Hey, I thought this was a horse book review site! Well, OK, so
Bob Anderson's book Stretching was not written exclusively for horse people.
As horse people, however, we realize that loose and supple muscles
are the basis of all safe and effective athletic endeavors. At least,
we realize this for our horses, am I right? Intuitively we know the same
holds true for riders. So, how many of us "walk our talk", or do we expect
our horses to move with freedom and suppleness, all while carrying the
burden of a stiff, unyielding rider?
If you want some help learning to develop your personal flexibility
"Stretching" is the best book I've found on the
subject. This was the book that was able to
gently take me by the hand and get me actually started
in the world of stretching. I was not an athletic child and
did not take part in any sports, so I've always
been a little intimidated by "all those mysterious stretches" that
athletes seem to "just know".
The author's style of writing
is kind and encouraging however, and the book's illustrations (done by
his wife Jean Anderson) are clear and to the point.
The truth is there is no mystery and anyone can learn this on their own.
drawings show each stretch being performed correctly, with a
shaded area indicating the area being worked (the area where you should feel
the stretch). The explanations are complete but not overly verbose, because
the pictures tell so much of the story.
This book is all about stretching
correctly: a relaxed, sustained stretch with your attention focused
on the muscles being stretched. No bouncing! No pain! The body awareness
that practicing this type of focus will develop in you will certainly be helpful
in your riding as well.
The books says
"If you stretch correctly and regularly, you will find that every movement
you make becomes easier. It will take time to loosen up tight muscles
or muscle groups, but time is quickly forgotten when you start to feel
The book starts with a general introduction to stretching, including a
brief discusssion of the who, when, why, and how - just enough
motivation to get you interested - and then moves directly into a getting
started routine of nine stretches. For me the proof was in the doing -
stretching feels wonderful and by focusing on the feeling as you move
through your routine the experience can be almost like a meditation.
Stretching is NOT stressful, and it is NOT competitive. The author
encourages you throughout to not compare yourself to others, because
we are all different. In fact, he advises, "Don't stretch to be flexible.
Stretch to feel good."
On the practical side,
the book has a Lay Flat binding, so you can open it up and it will stay
open on the floor beside you as you learn. Eventually, you will learn
which stretches you like best and find you don't need the book to do
your daily routine, but can go back to it for variety or help in
addressing stiff areas that may crop up.
It is well organized with sections for stretching each body part,
as well as organized routines for various situations, like travelling
on a plane, as well for as a number of sports, including stretches for
before and after participation in Equestrian Sports.
I'll close with this quote from the book:
We may know that stretching and regular exercising are beneficial,
but knowledge alone is not enough. Doing is what is important,
for what good is knowledge if we do not use it to live more fully?
recommend this book for helping you make that leap to
what you know is good for you.