Last in the 3 part series – Boost Rider Performance
Extremely active and intensive training at this level.
I have attended many horse shows and watched rider’s who are part-way around a cross-country course, red-faced and gasping for air – the horse being in tip-top condition and the rider letting his/her steed down. Horse riding, particularly competing, is a team effort and you need to be healthy and able to perform just as much as your horse.
You will be exerting lots of mental energy, energy means fuel and you get fuel by eating quality, non-processed and fresh food, I am talking carbs and protein mostly. Food like beans, legumes, quinoa, fish, chicken, even vegetables have carbs.
The eventer will be walking the course, jogging around the course and for some cycling around the course several times over and this is physically demanding. For many there will be an adrenal rush, nervous energy and some stress, particularly if you are still new at this level.
Slow releasing energy is required, no sugar spikes or caffeine-driven rides, this could impinge on your performance thereby impacting the way your horse acts. If you are hyped that energy translates to the horse, so the less stimulants you have and the more relaxed you are the better for you both.
Don’t eat heavy meals before or in between competition it is a burden on the digestive system and it could make you feel sluggish. Think light snacks; fruit, banana dipped in organic peanut butter and covered in hemp hearts, chia seeds and/or cacao nibs. Hummus and vegetable sticks, trail mixes (nuts, raisins, pumpkin seeds can be mixed at home) are just a few ideas.
What can eating too much sugar do to you?
Sugar from packaged foods, drinks and adding sugar to tea/coffee can mount up in a day. It puts pressure on the body’s systems. It increases insulin levels, increases blood pressure, pressure in the circulatory system, creates an imbalance in cholesterol levels meaning there is too much LDL (bad cholesterol) and more.
Sugar is addictive and can be difficult to remove from your diet – particularly when the food and beverage industry’s put it in so many products.Even fruit farmers have learnt to grow crops that have higher fructose than in previous generations. That’s right, if you think that the grapes or pineapples you are eating today are sweeter than the ones you ate growing up it’s because they almost certainly are. Sugar is known to release chemicals that triggers the brain’s pleasure center. Coming off sugar can have side affects, like anxiety, cravings, shakes as seen in rat studies – I have also seen withdrawal symptoms with my clients. The best option is to gradually reduce the amount of sugar you intake daily. I will be talking more about sugar at a later time.
Caffeine as a stimulant
Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, soda pop. Caffeine acts as a central nervous stimuli. It is known to help with alertness, energy and drowsiness. Some of the side-effects of too much caffeine include headaches, acidity, increased blood pressure. It can also interfere with the absorption of calcium which could lead to osteoporosis, more information can be found on this site.
Therefore it is best to limit your sugar and caffeine intake during performance rides.
I love polo. It is a fantastic team sport. I have played a few chukkas and I know how demanding this sport can be on the body. Nothing quite prepared me for how much my body would be required to work. If I had known what I know now I would have suffered less several days after. So here are some ideas to help with the aches and pains.
Anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce inflammation, reduce soreness and help you to recover efficiently.
- Tarte cherry juice
- Bone Broth
- Olive oil (do not cook at high temp)
- Coconut oil
- Salmon, mackerel, sardines
Relax and Breathe
After a day of competition or working hard a the stables take time for yourself. It may be hard if you are focused on your business but take a few hours for yourself and disconnect. Here are some ideas:
- A glass of wine (one glass, not many!)
- See a movie
- Go for a walk
- Visit somewhere you have never been before
- The list is endless.
Let me leave you with one last piece of advice. Laugh! Laughter can really change your mood and diminish stress levels so take a few moments to watch this video, even non-horsey people will laugh at this.