One of my very first sidesaddle pals, Pam sent me this a long time ago and I think you will enjoy it as much as I did!
Please Note - The majority of these exercises are to be performed SLOWLY. Never bounce or pulse to extend a stretch. If you have chronic joint pain, discuss exercises with your doctor before attempting.
Hip and glut stretch
Sit on a straight chair, feet flat on the floor. Cross right leg over the left leg. Rest the outside of your right calf on top of your left thigh. Grasp right ankle with left hand. GENTLY pull right ankle toward left hip. At the same time, press right knee downward toward floor. Keep stretch steady and smooth, do not bounce or pulse. Only stretch until you feel discomfort. Do not stretch until your discomfort turns to pain. Hold stretch for a slow count of 5. SLOWLY release right ankle, uncross legs and set right foot back on floor.
Lift right foot off floor and swing knee to the right as far as it will go comfortably. Pause. Swing leg back to starting point. Set foot back on the floor. Extend right leg straight in front of you and hold for a count of 3. Repeat this stretch and release 5 or 6 times, once or twice a day.
Knee and ankle strength and stretch
Standing up straight, lift left foot off floor however is most comfortable for you. Bend right leg at the knee, SLOWLY lower yourself as far as you can without lifting right heel off of floor. DO NOT BOUNCE. Hold for a slow count of 5. SLOWLY rise up until leg is again straight.
Now stand on left foot and raise right foot off floor. SLOWLY bend and straighten your right knee several times. DO NOT KICK. Next rotate right ankle in a circular motion, first one way then the other. Return foot to floor. Repeat this stretch and release 5 or 6 times, once or twice a day.
Standing up straight, SLOWLY lift right leg ahead of you as high as you are able. Hold leg extended for a slow count of 5. Be sure to concentrate on using your thigh to hold up leg, not your back. SLOWLY lower leg, then bend and straighten knee several times. DO NOT KICK. Repeat this exercise 5 or 6 times, once or twice a day.
On a step or stair, stand on balls of feet with heels extending over edge.
SLOWLY lower your heels until you feel discomfort. DO NOT BOUNCE. Hold for a slow count of 5. Rise back up to level. Pause. SLOWLY rise up to tip toe. Hold for slow count of 5. SLOWLY lower heels down past level until you feel discomfort. Hold for slow count of 5. Step down. Repeat this stretch and release 5 or 6 times, once or twice a day.
Sitting in a chair, hands on each side of hips to support weight. Raise feet slightly off of floor and ahead of you. Point right toes down and left toes up. Return feet to being even with each other. Repeat rapidly 15 times once or twice a day. Note this is a coordination exercise, not a stretching exercise. Do not strain ankles. It is important to have feet completely off of floor. Do not rest heels on floor. DO NOT increase repetitions of this exercise as it will put undo strain on your lower back.
Sit on corner edge of table or desk on right thigh and seat. Hang right lower leg and foot over table or desk edge in front of you. Support your weight with left foot on floor. Shift weight to right thigh while raising left foot off floor. Concentrate on weight being centered on thigh rather than seat. Sit up straight, do not lean forward or sideways. Hold for a slow count of twenty. This is a balance exercise, there should be no straining. If you feel as though you need to lean far to the right to lift foot off floor, scoot your seat over to the right about an inch. Try again. Continue to scoot over an inch at a time until you are just barely balancing on edge of the table. Hold balance for a slow count of 20. If you start to teeter hold for a shorter count and work your way up to 20.
While warming up your horse at the walk with feet in stirrups, raise right heel up and drop left heel down. Remain evenly balanced in saddle. Try doing this quickly. Right heel up, at the same time, left down. Some riders are able to do this easily. Others have a hard time having their feet go in different directions.
When you are ready to move into the trot, again raise right heal and drop the left heel. Ease into a sitting trot using your seat for balance, not the stirrups. Only rest feet lightly in stirrups. Then try doing it quickly as you
did at the walk. I wouldn’t suggest posting this way, your horse may never forgive me.
The reason for this exercise is to be able to use light purchase while riding aside. You will occasionally need just a little more security than your balance alone. As you will learn in a future segment, purchase means to stabilize yourself in the sidesaddle. A light purchase is achieved by pointing your right toe down. What many riders do is also raise their left heel at the same time. This foot coordination exercise and the unmounted one (no. 5) helps to teach you to work your feet independently.
Ride bareback! Balance yourself with your seat, not your horse’s mouth via the reins. Again, practice right toes down, left heel down. Keep ankles soft, don’t tighten legs. If you’re concerned your horse has too rough of a trot and/or canter, just walk. It will still do you a world of good.
If you do not ride saddleseat borrow a Lane Fox tree cutback saddle. It’s best to use a flat seat rather than the deeper equitation seat. Typically a flat seat will have a square cantle while an equitation seat will have a round cantle. Riding in a cutback will give you some of the sense of sitting farther back on the horse as you will be riding sidesaddle. You will also be able to practice riding with the longer reins required for sidesaddle. When sitting farther back you will have to have longer reins in order not to have your arms stretched out in front of you.
There are no built in “tricks” to hold you in place on a cutback. The flat seat is designed to allow the rider to shift forward or backward on the seat while executing the various gaits. Staying in one spot, which is what you are aiming for, can be a challenge. Built without knee blocks or deep seats as hunt or dressage saddles are, while riding these saddles it is completely up to the rider to maintain their balance.
Practice the correct saddleseat leg. Ride with feet pointing more forward than in hunt seat. DO NOT turn toes in, instead rotate heels out. This will engage your entire leg into the saddle from the calf all the way to the hip.
Practice cueing your horse with only your left leg and your seat. This will give you and your horse a head start before the new saddle and riding position begin.
If your horse does not understand only one leg, use a sidesaddle cane to replace your right leg. Use your cane in the same position and with the same pressure as you would your leg. Some horses pick up weight shift cues, others rely on the cane, while some work better using both. Each horse is different. Experiment to see what works best for your horse. Combining the new cues with the cutback saddle and longer reins, along with the exercises you and your horse will be well on your way to riding aside.
The one exercise that I believe helped me the most was the Thigh Balance!
Thanks again Pam!!!