Getting fit for riding can be a real challenge. Going to the gym is hard work and often we lack time and motivation after we have been to work, ridden and mucked out! Let us help you solve these problems with our quick and simple solutions to get you to Ride Fit.
· Do your own jobs - Where feasible, keep your horse on DIY livery, and do your own stable jobs. Mucking out, turning out, carrying haynets and water buckets are all beneficial to your fitness, being strength and conditioning training, without you even knowing it! Make sure when you muck out and sweep, you do it on both sides of your body, to promote balanced muscles and straightness. Similarly, carry a water bucket in each hand to balance out the weight and protect your back
· Warm up – Very few riders warm up before they ride and get on the horse cold and stiff. This stiffness transmits to the horse and affects his way of going. Warming up is extremely beneficial because it increases blood flow, gently opens the joints and helps prevent injury. Contrary to popular belief, it is not onerous, and can be done in the stable. Even grooming the horse vigorously will help to open up the shoulder joints. The hips and knees can be warmed up with some simple lunges or squats, and the chest can be opened with some shoulder rolls, or by clasping the hands behind the back and stretching them behind you. All of these exercises will be beneficial not only to your body, but will turn your mental focus to riding, which will optimise your performance.
· Stretch – In our last blog, we discussed the importance of flexibility in enhancing riding. Everybody’s target areas are different (and a good coach or Pilates teacher can help you identify yours), but common areas of tightness in riders are: hip flexors, hamstrings, gluteals and pectorals. Stretching these muscles daily will take only ten minutes, and can be done in front of the telly (even with a glass of wine as an incentive), but will improve your riding tenfold. Ask your Pilates teacher how to complete these stretches safely and to give you the best effect.
· Join a class –Equestrian specific exercise classes are fantastic motivators, because you can have fun and make friends with like-minded people. The exercises will be specifically targeted at riders and the instructor will understand the challenges riders face, and help solve them. Often the classes are paid for a few weeks in advance, encouraging you to go each week (even when you don’t feel like it!), gaining the most benefit.
· Cardiovascular exercise – Exercise such as brisk walking, running, swimming or cycling are good for weight control, stamina and all round well-being. All of these factors result in better riders. Try and commit to an achievable amount of cardiovascular exercise each week. This may be half an hour once a week, or five times a week, depending on how much time you have, and how much you enjoy it. You don’t have to be a marathon runner; even the smallest amount will pay dividends for your riding.
Try these tips and let us know how you get on or if you have any questions in the comments below!