There is a difference between being fit and being fit for riding (Conditioned). Being fit generally means, having the ability to perform every day tasks with ease, with a good level of muscular strength, endurance, aerobic capacity and flexibility.
There is more to riding than not being out of breath. Riding requires coordination, balance, control and independent movement of limbs to provide clear communication. Unfortunately, running, cycling and swimming (as examples), whilst beneficial to general fitness, don’t provide the stimulus to prepare the body for riding.
“I had thought I was fit with a good core strength from doing pilates – but not so! The RiderCise® exercises really do what they say, develop the muscles big and small and the balance needed for riding”
Heather, Endurance Rider
What is Conditioning?
Sports, such as horse riding, at any level, in any discipline, requires the individual to have the appropriate strength, power, endurance and stamina along with the range of motion (ROM) for the movements required. Why? ……to ensure that the individuals’ body is equipped to deal with the demands of the sport so not only can you perform, but also so you are at a lesser risk from injury.
Conditioning focuses on improving your muscular strength, endurance, stamina, control and agility (ability to change the body’s position in an efficient and effect manner) and uses ‘Training Overload’, which is required for adaptions to happen in the body.
The strain (Training Overload) applied to your muscles causes physiological changes, resulting in growth, increased strength and greater endurance.
These physiological changes not only help improve your riding but you generally feel better in yourself, and every day activities become easier. Another huge advantage to conditioning is that it reduces the risk of injury, through improving muscle strength along with connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) – the stronger the entire structure, the less likely you’ll experience a joint (sprain, dislocation, tear) or muscle (pull, strain) injury while in motion.
Why do I need to be conditioned?
Whether you are a leisure rider or a competitor, being conditioned is important for you and your horses welfare.
As a rider, if you are not conditioned you may have difficulty getting on, sitting astride, moving with your horse, giving clear aids and having constant communication. In addition you may find progressing in a discipline feels tough or even impossible and sometimes, you ache way too much the day after a ride…
As a horse, if the rider is not conditioned, the horse has to deal with their own balance, coordination, control, strength, endurance and stamina, along with the issues that an un-conditioned rider brings; miscommunication, unclear aids, leaning and/or dominant on one side, unbalanced and bouncing in the saddle, inability to control body movements. This can often result in a horse becoming ‘one-sided’ and/or developing muscular atrophy and/or soreness.
Us equestrians are great at just ‘getting on with it’ without putting much thought into the difficulties we physically experience when we ride or the aches and pains that come from life, work and riding. However, I can assure you that the horse notices.
If you think that a horse can sense a fly land or move in the direction you are looking when in the saddle, just think of how they respond to us in the saddle when we lean, are imbalanced or not in control of our movement. Let me give you an example.
You are imbalanced and collapse through your upper body in rising trot, this could be due to muscular restriction or lack of strength to hold yourself correctly so to compensate you grip with your knees and hands to stabilise yourself. This will be automatic and you may not feel like you are doing this but it doesn’t mean that you aren’t. Your horse reads that you want them to stop by the gripping of the knees and pulling yet you are ‘kicking/squeezing’ with your legs to get the horse to go forwards as they keep stopping.
You are giving a mixed signal and disciplining the horse through the ‘kicking/squeezing’ of the leg yet they are responding correctly to our movement.
Overall, we ask a lot of our horses, they don’t ask much of us but, to be in control of ourselves when riding.
How do I become Conditioned?
To be conditioned for riding, you need to improve the muscular strength power, endurance and stamina along within the range of motion (ROM) for the movements required.
The RiderCise® programmes have been personally designed by Clare, to help improve the condition of the specific muscles and their recruitment, required for horse riding, of all levels, in any discipline.
“Over the years I have tried gym memberships, video’s, DVD’s and other online fitness programmes but I have to say, this is the best by far.”
Jane, Leisure Rider
The programmes are progressive throughout each 6 week period of each of the 3 levels (Foundation, Intermediate & Advanced). This ensures that a training overload is applied to enable physiological changes in the body.
We recommend, whatever your current fitness and/or riding level, that you start with Foundation. This will start to prepare your body, and mind for the more complex and demanding exercises that follow in Intermediate and Advanced. It is also important to start from the begining as we want to minimise the muscle aches and keep you motivated. You still need to go to work, live life and of course, ride your horses!
To purchase your programme, visit: https://www.ridercise.co.uk/ridercise-rider-programmes/
The Truth about losing weight (fat)
So here it is. The truth about losing weight or body fat.
I have been in the fitness industry for over 15 years as a professional and have personally exercised and shaped my body for over 20. I know how to build muscle to give strength and keep metabolism high to maintain an ‘athletic physique’ and I know how to drop to >10% body fat for maximum muscle definition and shape.
