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Are we REALLY fit to ride?

posted 10 Dec 2011, 15:17 by Selina Serbin   [ updated 14 Dec 2011, 12:12 ]
How many of us actually take into consideration how 'well' we REALLY are, before we saddle up and ride? how fit we are? how straight and evenly we sit/walk/stand......even how balanced our meals are?

Not many of us eh? now - how many of you regularly consider these things, and lots more, for your horse? .......

We expect the best from our horses on a daily basis - so we feed them the best feeds, buy them new shoes every 6 weeks, have their saddlery checked every year, have a regular vet check to keep vaccinations up to date, have the dentist out to check teeth every 8 - 12 months, they are never allowed to feel the cold - adversley should they get very hot and sweaty, we cool them off!  when we train our horses we allow them time to warm up their muscles - then cool down just as slowly after their session - how many of us consider the same things for ourselves? To be an athletic team with our horses, consideration needs to be put into both sides of the partnership.
  • The importance of rider fitness, and general wellbeing creates a better rider and so a better team if both you and your horse are fit to ride.
  • Horse Riding is a physical activity and you being fit to ride is just as important as your horse's fitness.
  • Toning your adominals for dressage, or strengthening leg and ankle joints for cross country and show jumping is essential. Even us 'pleasure riders' need a well balanced strong seat to enable us to enjoy our horses under every circumstance.

Riders spend lots of time and money exercising, training and caring for their horses every day - The horse will almost certainly be in tip top condition; but to be the best combination possible, both you, the rider, and your horse need to be in peak physical condition.

A fit, well rider is physically stronger, has more stamina, is well-balanced in the saddle, and has the flexibility and suppleness necessary to move with the horse as one unit, in balance, giving direct, clear and consistent riding aids.

As with any physical sport, a rider needs the correct type of fitness, and being fit to ride means having supple and flexible joints and developing the correct type of musculature. This in turn, helps you ride more safely; helps you (and your horse) avoid injuries and pain, makes you a more effective rider, increases your mental confidence and enhances your enjoyment of the riding experience.

A balanced rider needs to be flexible on both sides, to be supple and strong, to be soft in the hands and firm in the shoulders, to roll through the hips and be steady in the legs. Being properly fit to ride requires attention to your whole body, not just a strong right arm.

Horses will find it much easier to carry a rider who is physically fit, rather than someone who is wobbly and unstable whilst riding. In fact, if you’re out of shape, you could harm the horse quite a bit.

As a horse rider, you should be well balanced. This is something that can easily be affected through no fault of your own. Just by sitting at a desk throughout the day, you could end up with bad posture and an imbalanced riding position as a result. In addition, you could favour one side more than the other. This is perfectly normal, but can lead to an uneven distribution of weight in the stirrups. 

For this reason, it is vital for any horse rider to be seen by an osteopath specialising in sports injuries. This will help you to get your body into good alignment.

Once you have achieved this, one of the best exercises for riders to maintain it is Pilates. This strengthens core muscles and will improve your stability and balance. Other exercises for horse riders include:

Yoga, which is great for flexibility
The Alexander technique
Brisk walking

Yes; mucking out, filling haynets, poo picking and walking back and forth to the field will help with your general fitness. But yard chores can sometimes fix muscle groups in rigid positions and can over-develop your forearms or biceps on just one side. Making you over-use the rein or lean more on that side.

So - i'm not saying you need to go out and replace your riding boots every 6 weeks, but there are many similarities between pampering an equine athlete, and a human one. Here we have only brushed across the top of how we can improve our own well-being to match that of our horse.

This is also something that we at Queens can discuss with you during your training sessions - to help you and your equine partner become one!