The Importance of Horse Rider Health and Fitness

Have you ever been told “horse riding is not a sport you just sit there”?

I think every single person that has ever ridden a horse has been told this at some stage in their riding career. We all know this is definitely not true, but how many times have you got to the end of a good lesson and struggled to maintain your position, or really struggled to ride the last few jumps of a cross country course?

A lot of riders forget that cross training and living a healthy lifestyle is just as important for us as it is our equine partners. We spend thousands of dollars a year on our horses, we spend hours and hours in the saddle perfecting every movement, putting in the time to have our horses up to scratch, performing to the best of their ability, but how can we expect our horses to perform to the best of their ability if we are not doing the same thing?

Yes, horse riding is a sport and yes, it can be used as part of our own exercise routine, but just as we expect our horses to be fit and healthy to carry us around, we need to be doing an out of saddle fitness routine to keep ourselves performing to the best of our ability. A more balanced, fit rider makes the task we are asking of our horse a lot easier, we are then not interrupting their movements.

So, what sort of cross training should we be doing? There’s a million different exercises and a million different resources online but not too many that relate back to riders, although as riders we are athletes and should train as such.

There are a few key aspects that we should integrate into our training that relate directly to riding and being able to ride to the best of our abilities and ensuring we give our horses the clearest signals possible.

These are:
• Balance
• Flexibility
• Core strength (this is the entire upper body not just abdominals)
• Glute muscles
• As well as overall muscle symmetry

Other things that can help are plyometrics, speed and agility and functional movement based training as these things all help with reaction times that are crucial in riding.
Incorporating just 30 minutes a day into your routine can dramatically improve your riding. Below is a little example of a routine that would be awesome.

Monday – workout targeted at rider fitness muscles
Tuesday – Stretching
Wednesday – Cardio based activity
Thursday – workout targeted at rider fitness muscles
Friday – Stretching
Saturday – Cardio Based activity
Sunday – REST

You’ve run out of excuses! Get going and start the new year as you intend to finish it.

Author, Bec Niit, is from Equine Rider Fitness and is a qualified personal trainer and riding instructor with 20 years riding experience. Bec is dedicated to making the team equal, by improving rider fitness, balance and flexibility to ensure that horse and rider can reach their full potential together, creating a long term and successful partnership.

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