Neither are achieved through some fad diet (yes they are all fad), magic pill or amazing workout that takes 2 weeks.
It is as simple as your energy out must be greater than your energy in but before I explain what exactly this means and how to achieve it I must say that we should refer to losing body fat not weight, why?
Well, when you lose weight you could be referring to losing muscle as well as body fat and I don’t know anyone that really wants to lose muscle. Having muscle has far too many benefits to want to get rid of it. Such as:
- Increased strength that makes daily life easier.
- Improved bone density, tendon and ligament strength reducing the risk of bone fractures and Osteoporosis.
- Increased metabolism – muscle burns calories for energy at rest!
- Reduced risks of the severity that can come from a fall and improved recovery from injuries and reduces general aches and pains.
Now to explain more about losing body fat and what exactly I mean when I say your energy out should be greater than your energy in.
To lose body fat you must consume less energy (calories) than you use in a day. This includes the amount of energy that your body requires to function as well as the amount of energy you expend completing tasks such as walking, riding and working around the yard.
There is a certain number of calories that your body requires at complete rest (say if you were to lay in bed all day) for your body to function (cell regeneration, organ function, tissue repairs etc). This is called your BMR = Basal Metabolic Rate.
On top of your BMR, you have the number of calories that your body uses to perform tasks as mentioned above and if you took in the same amount of calories through food and drink in one day that you burned at rest and through activity then you would maintain your current body fat level.
In order to lower body fat levels, you need to either consume fewer calories or burn more. It really is that simple.
The BIG Question: If you are consuming less calories than you take in and/or burning more calories through movement and exercise why are you not losing body fat?
There are a few things to consider, let me go through each of them.
Understanding of Input Vs Output
As equestrians, we seem to forever be rushing around and nothing takes 5 minutes when it comes to horses. However, we are not burning as many calories as we think or are led to believe.
There are some amazing memes on social media that trotting for 1 hour can burn 420 calories or something but who trots for 1hour? If you trotted for 10minutes in total in an hour lesson you would burn about 70-80 calories. Not even a Banana’s worth.
Also, you need to take into account adaption. If you muck out a stable regularly your body would have adapted to this form of exercise and once hard, now is fairly simple and can be done in max 10mins with not even one bead of sweat. As you are conditioned to doing this task, the energy required to perform it is less so you burn less calories.
Yes riding and looking after our beloveds can be hard work but do you do it enough and at a high enough intensity for it to burn calories greater than say 300 per day? I doubt many of us do unless you are a professional rider or a groom where you are riding/care for multiple horses every day.
This is a good site to find out roughly how many calories you burn when around horses: https://captaincalculator.com/health/calorie/calories-burned-horseback-riding-calculator/
Now, I am not calling people liars but I love the quote from House (Hugh Laurie) and it is true.
I often ask my clients to give me a food diary of a typical day and I am now no longer shocked when I see that all they have eaten is a banana and a bit of cake at lunchtime.
Upon questioning I come to find that the Banana (105Cal) was eaten whilst getting ready for work when they got to the office they had a yogurt (59) and a snack bar (150cal) they found in their bag and 1 cup of coffee and 1 sugar and milk (60cal). They weren’t feeling particularly hungry at lunch so had a fruit smoothie (130cal) and a pack of crisps (200cal) but come 3pm they found free cake in the office kitchen (what’s a slice – errr c.300calories) and by the time they had done the horses and got home they didn’t feel like cooking so had scrambled eggs on toast (made with butter, milk, 6 eggs and two pieces of bread and some more butter 950cal).
People frequently omit what it is that they really consume and I don’t know why exactly but I like to think that it is a lack of understanding of the values of the food that they are consuming.
When you take a glance of the above it doesn’t seem like a lot but it they are high in fat and sugar and on a ‘typical’ day they have consumed nearly 1965 calories most of which have little nutritional value (good protein, fats and carbs) and spent most of the day at the desk apart from the mad dash in the evening bringing horses in and putting to bed.
Now 1965 is not a lot of calories (depending on you as an individual) it is just an example of how ‘not a lot’ can actually be a lot more than you think.
I think it is a learned behaviour as humans to want everything now! And if in one week we haven’t seen a change then it can’t be working so we should change what we are doing.
This as a Trainer is one of the most common reasons why people don’t lose body fat. For many years I have designed programmes and meal plans for clients and after 1-2 weeks the client is ready to give up because they don’t have a beach body. I am afraid it takes as long as it takes. Yes, we can speed up the process by having extreme calorie restriction or exercising excessively but these methods are not sustainable and have consequences.
