How to get fit for horse riding: 5 top tips

Practice makes perfect! Photo by Stefanie Poepken on Unsplash

Are you ready to get fit for horse riding? Riding is a great way to stay in shape and connect with horses, but it requires physical fitness. So before you jump into the saddle, you need to make sure your body is up for the challenge.

After riding for some time, you will notice an increase in health, fitness, strength, flexibility and endurance; however, it’s advisable to give yourself a ‘leg up’ (pardon the pun!) before you start. Even if you’re an experienced rider, some work on yourself out of the saddle will pay dividends.

In this article, we’ll provide five top tips on how to get fit for horse riding. Some exercises below feature across multiple times across the different tip types. With the proper preparation and conditioning, you’ll be ready to hit the saddle in no time!

1) Get Stronger

While you don’t need to be a bodybuilder to ride a horse, you can do simple strengthening exercises to help increase your overall fitness. Strong muscles will not only help you feel more comfortable in the saddle but also help you control the horse with greater precision. There are several ways to get stronger for horse riding; these include:

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  1. Resistance Training – Resistance training is a great way to build up the muscles you need for riding. You can use free weights, resistance bands, or even your body weight to build strength. Examples of exercises to incorporate into your routine are squats, lunges, and push-ups.
  2. Core Exercises – A strong core is essential for horse riding, as it will help you stay balanced in the saddle (see more below). Core exercises such as planks and sit-ups are great for building your core muscles.
  3. Yoga – Yoga is another excellent way to build strength. Many yoga poses focus on strengthening the legs, back, and core.
  4. Pilates – Pilates is also an excellent form of exercise for building strength and improving balance. Many exercises involve moving through various positions while controlling your breath and engaging your core muscles.
Resistance training Photo by Geert Pieters on Unsplash
Resistance training. Photo by Geert Pieters on Unsplash

By incorporating these exercises into your routine, you will be well on your way to getting strong enough to ride a horse. Be sure to challenge yourself by increasing the intensity of your workouts as you progress.

2) Improve Your Balance

One of the key aspects of horse riding is having good balance. Balance is important to remain stable on the horse’s back and move in unison with them. To improve your balance, it’s best to practice core exercises that will help you become more aware of your body and its movements while on the horse.

Core exercises like planks, leg lifts, side leg raises, and crunches can help strengthen your abdominal muscles and improve your posture. Practising yoga or Pilates can also help you become more mindful of how your body moves and will help you better adjust to riding a horse.

Another excellent exercise for improving balance is to practice standing on one foot for a set amount of time. Start by standing with both feet together and then slowly raise one leg off the ground until it is at a 90-degree angle from your body. Hold the position for at least 10 seconds, and then switch legs. If this is too difficult, raise one leg and hold onto a wall or chair for support. As you get better, try increasing the amount of time you hold the position or do it with your eyes closed.

Finally, practice balancing while on the horse as much as possible. Spend time working on posture and the proper sitting position to maintain balance for long periods without tiring out your muscles. Working with an experienced instructor can also be very helpful in helping you develop your balance and posture.

3) Improve Your Flexibility

Improving your flexibility is one of the most important aspects of helping you get fit for horse riding. Flexibility allows you to move with ease and grace while riding, and it helps prevent injuries from occurring. There are a few exercises you can do to help improve your flexibility when it comes to horse riding.

Stretching: Stretching should be done before and after each ride, as well as throughout the day. Stretches should target the core muscles as well as the legs, hips, shoulders, neck, and back. Focus on breathing deeply into the stretches to allow your muscles to relax, and hold the stretches for at least 30 seconds.

Yoga: Incorporating yoga into your daily routine will help you build up flexibility. Yoga poses are great for stretching out the body, improving posture and balance, and strengthening muscles.

Yoga
Incorporating yoga into your daily routine will help you build up flexibility

Pilates: Pilates is a great way to improve strength, flexibility, and balance. It focuses on controlled movements and strengthening the core muscles. It’s an excellent exercise to do in preparation for riding as it helps you become more aware of your body, which can come in handy when it comes to riding a horse.

Overall, making sure you are flexible is essential for becoming a better rider. Incorporating these exercises into your routine will help you reach your goal of becoming fit for horse riding!

4) Increase Your Cardio Endurance

Having good cardiovascular endurance is essential for horse riding. Good cardiovascular endurance means having the ability to ride a horse for an extended period of time without becoming too tired. To increase your cardio endurance, you must incorporate activities that will push your heart rate and breathing to higher levels.

Start by introducing low-intensity exercises such as walking, jogging, or cycling. You can start by doing these activities for 10 minutes and gradually increasing the duration. Try to incorporate interval training in your sessions, where you alternate between higher-intensity exercises such as sprinting, jumping jacks, or burpees with lower-intensity activities like walking or jogging. This type of workout will help you improve your cardiovascular endurance.

You can also add hill sprints and plyometric exercises to your routine. Hill sprints require you to move quickly up an incline, forcing your heart to work harder than running on flat ground. Plyometric exercises are explosive movements that involve jumping and bounding, which will get your heart rate up and help increase your overall cardio endurance.

In addition to aerobic activities, strength training is important for improving your overall cardiovascular fitness. Strength training will improve the amount of oxygen your body can use during activity and also helps build muscle that can help you stay in the saddle for longer periods of time. Aim to do 2-3 strength training sessions each week.

Finally, ensure you are taking proper rest days so your body can recover. Resting is just as important as working out, and it helps you become stronger and more resilient.

By incorporating these activities into your weekly routine, you can easily increase your cardio endurance and be ready to take on any challenge while horse riding.

5) Practice, Practice, Practice!

The best way to get fit for horse riding is to practice regularly. Even if you’re already an experienced rider, periodically going through and sharpening your skills will help you become even better and more confident.

It’s important to keep your muscles and joints moving freely while in the saddle. Stiffness in the body will hinder both you and the horse. This means practising exercises such as squats, lunges, and side steps. You can also practice different drills to help improve your balance, such as standing in the stirrups or changing the speed of your ride at different intervals.

Practice makes perfect! Photo by Stefanie Poepken on Unsplash
Practice makes perfect! Photo by Stefanie Poepken on Unsplash

Make sure to practice with a qualified instructor or trainer to ensure your safety and accuracy of the riding aids. It’s also important to warm up properly before and cool down after each session. This will help reduce the risk of injury and keep your muscles working efficiently.

Practising regularly will help you become comfortable and confident in the saddle, allowing you to be more relaxed when riding, and allowing for an easier experience. Regular practice will also help you understand and develop a deeper connection with your horse, allowing for increased communication between you both.

Conclusion

Horse riding requires a certain level of fitness and preparation to ensure you are safe and comfortable while in the saddle. Following these five top tips, you can get yourself in the best shape possible for your next ride. Start by getting stronger, improving your balance, increasing your flexibility, improving your cardio endurance, and practising as much as possible. The more prepared you are for horse riding, the more enjoyable and rewarding your experience will be.

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