Get A Better Leg with Donkey Kicks
Riding naturally overworks a rider’s quadricep and causes the hip flexors to tighten. This can make it hard to keep your leg lengthened in the tack and even result in your knees creeping up. To combat these imbalances all equestrians should focus on strengthening their hamstrings off the horse to bring their knees back under their hip. Hamstrings supply cushion and balance to the pelvis and help to support a rider’s hips and core as they put on their leg to encourage their horse forward. They need to be conditioned and cared for.
To isolate the hamstring, one of the best exercises outside of the gym is the donkey kick. This exercise is great for all equestrians to increase pelvic strength and control. You can do donkey kicks standing or kneeling with your hands on the floor and a weight behind one knee, or with your knees on a BOSU or mat. Here are some of our favorite variations of the Donkey Kick.
Lean against the wall, both hands shoulder width apart. With your spine flat, bend the knee and kick the foot upward to the ceiling. Notice any swinging or twisting in the core as you are pushing the foot up. Maintain the proper form to ensure correct range of motion in the hamstring. You can put a free weight behind the bent knee for more difficulty.
Tip: Hamstrings are large muscles, so use a weight that will trigger the entire muscle to work like it has to in the saddle.
Try donkey kicks with your hands on the ground, knee on the BOSU , and a weight. Start with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Place a weight behind your knee and position your heel close to your glute. Kick your foot up to the sky and maintain the alignment of the leg going straight back. Focus on your form, don’t swing your leg. Do 10-12 reps on each leg with 15+ pounds or 20-25 reps on each leg for anything under 15 pounds.
To target your stability and balance, try donkey kicks with no weight and your hands on the BOSU.