When results are not instant people start to deviate from their plan and think ‘ah the odd biscuit won’t matter’, or ‘I’ve only skipped one workout’, it ALL matters.
When you have a plan of action you must stick to it to give it the best possible chance of success.
So how do you lose body fat?
The first thing is to understand what your BMR is and how many calories you are consuming, every day. For this, you will have to be truly honest with yourself. You can read more about how to do this on my blog Counting Calories:
The second thing is to know what it is you really want to achieve. Losing fat can be anything from 1kg to 30kg+ but it may be more of simply just to fit into the pair of jods you wore last year. Without knowing what it really is you want, you cant plan how you are going to get there. You can read more about achieving goals on my blog 5 Easy Steps to Achieving Goals
The Third thing is to be realistic. Know where you are now and where you want to be, have a plan in place and stick to it. It will take you longer than a few weeks. It will take anywhere from 3months onwards until you start to see changes in body fat.
If you would like a structure plan and support why not contact me for a Athlete Rider Programme where we can achieve your goals together!
Many of us have riding goals and ambitions, whether it’s to be a better rider, reduce riding aches and pains, lose weight, get fitter, ride at a certain level or compete at the top.
One of the most common things I deal with when working with clients is the uncertainty of what a person truly wants to achieve. Many clients ask me to help them to achieve a goal but what they originally asked me to help with isn’t what they really want.
As a Personal Trainer for over 15 Years the most common thing to be asked is to either lose weight, tone up or get fitter. These are quite generic terms, so it is really important to understand what a person’s understanding of what they have asked for is.
By listening, talking and understanding more about a person, their history, their feelings, insecurities, and understanding of who they are as a person and where they are in their life, I am better positioned to truly know what it is they really want and help them get there.
For example. Someone who wants to lose weight may believe that they need to look slimmer however, it could also mean that they want to feel more confident, have better mobility or reduce the number of aches and pains that they regularly experience. To be able to play with the kids, to sit better in the saddle, to not feel out of breath after 5 minutes riding. The generic term ‘lose weight’ could mean so many things and will often mean something in particular to the person.
Having a better understanding of what you REALLY want and what that means specifically will make it easier for you to understand what you need to do to get there and how you plan to do it. It really can be that easy!
To help you make it even easier, follow these 5 Simple Steps and complete the downloadable form to create a plan of action to take you where you want to be.
5 Easy Steps to Achieving Goals
Step 1. Write down what you REALLY want
Write down what you think you want to achieve and then explain what that actually means to you.
Examples of Goals:
- Improve general rider fitness
- Take part in a pleasure ride
- Lose weight
- Go hacking on your own
- Jump 1.30 at home
- Improve overall rider confidence
- Take part in an Endurance ride
- Win a class at a competition
- Be selected for nationals
Step 2. Identify and Understand Targets
Having a better understanding of what you really want to achieve gives you clarity and enables you to move forward but to make a plan of action we need to break it down even more.
From your detailed description of your goal, we need to identify targets to work on that will get you to your goal.
Let’s say MY goal is to improve Rider Fitness. From Step 1. I have a greater understanding of what ‘Improving my Rider Fitness’ means to me:
- Not to get out of breath when riding
- Sitting balanced through transitions
- Not aching after a 45min lesson
This gives me 3 targets to work on that will help get me to my goal of ‘Improving my Rider Fitness’
Now I need to understand how I can achieve each of these targets.
- Not to get out of breath when riding = Improve my cardiovascular ability
- Sitting balanced through transitions = Improve my mobility and strength so that I can sit neutrally on my seat bones centrally in the saddle and that I have the strength to keep me there.
- Not aching after a 45min lesson = If I can deal with the demands on my breathing when riding and am less stiff and stronger when I ride then I should reduce the aching after riding as I will be ‘fitter’.
Step 3. How am I going to do it?
We now know that in order to improve MY Rider Fitness I need to improve my cardio ability, mobility, and strength. So how am I going to do it? Let’s list some options:
- Go to a local class
- Join a gym
- Go running
- Workout at home
- Personal Trainer
With the possible ways in which I could achieve my targets, I need to detail the pros and cons of each. This will really help to understand how achievable they are before I commit further.
I can now see easily what the pros and cons are for each possible options so now I am able to make a more informed decision about the options but first, let’s look at barriers.
Step 4. What are your Barriers?
Barriers could be anything from not knowing where to start, having difficulty managing time or money or just lacking in motivation but in order to move forward it is essential to understand what all these barriers are.
Barriers are often the single reason why goals are not reached.
