You know the drill: new year, same old resolutions. You’d be hard pushed to find someone who hasn’t vowed to start the year with a health kick or new workout plan – but for equestrians, a fresh fitness regime can work wonders for both performance and enjoyment. With quitter’s day around the corner (January 19th has been named quitter’s day for 2020) we’ve gathered together some achievable tips and ideas to help keep you on track this year…
Fitness benefits for horse riders
Though riding itself is an effective form of exercise, there are various things you can do to improve your overall fitness and experience in the saddle. Many riders are aware that core strength is key to maintaining balance, but tips such as pelvic exercises and breathing techniques can also bring benefits to those wanting to up their riding game this year.
Home fitness ideas
If you want to know how to get fit for horse riding without committing to the gym, local competition rider Gorgi Gowthorpe has shared her home fitness tips for avoiding injury, and improving strength and flexibility:
The above exercises are an ideal way to work on your leg strength and hip flexibility, building the muscles and increasing your range of motion.
Core strength is crucial in improving your riding technique as a strong core will help with your balance and posture in the saddle, making movements and jumps smoother for both you and your horse. Try repeating these moves regularly for the perfect equestrian workout.
Often overlooked by equestrians, building arm and shoulder strength can be crucial to improving your control of the reins and stamina when riding. Home hack: if you don't own any dumbells, why not use filled water bottles instead?
If you’re unsure what’s involved in the back extension exercise, Rebecca Ashton and The Horse Magazine have a useful Youtube video to walk you through. These are key for loosening the pelvic floor which improves your ability to communicate with your horse when seated – the essential horse riding exercise.
Workout illustrations credit to Workout labs.
The best exercise to improve rider fitness
This is no trade secret, but there really is no better way to improve your fitness for horse riding than to actually go riding. If you’d rather not juggle your existing routine with another fitness pursuit, then rethinking and committing more time to your riding routine can still be an effective way to get in better shape for 2020. This can often feel easier than researching and committing to a new side-hobby such as Pilates, and leaves you in charge of your schedule rather than at the mercy of traffic and class timetables.
How to improve your riding technique
To get the best results from upping your time in the saddle, try to incorporate more mindfulness into your practice. Focusing on your breathing is a great place to start, as riders often subconsciously hold their breath – reducing reaction time and coordination, as the brain has a lower flow of oxygen. Tucking your pelvis and lengthening through the spine are key Pilates techniques that can also be practiced during riding, improving your balance and the horse-rider connection. It’s also been said that riding without stirrups can be an effective way to train, as this requires extra work from the leg muscles and helps to build strength quickly.
Now you’ve found something to keep you motivated and on-track for this year, you might be wondering about your horse’s health, too! Check if your horse could be overweight, or find out how to tell if your horse is generally healthy in our previous blogs.