Monday, November 30, 2009

Exercises For Horse & Rider Part I ~ Rider Fitness

In the coming days once again I’ll be addressing fitness for your horse, whether you compete or just ride for pleasure on the local trails, but I thought I would begin by talking about getting YOU fit, as the rider.

We all know, if we spend any amount of time in the saddle at all, that it takes some stamina and pretty decent muscles in order to comfortably ride for any length of time. A lot of us also don’t go to the gym, so our workout options are somewhat limited.

Aside from just telling you to go join the local 24 Hour Fitness (if you happen to have one close by -- we don’t!), I’m going to give you some tips on how to go about increasing your ability to ride for longer periods of time without breaking the bank or physically falling apart (which is what we’re trying to avoid here!).

There are plenty of things horse owners, at least those who have their horses at home and must take care of them, have to do on a daily basis which can immensely help us get in shape and stay fit. Stall cleaning, for one, is great exercise! Lifting those manure forks and rakes and pushing that wheelbarrow is good exercise. So is hauling hay, carrying feed buckets or even grooming your horse. Unloading hay from your truck and stacking it? Great way to build your arms and work on those abs!

It can actually be fun to see how many things within a normal day you can do to help further your cause of getting in shape, and kind of chart your progress. If you have specific “trouble areas” (like we all do), you can look for more things to do around the ranch which will help you tone them.

But seriously, it is good exercise, as is actually getting on your horse and riding.

You might be asking, why do you really need to be in good shape to ride your horse? Well, you might want to ask yourself that question again after you get back from that first three hour trail ride with your friends in the Springtime. Ouch! Even those of us who ride horses for a living, often riding many horses per day, have to stay in shape for the activity, and how do you think we manage? I know I don’t have time to run across town to the gym, so it works in my favor that I do a job that’s physically demanding.

Believe me, by late Spring or early Summer, you will be thanking me for covering this subject, even if it seems silly about now! :)



  1. Perfect topic since I am out of the saddle with surgery to my right shoulder. I'm not even cleared to drive -- got a sling with pad that I must wear 24/7. One of my trainers said that I will be building up my stamina as well as that of the horse once this is all over since he basically gets turnout and a bit of free lunge in the round pen.

    You might also include some information about proper diet and eating regularly. I've been doing the Flat Belly Diet which is very easy to follow and leaves me with plenty of energy. The key with this diet is to include a mono-unsaturated fatty acid with every meal (nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil, avocado, dark chocolate are a few MUFA items) and to eat four meals of about 400 calories each no more than four hours apart. Whether it's an apple with whole wheat crackers and nut butter or a veggie burger with avocado smeared in a whole wheat pita pocket with lettuce and some carrots or celery, this diet is totally do-able.

    Diet and exercise go together to build your fitness and keep you from having to buy larger and larger show clothes ;oD

  2. Here's to hoping for a smooth, easy, quick and full recovery from your surgery!! :(

    That's one thing that scares the heck out of me, and I fear I may need it one day (shoulder surgery). I was in a rear-end accident back in 1995 that tore my right rotator cuff badly, but I just sucked it up and lived in pain pills in order to keep going, riding, training and showing. These days I do pay for it.

    A trainer friend who is now retired told me she regretted having the surgery and said she would opt for cort injections instead if she had to do it all over again. One of my clients recently told me the same thing, that she is only about 50% of what she was pre-surgery. Scary stuff!! I can't be out of commission and I have to continue being able to ride. :-/

  3. I've heard both sides of the surgery story, but in my case "sucking it up" has resulted in being basically unable to do much. One shoulder suffers, I compensate til it feels better, then the other shoulder suffers, etc. Tired of the "back and forth. I'm not a trainer, but "one does what one can" and when one of my instructors had her shoulder REPLACED a year ago October, she sent her horses to others to ride for the few months she was out of the saddle. She is now much improved. Does not have the full 180 degrees of a normal shoulder but is very happy that she had the surgery. (She was back riding Grand Prix level dressage at a show in April, which means she had been riding before then. She won her classes, too ;o)

    Her husband had the surgery I had. His tear was much worse because when it happened he thought he could "exercise it out" and went to the gym for weeks before deciding maybe it wasn't a kink. There was a lot of shredding and other issues going on. His shoulder is 100 percent. I'm hoping for that result ;o)

    The therapy is vital. My shoulder aches after the first few sessions of at-home PT, but I work through it ("Feel the pull" is my new mantra) and eventually I can do the exercises without discomfort.


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