Is there a difference between being Fit and being Fit for Riding?

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/