Possible Barrier Examples
- Knowing what to do exactly
- Lack of confidence
- Previous injury/illness
- Feeling embarrassed
- Lack of belief
- Fear of commitment
- Lack of support from others
Keeping with the same example, let’s say I struggle with time management.
I have to work, have horses and a family to look after and by the time I am home I don’t have the motivation and energy to do it but when I can muster up the energy I am not sure of what to do.
You can see how one barrier quickly becomes many and how easy it can be to feel overwhelmed and feel like there is no point and it’s not worth it. But this is where having an understanding of those barriers will help you to create your ‘Plan of Action’ and stick to it.
Step 5. Your Plan of Action
The final part of how to achieve your goals in 5 easy steps. Let’s just take a quick look at what has got us to this point.
Step 1. Helped me to identify what my goal ‘Improve my Rider Fitness’ really means:
- Not to get out of breath when riding
- Sitting balanced through transitions
- Not aching after a 45min lesson
Step 2. Gave me Targets to achieve my goal:
- Improve my Cardio
- Improve my Mobility & Strength
- Achieve Targets 1 & 2 to get to Target 3
Step 3. Provided a possible way to achieve my targets
- Go to a local class
- Join a gym
- Go running
- Workout at home
- Personal Trainer
Step 4. Identified my Barriers as:
- Time Management
- Knowing what to do to specifically improve my riding
So what is my plan of action? Well, in summary, I need an option that provides me with the motivation, gives me support and guidance and that fit’s in with my timetable. With the table in Step 3. I am able to easily see what options provide me with what I need so I will investigate a little further into those two options then make an informed decision.
My Plan of Action
- Look into Local Classes
- Find out how far they are so I know if I can fit the class and travel into my timetable
- Find out how big the classes, how often I need to go and whether I will receive the instruction I need to help me improve my Rider Fitness specifically. Also how much support I will get to help keep me motivated.
- Find out the costs so I know if I can afford the classes and petrol, also parking if needed
- Look at Personal Training
- Find out whether I can do this Online or whether I need to go to a place and often I need to do it to achieve my goals
Golden Horse Shoe Endurance Ride – A ‘Bucket List’ Experience
On the 17th – 19th May 2019 the 53rd Golden Horseshoe Ride (GHS) took place in stunning Exford, in the heart of the Exmoor National Park – one of the most beautiful places to ride in the UK.
Whilst beautifully stunning, Exmoor National Park is vast with a total of 267 square miles of varying and challenging terrain from deep wooded valleys, high sea cliffs, fast flowing streams and large areas of open moorland which together give can the sense of remoteness and wilderness in its true form.
Historically the Golden Horseshoe ride started in Exmoor with the first ride taking place in 1965, the ride then took place at different venues throughout the country before returning back to Exmoor in 1974.
With the challenging terrain and the weather system of Exmoor the ride requires a very fit horse and experienced rider to cope with the demands of the sport but over the years, organisers Barbara Wigley, Jo, and Andrew Chisholm have worked hard to broaden the ride’s appeal and to attract non-competitive riders who wish to explore the beauty of Exmoor by providing a pleasure ride and wide range of classes from 24 km to 160 km.
Although there were low entries for the longer distance classes, whereas previously these places were sold out well in advance, the smaller classes were well attended from riders around England and Wales.
RiderCise® attended the GHS as a sponsor and provider of Rider Therapy in aid of the Air Ambulance Service for Dorset, Devon & Somerset. I spent much of my time wandering around, getting in the way and asking lots of questions so I could learn as much as possible.
With so many riders today taking part in ‘Leisure’ riding in the UK, I wondered why there seems to be a lack of younger riders participating in endurance riding in general and why they were not participating in such a ’Signature’ ride.
Everyone was so very very helpful, yet totally focused on ensuring that the horses were fit and sound and riders were prepared.
Before the first day there was a briefing from Barbara who previously organized the ride, but now maps out to the rides personally by horseback and by foot well in advance of the ride in May, well, it is 160km! Barbara gave an encouraging and insightful talk on the North and South Ride routes, pointing out the going of the terrain, possible areas of concern and detailed information about the beautiful scenery on route. A truly invaluable briefing to help prepare riders so not only did they complete, but so they could enjoy the journey too.
The briefing was repeated on the evening of the first day, prior to the second day also.
With the riders having attended the briefing and armed with maps, it was down to the horses passing their initial vetting where they must be presented sound prior to being allowed to ride.
