Lets get fitter and healthier with our horses. Its Spring.
Ok its time to take a look at yourself and think about your fitness for riding or working with the horses, I am going to give some of the techniques and exercises I do to maintain my hard earned fitness to ride and work around horses.
I have always had a very positive attitude to bothy my physical well being and the condition of all the horses I have had and trained. It is very important to be fit and think fit, it can also have a wide ranging beneficial effect outside of what we do with our horses and promotes a great feeling of satisfaction and achievement.
As equestrians we can continue our sport well into our seventies, even eighties and beyond in some cases and we are very lucky in this respect. However it doesn’t just happen and all the people I know who maintain great levels of fitness and wellbeing have always been inclined towards aiming to stay fit. So there is a warning here and it is that nobody should expect to let things go earlier in life and expect to get the fitness back later, it just does not work like that, so let things slide at your own risk and remember the people who keep going the longest in equestrianism in all its forms are the ones who start early and carry on. I want to ride until I am 100 years old if I can but that will only happen if I keep focused on fitness now and maintain it.
When I am talking about novice riders in the context of fitness I would be talking about people who could maybe ride for an hour with some trotting interspersed with some canter work, but here is the crucial thing, the riders must finish the session less tired than the horse. So as a novice you will need to sort yourself out if you are getting tired before your horse. This can also have health and safety concerns too as fatigue leads to falls and mistakes as much as strained human body parts. I encourage novice riders to focus hard on their fitness, ironically novice riders waste the most energy and are therefore the most likely to tire quickly, therefore it is important to supplement your riding with running or any physical activity that makes you tired, as this will help your fitness. Also novice riders have less options to train a horse to go forward with greater ease and efficiency as they are not horse trainers and as such are far more likely to have to accept what their horses give them and get on with it. Remember the most poorly trained horses are often the most tiring to ride. Novices should take instruction on how to activiate their horses better as this will help encourage both their own and their horses fitness and development. Stretches and sit ups are crucial for novice riders as they impact riding position and balance significantly, so remember working off the horse is as important as working on the horse. Try it, just pick a couple of things to get started, leg raises, sit ups maybe just get going. You will feel the difference very quickly.
Riders I would class as intermediate riders would maybe have aspired to train horses properly under expert guidance and be competing to a decent level regularly. Again though when I work with these riders I find that mistakes in competition can be minimised by a higher level of fitness. Poor decision making and fatigue often go hand in hand. The fact that these riders compete or ride young horses will in itself demand a certain level of fitness but it is surprising how much even very good developing riders can improve by working towards their own higher level of personal fitness. Weight training is becoming more popular with horse riders in certain countries and the specific parts of the human body we use as riders can be helped enormously by strengthening certain muscles. The most obvious being the abdominals, gluteals and thigh muscles groups. Again as I touched on earlier I can give personal proof to the capability of the human body to achieve and maintain a very solid core and left strength well into later life. Simple things like crunches for abdominals and dips for triceps are very useful for the more capable riders. Take the level wherever you wish, I do and it works.
Riders who are riding at the top of their profession should also keep a focus on their own fitness. Winners are supremely fit. There is sometimes a tendency for riders who ride the best horses to let things lapse a bit, thinking a stone or two of excess weight will not matter, well it will matter and the slightly less capable riders who are superbly fit will always give a better rider a real run for their money. Mental fitness can be an issue too for better riders, they have reputations to keep as well as standards in competition to achieve, so whilst they will all be fit or very fit there is no room for complacency and greater fitness helps the confidence of even the best riders. Decisions must be taken quickly in competition or when riding challenging horses in challenging situations, this can be a real cause of mental fatigue. One of the best ways I cope with mental fatigue is by keeping my fitness standards as high as possible, it helps a lot. Advanced riders can by the very fact they are excellent riders get horses to give more, however even they would get a lot more if they were very fit. A rider can never be too fit.
So fitness effects all of us who ride, to a greater or a lesser degree. How we live, how we eat and drink is a part of this too and can be help us all massively to achieve more with our horses, have a higher sense of well being and self belief and achieve.
The Golden Rule
The golden rule I inherited from my mentor the late great Dorothy Johnson was that the horse MUST always finish any session more tired than the rider and this is a rule I have followed religiously for decades and it has never later me down to date and I do not intend to let it start letting me down now.
Have fun get fitter it works. Feel free to contact me directly via the following with your feedback, views or enquiries. Thank you. Brian @equinesolutions.co.uk, Facebook Brian John Seddon