An equestrian workout is exercise aimed to specifically improve your riding. Using a range of variety to help ‘condition’ the rider’s body for the sport.
An equestrian workout is different from general fitness. Being fit generally means having the ability to perform everyday tasks with ease.
Whilst any form of fitness is beneficial, there is a difference between being fit and fit to ride. For you to become a conditioned rider you must train the muscles riders use, in the variety of ways the muscles operate when in the saddle.
What is Rider Conditioning?
Sports, such as horse riding, at any level, in any discipline, require the individual to have the appropriate strength, mobility, and awareness to ensure that the rider individuals’ can deal with the demands of the sport.
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 yoga (as examples), whilst beneficial to general fitness, don’t provide all the stimulus needed to prepare the body for riding.
Rider Conditioning is the use of exercise to target the muscles riders use when in the saddle. Working on the variety of different components a rider needs. Such as muscular strength, cardio ability, mobility, reactions.
Why do Riders Need to be Conditioned?
Whether you are a leisure rider or a competitor, being conditioned is important for you and your horse.
Horse riding requires the correct muscles to work together to help keep you sitting tall and balanced without collapsing and/or leaning on the horse. This includes gripping with your knees or inside thighs to keep you stable. You need to be aware and in control of your body. And all whilst communicating clearly, and kindly, with your horse.
To ride well puts a huge demand on the rider’s body and if the rider has not prepared themselves effectively off the horse it could mean that you pull the reins, grip with your knees, collapse during transitions and lose balance easily in the saddle. It may also mean that you no longer make progress and suffer from after riding aches & pains.
Rider Conditioning also reduces the severity of injuries that can occur. By improving muscle strength along with connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) you are less likely to experience a joint (sprain, dislocation, tear) or muscle (pull, strain) injury should you fall.
When you are not aware or in control of your body in the saddle it has a negative impact on the horse. It could result in a horse becoming ‘one-sided’ and/or developing muscular atrophy and/or soreness.
Let me give you an example
You collapse during a transition because you are not using the correct muscles to stabilise your position. Many riders will use their reins and grip with their inside thighs and knees. This is a natural reaction but not a good one.
To stabilise you need many muscles to work together. Some of these muscles are your glute medius, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, diaphragm and erector spinae. Gaining control of a large number of muscles takes skill and practice. Having the ability to use them throughout a riding session requires strength and stamina.
To develop as a rider. To become better you need to practice engaging the correct muscles riders use through a variety of challenges and skill training.
How do I become Rider Conditioned?
To become conditioned for riding you need to improve:
Each form of exercise has pros and cons. Running is great for boosting your cardio but not great for building strength. Yoga/pilates is great for mobility but doesn’t improve cardio or strength. Cycling is great for cardio and strength but doesn’t develop mobility or muscle recruitment.
To achieve all the fitness skills you need you should combine some fitness activities so you cover all of the above requirements. You could perhaps look at combining yoga/pilates with a circuit class. Or running with weights and yoga.
The most important factor is that you focus on improving all the skills, not just one. If you would like a simpler way. Take a look at our On Demand Horse Rider Fitness workouts.
Rider-specific workouts that target your muscular recruitment, strength, cardio ability, mobility, balance and stamina