Many of us could recite our horse’s diet and fitness plan backwards, exactly the correct feed measurements and when they will be ready for their first competition, but do we have nutrition and fitness plans for ourselves? More often than not we are so focused on our trusty steeds we forget the other important member of the combination, and that’s us, the rider. It’s easy to just assume the horse needs to be fit, but to perform at our best and be a successful combination, rider fitness is just as important. Three of the key fitness goals no matter what discipline are
Riders are athletes as well and a certain level of fitness is required to help maintain posture and balance. You don’t have to become a gym junky and spend hours working out, after all, most of us just don’t have the time. But a little bit of strength training can make the world of difference. Everyone is different and riders are no exception, you may be weak in some areas but stronger in others, so finding a workout that suits you and your riding style is important.
No matter what discipline you are competing in or at what level, even just pleasure riding, our core strength is probably of the most importance. How can we expect our horses to be balanced if the rider isn’t? Our core gives us balance and strength helping us maintain our stability, all very important for delivering our aids correctly and for some, such as jumping, maintaining certain positions such as 2 point, for longer periods of time.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t also be concentrating on other muscle groups as well, thighs, pelvis, back and abdominal muscles are all just as important. Warming up these muscles, doing some stretches before riding or competition can help reduce injury, stiffness and soreness. We warm our horses up so why not us as well!
Some quick and easy stretches we like to do include
- Rolling/ rotating ankles
- Rolling shoulders and arms
- “Opposite Stretch”- extending one arm out and up into the air, whilst the opposite leg stretches out and down
We all want to do the best for our horses and just having a little bit of fitness can make the world of difference in how they perform. As a rider’s fitness increases, so can their balance, both in their seat and in the application of their aids. It is very common to have one side stronger than the other, identifying which side and training to both balance out but use aids independently, can be a great benefit. If a rider is unbalanced in turn the horse will be unbalanced, they may not track correctly distributing their weight unevenly which can, unfortunately, lead to injury or poor performance.
We all love our horses and love riding, and you don’t need to employ a personal trainer to keep enjoying what we do, but a little bit of fitness can make it even more fun and performances that much better. We want to know our horses are happy and healthy and we should be too. Just looking after our general health and well-being will help maintain our passion and enjoyment of the sport, and can help improve our mental health, strength, balance and stamina.
Written by Selena. P