Does horse riding make you fit, or should you get fit to ride?
During the course of my work I ask owners to trot their horses up for me, I only need to see the horse move over 20 to 30 meters and usually only ask the owner to walk and trot once aling this length. I’m often surprised at the number of owners who are struggling to catch their breath after running this short distance.
Research suggests that fit riders will be able to say in better balance with their horses, putting less strain on their musculoskeletal system. Even heavier, better balanced riders are less strain on the horses’ body than lighter, novice riders.
If the rider is serious about keeping their horse in the best condition possible and wants to avoid injury to themselves or their horses, then getting at least basically fit should be their main aim.
Apart from putting strain on the horse, unfit riders are more likely to fall off and get seriously hurt. Even simple tumbles can be more serious when the rider has less fitness, core strength or overall strength to rely on.
As we age, we need to be thinking more about getting fit enough and strong enough to ride. Increasing trunk and leg strength, cardiovascular capacity and flexibility will have good repercussions on our riding, increasing our reactions and the ability to stay on should anything unexpected happen.
I am finding that making even as little as 10 or 20 minutes a day to exercise can have positive effects on the body. For busy people exercise DVDs are excellent or there are now many good apps to exercise at home. Try Yoga, Pilates or Thai Chi to develop strength and all important flexibility. Walking or swimming are excellent low impact activities that done regularly will improve cardiovascular health.
Trying to get fitter will improve your health, help you to sleep better and therefore help you fight the effects of stress. Not only that, but you will become a better and more effective rider, helping to prevent injury to both you and your horse.