Monday, February 9, 2015

Tammy Prevo, RideFit

Welcome  Equestrian Fitness expert Tammy Prevo, the proprietor and founder of RideFit!

Tammy has nearly 30 years of experience in both equestrian sports and physical fitness.  She is certified as a Health Coach by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, as well as a Sports Nutritionist, and Equi-Yoga instructor.  Tammy was involved in sports from the time she was a child – playing basketball, volleyball, running track, cycling and mountain biking, as well as competing her horses in combined training and Dressage – by far her greatest passion.

Now, Tammy has combined her expertise in equestrian sport biomechanics, with her experience and knowledge of the human body and physical adaptation to develop fitness/conditioning programs for both horses and riders…

What is RideFit?
RideFit is a group fitness program that was developed specifically for equestrians. There’s no other sport that uses exactly the same sort of balance and proprioception that riding does. Many of the most popular fitness classes available in gyms these days really focus on a lot of short-twitch, explosive strengthening of large muscle groups – which is counterproductive to the kind of stability/flexibility that riders need. One could do Pilates for strength and stability, Yoga for flexibility and balance, and Zumba for cardiovascular training, but that is a lot of time in the gym, and it still wouldn’t address all the right muscle groups riders need to develop! It seemed to make sense to create a fitness program that would address all the needs of the sport instead of riders having to put together their own training program.

Do I need specific equipment to participate in RideFit?  
When I put together the RideFit program, I had 4 main requirements for such a program: 1. I must be able to do this workout in riding clothes, 2. It needed to be something that could be done at the stable, 3. It had to improve my riding, and 4. It must require minimal equipment – mostly the rider’s own body. The RideFit team provides mats and balance balls for each class. All the participants need to do is show up!

When was your first encounter with a horse?
My first encounter with a horse was when I was two years old, at my grandfather’s farm. It was a little chestnut Shetland pony that I got to ride for all of 5 minutes, but I was well and truly bitten by the Bug! My entire youth was spent begging my parents for a horse until I finally got my first horse at age 16. I never grew out of it… it just became a stronger and stronger passion as I got older.

When did you discover the need for a RideFit program?
About 10 years ago I had the opportunity to audit a clinic with the German biomechanics expert, Eckart Meyners. He would watch the participants ride their horses for about 2 minutes, have them get off and do a couple of simple exercises, and then get back on and ride again. What I witnessed him do with riders’ bodies, with just a couple of simple exercises, made a huge impact on me. It was a shock to me to find out that exercises off the horse could actually change the way a rider was ON the horse! That was when I realized that riders needed their own fitness program. It only took me 10 years to decide to create the program myself!

What is the basic exercise that can help most riders, novice and expert?
As simple as it is, skipping is the most fantastic exercise for riders. It warms up the body, organizes the brain, and when a twist of the upper body is incorporated into each step, it improves flexibility of the rider’s entire body. One caveat though, it must be a diagonal movement: in other words, when the rider skips with a leg up, the opposite arm should be swinging at the same time. You would be amazed at how many riders have become lateral movers… just like horses can.

Share one of your success stories...
Recently I instructed a shortened RideFit class during a clinic, in which a local Dressage trainer offered herself up as a “guinea pig” to try out the program for the first time. The clinician didn’t join in, but he observed very carefully all the exercises that we did. After the workout, the trainer got on her horse for her clinic ride. Several times during her ride, the clinician came over to the spectators and made a note of some way the trainer was using her body on the horse, and pointed out which exercises we had performed on the mat or the ball that had mobilized or simulated that exact way of moving. Towards the end of the trainer’s ride, the clinician asked her how she felt in her body. Her answer was that she felt like she was riding her second horse of the day, instead of just the first – the RideFit class had warmed up her body in the same way that a ride on the horse would have. This was precisely my intention when I created the program. For amateur riders who don’t have the opportunity to ride multiple horses a day, the RideFit class really does improve their riding, without the expense and time required for multiple horses.

What advice do you have for people who don't like to exercise?
Join the club! Seriously! One of the most compelling reasons I created the RideFit program was because I truly don’t enjoy exercising for the sake of exercise. I love how it makes me look and feel, but I really hate having to drive to the gym, being stuck in the pain of the exercise with nothing else to think about, getting so tired that I can barely walk, and then having to drive home again and change clothes before I go ride… if I even have the energy to do so (usually not!). In a RideFit class, you are in your riding clothes, in the arena where you’d much rather be, the exercises rotate between cardio, strength, and balance/proprioception, so you don’t have a chance to get bored. And, the idea is that you don’t get so tired that you cannot go straight to your horse and ride, but you’ve challenged your body and your brain in ways that make you a better rider, and a healthier human being.

How important is it to match the horse with the exercise, or vice versa?
The biomechanics of the horse are fundamentally the same, regardless of the breed of horse. Human biomechanics are fundamentally the same as well, regardless of age or gender. So when it comes to making riders’ bodies better able to move with and around the horses’ bodies, breed has little to do with the actual mechanics of the exercises.

Riding style (western vs. saddle seat, dressage vs. jumping) could potentially require some specialized exercises at the top levels of competition, but at the amateur levels, the body control, balance and flexibility are all pretty foundational to all types of riding. Previous injuries, of course, can leave a rider’s body compromised, and we have modifications for nearly every exercise to accommodate riders of any fitness level or with injuries that might prevent them from performing the exercise as presented.

As a rider, I sometimes go crooked, and it's weird because I am not a novice. Your thoughts…
This is a universal state of being for nearly every rider on the planet. Just like our horses, we are all born with inherent crookedness or “sidedness”. These imbalances show up most especially when we are putting in a significant effort, when we become tense or stressed, and/or are riding green horses that don’t yet know how to move their bodies in the correct response to the aids. Fitness programs such as RideFit allow us to readily identify our underlying crookedness and work to correct it off the horse, so that it comes out less readily and has less of a negative effect on the horse when we are mounted. My friend who is a veterinary acupuncturist loves the RideFit program for what it can do for the horse. She says she can treat a horse’s sore back or over-used muscles as they compensate for our crookedness, but unless we address our own bodies as well, the horse will be right back in front of her before very long. She wholeheartedly endorses the RideFit program for this very reason.

What is the best way to connect with you, schedule a clinic, or learn from your program?
The best way to connect with me and learn more about the program and schedule a workshop is to e-mail me at, visit my website, or call me at 206-713-6761. I will travel to any barn in the Puget Sound area for 3 or more participants who wish to try out the RideFit program. 

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