks out of their muscles, right? And to make sure they're moving OK, paying attention and ready to work, right? Well guess what? We need to do the same things for our own bodies! As you will see in the upcoming video posts, it takes only a few minutes of the right kind of focused attention on each major muscle group to get your body loosened up and ready to ride. In so doing you perform for your own body the same kind of pre-flight check you do for your horse when you are lunging him and doing your groundwork. In essence, you are giving your all-important core muscles the same kind of attention you give your horse: ?"Hey, wake up! Do you remember your job? Are you ready to work?" If ?your muscles, like mine, answer with a chorus of knotty complaints, you know its time to get more serious with your overall fitness regimen. And if you, like me, tend to rush around all day, and then screech up to the barn with just an hour or two of precious "horse time" before you go zooming back into the rest of your life, it will make a big difference in how you ride ? and how much you enjoy it ? ?to add a little ?breathing, stretching and loosening ?to your tacking up routine. And more than likely, your horse will appreciate your taking the time to get yourself together, mentally and physically. As promised, I did go visit Cassandra Thompson of ABSolute Pilates and the up and coming ABSolute Equestrian program recently?to shoot some quick videos ?of a few good pre-and-post-ride stretching and limbering exercises we can all do to make sure our muscles are unknotted, awake and ready to work. I'll get these posted once I have a chance to clip, title and upload them to my YouTube channel ? and will embed them here, one at a time,?for your convenience as I highlight and explain them (thanks to Cassandra!). But meanwhile, here's what I learned about the whyfors and how tos of pre- and- post- ride stretching and loosening. First, by ?beginning each pre-ride exercise with deliberate and timed breathing (always breath out on exertion), activating your core muscles by "putting your abs on" (grooming and tacking ?up present great opportunities to work these into your normal routine ? nobody even has to know you're exercising!) and relaxing and ?"breathing with your ribcage" as you let your shoulders settle back and down (take a deep breath and feel your ribcage expanding outward to take in as much air as possible, and then, on the exhale, imagine sliding your shoulder blades downward toward your back pockets). Do this a few times and you'll have your body calm, relaxed and centered to take on whatever challenges come your way. And, while you wait on my remedial video editing skills to blossom, here's a cool chart I found to show you the major muscle groups you'll want to stretch before and after you ride ? along with some simple stretches to do to get them loose and stretchy. Elastic bands will give you a much deeper and more targeted stretch, but if you're not used to stretching at all these will get you started down the right trail! Do you have any good pre-ride stretching and loosening routines to share? Look for Cassandra's videos coming soon, and please let me know if you have any other good ones to add ? or if you know of any good stretching routines, DVDs, or workouts that target these same areas ? or some good, yet subtle things you can do at the barn.?We'll get to some good home routines a little bit later, but for now let's just commit to doing a little bit of stretching before and after we ride to put this great habit into place. Send me your progress reports!