By Real Riderz
This is a hard to swallow pill, especially for people who do riding as their main form of physical activity. However, if you’re out of breath after each time you ride one horse, and can barely canter a few laps without the need to stop, this is a sure sign that your lack of fitness may be a burden for your horse.
Not everyone has big goals for the competition ring, but no one is excluded from having a fitness program outside of the barn. Sure, barn chores such as lifting bales and walking to catch your horse may take effort, but this is not inherently fitness, this is a part of your to do list at the barn.
Look at athletes in any sport: they condition, they do cardio, they do what they can to strengthen their bodies. We do this for our horse, but often times forget that we are also part of the equation. So start small, by first taking yourself out there.
For those who have never done fitness before/don’t have comeptitive goals, start by walking. I’m talking long walks with hills. If you are able to get access to the gym, leave that for a bit of strenght training. One good book you may consider buying in order to get an idea of what routine you may want to develop is “The Rider’s Fitness Program” By Dianna Robin Dennis, John J. McCully, Paul M. Juris. This is a good book for those with and without competitive goals as it details a six week strenght training program you can do three times a week (with rest days in between of cardio sessions of your choosing).
So what type of physical activities can you incorporate? Do you need to become a bodybuilder or something? The answer is no, because riding requires your stabilizing muscles to be in good balance. This is why men and women can compete together in the sport: it’s not so much about strenght as it is abould balance in your stregth. The best riders don’t have the biggest muscles. Low impact acitivites can be just fine: yoga, pilates, swimming,hiking, biking, etc. Some more high impact activites can include jogging/running (more strain on the joints) and skiing (this is a highly skillfull activity).
Caring for yourself is caring for your horse. When you take care of yourself physically (and mentally, but more on that later), you are making the riding experience easier. So what are you waiting for? The best time to start changing for the better is now!