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The Importance of Rider Health

A rider’s good health is essential, for both them and for the working partnership with their horse, write ANTOINETTE FOSTER and KARYN CAMPBELL.

How many times have you said to yourself ‘I won’t get takeout, I’ll cook dinner’, and better yet, you’ve actually followed through with it? If you are not eating well, are not at your best and you continue to put yourself second, third, or even tenth, what happens if you get sick? Your health is vital, because without it, life as you know it is likely to get turned on its head.

The health of the rider is often forgotten, but now’s the time to take that step towards improved wellbeing, to feel good not only within yourself but about yourself, to have increased energy levels, and to help prevent premature ageing.

We recently asked 10 female riders, aged between 40 and 55, several questions about their health, and not one of them said they felt terrific. They all said they lacked energy, and that they were tired most of the time. They all thought that they ate a healthy diet, but when quizzed further, their diet proved to be a long way from healthy. Most found it hard to fit everything into a day, did not have time to go to the gym or walk the dog, and felt that riding was sufficient exercise. And yet if you are healthy, energy levels should be surging at this time in your life.

So, what can we do about it? Firstly, it is important to believe that you can do something about it and that you can alter the course of your life by making some simple changes.

Many foods are not suited to certain individuals and have a negative effect on health. For example, some people should not eat olive oil as it may have an adverse effect on their good cholesterol and drive-up their bad LDLs. Some need more carbohydrates, while others will find carbohydrates are their enemy. In short, a one size fits all approach to nutrition just doesn’t cut it!

Skipping meals and then snacking during the day is also very common with busy people, which is an unhealthy habit and detrimental to the metabolism. You need to fuel your body so it can function correctly throughout the day. Have you ever been at a competition and not eaten, and then when you get on your horse you’ve felt lightheaded or nauseous? You may have put it down to nerves, but it can also be your body saying, ‘please feed me’.

It’s a scientific fact that nutrition along with specific lifestyle changes can support our strengths and balance our weaknesses; and our genes hold the solution to determining our lifestyle and nutritional wellbeing. There is no clear-cut solution to ensure that we stay healthy, but what we can do is take more control and this includes a number of preventative measures:

1. Looking after our immune system, especially when viruses such as COVID can affect us both mentally and physically.

2. Eating foods that suit us as unique individuals.

3. Reducing stress – remember, there’s no need for Grand Prix anxiety if we are riding a Grade 4 Adult Riding Club test!

4. Preparing our own nutritious meals and snacks to take to events and competitions so our energy stays up there with our horse’s.

5. Remembering to have fun and enjoy ourselves – after all, that’s why we ride in the first place, isn’t it?

6. Testing for health: for example, nutrigenomics, a combination of the sciences of genetics and nutrition, reveals data regarding a person’s health status and provides the basis for selecting a dietary and nutritional program best suited to achieving the healthiest and longest life possible – and determining all that can be as simple as a saliva test.

We all know that good nutritional care is important in helping to prevent and defend against cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and other health issues – and nutrigenomics takes our ability to manage our health to a totally different level.

Every equestrian sport involves a team of horse and rider, both of whom need to be healthy and fit. And just as you wouldn’t offer a racehorse a feed regime suitable for a dressage horse, the same goes for riders. Different energy needs, longer or quicker energy release, and the genetic and metabolic individuality of each rider need to be addressed.

Working towards wellness does not have to be a massive job; it can be simple things such as preparing your meals, meditating in the paddock, reading a book or even breathwork. Healthy doesn’t have to be boring! Make it fun and enjoy.

Antoinette Foster BSc Nutrition, is a Medical Herbalist and Equine Nutritional Therapist, and Karyn Campbell is a Naturopath and Equine Herbalist. To find out more, email or call 0456 920 047.