Mind and Body: How Ellesse Jordan Tzinberg Gets In Grand Prix Shape

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Ellesse Jordan Tzinberg is a Grand Prix dressage rider, boxer, model, and pilates instructor. She is based in Wellington, Fla., in the winter and Denmark in the summer, training under Rune Willum with goals of competing in the 2018 World Equestrian Games, World Cup finals, and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. 

As a Pilates instructor, how do you feel pilates benefits the rider differently than yoga? 

If someone asked me if I’d rather go with them to yoga or pilates, I would quite quickly say pilates. However, this decision is purely just my preference and instinct. I don’t think one is better than the other for riders, however, I do think they are different. Though both are quite renown for the flexibility and strength benefits, I think that each are unique and also may be more suitable for one rider versus another. Having a pilates background, you could say I have a more “educated” opinion on pilates since I have the training both practically and theoretically. Pilates focuses on lengthening and toning the muscles while keeping your core activated and maintaining excellent posture (hmm, sound familiar riders?).

In Pilates, you are not just working with your own bodyweight or core, you often use different equipment (like a pilates ring or ball) in mat style pilates; or a reformer machine which is the style of pilates I do. With a reformer machine, you are using your own body and core of course but also using the resistance and weight from the machine, different straps, a box etc to do several different exercises that focus on several different things like strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, and mobility! I think this isn’t an either or situation or a both, I think if riders can incorporate some form of pilates or yoga into their routine, they will only see improvements in their daily life, posture, and riding.

Pilates to boxing seems like a big leap. How did you get involved in both? 

I have been boxing longer. I boxed a lot when I was younger and carried it through my university years and utilized it to stay in shape for my modeling as well.

It is an AMAZING workout but its also a great de-stress activity and also helped me feel safe when I was on my own traveling the world for photo shoots and fashion week.

I got involved in both primarily because I love staying active but I got into boxing because I was scouted for having a talent in boxing actually. I have always trained with fighters at a professional club and now wherever I am in the world I love training with different trainers and learning new styles and techniques! If riding doesn’t work out I think I will look into being a boxer professionally.

I got into pilates because of my car accident back in 2009. After going through intensive recovery and rehab, I was introduced to Pilates. I injured my spine and neck so during the months I was recovering I had little to no core strength. I had to train and rebuild my core without straining my back and neck. Besides swimming, I did very gentle pilates that I built up gradually. It was then I already learned the value of pilates for the core and functional training benefits.

I think that both boxing and pilates benefit me as a rider in different ways. Pilates, as I said, benefits riders for better core strength, balance, flexibility (riders are usually very un-flexible), and posture. Boxing benefits riders coordination, muscle response, balance, cardio, and core. I took a little break from boxing for 6 months and then restarted again in Denmark and I noticed immediately how much my riding improved once I got back into the routine of boxing.

Boxing has a lot of great physical and mental benefits. How does it benefit you personally when it comes to getting in shape?

For me personally, it benefits me the most mentally. I am able to focus on something that requires a lot of thinking. I have to think fast, respond and react fast or ill get hit, and put together combinations in my head while staying quick on my feet and balanced. Physically, it has benefited my balance and speed the most. You have to be so centered in boxing so that you don’t trip over your feet and so that you can move any direction fast. It has also helped my rhythm and speed which is very important in the Grand Prix movements. Timing and rhythm is everything in dressage as well as in jumping.

In preparation for big shows, do you include any other types of physical or mental fitness exercises to prepare?

Prior to shows, I try not to over exhaust myself but also don’t do nothing. That is just as bad! What I try to do is a lot of balance exercises, coordination exercises and compound exercises where I activate my core alongside my other muscles. I have a nice routine I like to do the day before and day of shows. I also really like to visualize my rides in my head. I close my eyes and imagine my ride. Once from my point of view, so I think about what I’m doing each step, my aids, what my seat is doing, etc. After that, I visualize from a spectator or judge’s view and what they might see and how I envision my horse and I will look in our test!

I use to play basketball for my school team and my father (who played basketball for the US Marines Corp and coached basketball) taught me to always visualize before a big tournament or game. So even from a young age, whether it was first level or grand prix today, I visualize my rides!

What is your go-to drink or snack after a ride or workout to boost your energy back up?

After riding I’m usually so hyped up about a ride so I have so much energy! But I do keep bananas and trail mix in my tack trunk to snack on either before or after a ride to get the sugar levels up. I think nutrition before the ride is very important. You should fuel your body with nutritious things that will give you energy but not sit too heavy in your stomach while you ride.

Nicole is a writer for Heels Down Media. If she's not writing or editing, she's either running, doing yoga, or at the barn working on becoming a better, stronger dressage rider.

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