The ride routes were marked extremely carefully to ensure that riders stay safe, these included a number of watering holes but during the rides, crews (groups of your fan club, supporters, mums, and dads) were able to meet you at specific points to provide water and feed for you and your horse and anything else that may be needed. A horse can quickly become exhausted and overheat with the challenging terrain and the Exmoor’s ever-changing weather. It is also especially important that riders ensure they are taking on food and liquid, something I fear is often forgotten or not deemed important (us riders have a habit of caring so much for our horses that we sometimes forget ourselves, but remember, without helping ourselves, we can’t help our horses!)
On return from either a circuit or the total distance of the ride, the horses had a period of up to 20 minutes before they must be presented a sound and have a heart rate of 58bpm or under. You can present your horse anytime you like but If the heart rate is too high you can only re-present once more within the 20min slot. If they did not pass the vetting they were eliminated from being graded.
Throughout the ride, the organizers communicated extensively with each other, the vets and the trail bikes out on the course who look after the riders. This Endurance ride is orchestrated beautifully, with the welfare of horse and rider at the forefront.
With such a community feel, horse and rider welfare the first concern, beautiful surroundings with routes chosen for their beauty and challenges why are numbers declining for this ‘Signature’ ride in the high distance classes? I don’t have the answers but here are my thoughts.
Points win Prizes
Many who take part competitively are looking for points accrual, completing the rides easiest for them and their horses, whilst gaining the maximum number of points counting towards mileage awards, in the form of rosettes or trophies.
Riders can gain the same amount of points from a local, less challenging 160km ride which seems to be, in my opinion, a huge contributor to the decline in riders for the higher classes of this signature ride. With this factor alongside the cost to attend such ride where you are no able to stay on site due to permissions and the extreme weather of Exmoor, meaning that you also need to pay additional costs such as stabling and accommodation, it makes a very expensive, high-risk ride.
Being such a challenging ride, it only makes sense (to me) that the GHS should award more points than another ride at the same distance on easier terrain. However, I can understand that this may be a difficult feat but feel that an adjustment in the rules which grades the rides not only on distance alone but also on difficulty due to the climate and terrain would help distinguish rides such as the GHS and give them more stature and appeal.
The Future of Endurance
This is my personal view, as an outsider, looking in and contemplating taking part.
I LOVE riding my horses and there is nothing better than taking a ride on amazing routes with beautiful scenery!
Why you should take up Endurance Riding?
They have the most amazing community of people who all have the welfare of horse and rider at heart (yes, there are some that don’t, like in any other discipline but I want to focus on the majority, not the minority). They have access to some of the most beautiful riding areas in the UK, which you may not get to experience otherwise, and you can make some amazing friendships with a sense of belonging.
The sport feels a little being the times in that in any other discipline there are awards of monies or sponsorship opportunities when a rider wins an event, championship or class. I think many people used to compete at Endurance for the love of it but unfortunately, times change. Especially as owning horses, training, traveling and taking part in such events cost so much more money today, there needs to be an incentive or reward, other than just for the love of it and a rosette.
However, I feel this is a chicken and egg situation as, without the support of members and attendance at events, Endurance rides are not in a position to attract sponsors and obtain prizes in forms of monies and formal sponsorships, making them more competitive aspect of Endurance even more appealing
Many of us spend our time wishing and/or complaining that there are not enough events or opportunities to get our horses out and about in a welcoming environment where horse and rider welfare and enjoyment is paramount. For this reason alone, I personally will be joining Endurance GB, with my two Friesian mares to show my support, even if I do just enter the pleasure or low level/distance rides and I can’t wait to get out and about and experience some of the amazing routes on offer!
To enable these events to be provided to us, we must show our support – will you?
What part will RiderCise® play?
I believe that there should be a greater focus on bringing Endurance riding up to date and in line with the other disciplines.
Whilst there are still many competing in Endurance riding, there appear to be few younger riders who are interested in Competitive Endurance riding and for the sport to continue and grow it needs to appeal to today’s younger generation who need greater incentives and rewards to work hard and invest their monies in training and competing at these events.
Endurance riders spending hours in the saddle at a ride at a time, working with their horses to get them through safe and sound. Riders who understand more so that if they hinder the horse through their own lack of body control, condition, and fitness they could cause undue additional stress or strain in an already challenging sport. The commitment to the welfare of the horse in this discipline is why RiderCise® became the Title Sponsor of the Endurance GB Championships.
I hope that with the sponsorship of RiderCise®, not only will we be able to provide riders with the knowledge, support, and guidance on Rider Fitness and Conditioning Programmess needed to improve their performance and success but we will be able to offer the incentives, rewards and prizes to encourage more riders to take part competitively.
RiderCise® Vision: To improve the Fitness, Performance, and Recovery of Equestrian Riders.