Do you consider yourself to be a Fit Equestrian or Equestrian Fit? Do you exercise off the horse to improve your riding or for general health and well-being? Is there a difference?
There is a huge array of options available to improve our general health and wellbeing. Any form of movement/exercise is beneficial (if done correctly, obviously). But when it comes to exercising to improve your riding are you aimlessly wasting time, money, and effort, or are you seeing measurable progress and specific transferable benefits?
What’s the Difference?
When you exercise in addition to your generally active lifestyle (caring for and riding horses) you will see changes and experience benefits. The reason is that you are overloading your body with different stimuli than what you are used to.
The changes and benefits you see, and experience will differ depending on what form of exercise you have chosen.
If you have started running or cycling, then you may be seeing that you are not as out of breath as much in the saddle.
Or you have started Yoga/Pilates classes and feel that you have better mobility (strength, balance, and coordination to control body movements) and can sit more balanced in the saddle.
Or perhaps you have started lifting weights and feel stronger, straighter, and can control your riding posture and give clearer effective aids.
All of the above forms of exercise focus on improving a specific component of fitness or a combination of.
There are around 11 Components to Fitness but I have listed the 7 that are relevant to riding
The ability to change the position of the body quickly and control the movement
– Sitting a spook.
– Give clear effective leg aids
– Jumping position
The ability to maintain the body’s center of mass above the base of support
– Sit evenly and centrally in the saddle.
– Move with the horse through all gaits whilst maintaining correct posture
The ability of the heart, lungs and blood to transport oxygen
– Not getting out of breath during riding
– Able to breathe correctly for core engagement
The ability to use two or more body parts together
– Giving seat, leg, and hands aids simultaneously
The range of motion (ROM) at a joint
– Altering hips to move with the horse in left/right lead canter
– Opening/closing of the knee to put the leg in front, on, and behind the girth.
The ability to use voluntary muscles repeatedly without tiring
– Ride for longer than 10 minutes without fatigue.
– Perform repetitive tasks such as giving aids
– To jump / Event
– ANY FORM OF RIDING
The time taken to respond to a stimulus
Reacting to a spook or change in direction.
By being generally active and performing a form of exercise that focuses on one of, or a combination of the above fitness components then you would be considered a fit equestrian.
How Do I Become Equestrian Fit?
To become Equestrian Fit you will need to incorporate all of the 7 components listed above, into your exercise regimen. It may sound like it’s an impossible task but all you need is variety and structure.
Instead of doing the same class, exercise routine or getting the bike out, or going for a run. Mix it up. It really is that simple. To ensure that you are continuously progressing you also need to make sure that you are overloading your body appropriately.
All that means is that you increase the intensity, sets, duration, and weight once you feel that you that what are currently doing is fairly easy. This will ensure that your body is constantly adapting. You don’t need to increase all of those, just one or the other.