How to Improve Rider Fitness
It’s all very well diligently working your horse every day to get him strong and fit enough to carry out the work you demand of him, but are you fit to ride?
You could be hindering your horse’s progress, as well as risking personal injury if you don’t keep yourself fit.
Competitive riding does strengthen some areas of your body and keeps you toned, however, it is very common for riders (especially professionals who spend many hours in the saddle a day) to experience significant strain issues over time.
Most riders want to be able to ride for as long in life as they possibly can.
Even though the concepts of biomechanics and neuromuscular connections can seem complicated, the great news is that it is actually fairly easy to help your body create the right muscle engagement to support a better seat and spine position.
Here are some easy exercises that will all help to keep you fit to ride.
Because riding involves a lot of endurance, it can be especially beneficial to do these exercises as isometric.
In simple terms, isometric training involves getting into the exercise position and holding it.
When you can hold the position without too much effort for 60 seconds, you are ready to progress to more advanced versions of the exercises using balance challenging techniques that further stimulate your core and prepare you for stabilizing your pelvis and spine.
- Step back and lower your weight into a mini-squat, with your seat bones poking backward.
- Keep your chest and head up so that your back hinges as well.
- Keep most of your weight in the front of your legs, and keep your back flat. When you are starting out, make the movement very small and repeat a dozen times daily.
The side plank primarily strengthens lateral stabilisers in the torso and hips and has the added bonus benefit of strengthening the shoulders, which is especially helpful in injury avoidance.
- Lie on your side with your knees, hips and shoulders aligned.
- Lift yourself up onto your elbow, maintaining alignment from your shoulders-hips-heels.
- Work your way up to being able to hold the plank with good alignment for 60 seconds, before introducing additional variables and challenges to your core control.
Side Leg Raise
The primary focus of this exercise is the hip area. This helps to strengthen your legs, as well as improving your symmetry in the saddle from left to right.
Performed with correct alignment from shoulder to hip to heel, the side leg raise engages all postural core muscles used in maintaining nice upright alignment in the saddle.
- Lie flat on your side, resting your head on a cushion for comfort.
- Slowly raise the leg that’s uppermost up as high as you can. Keep your leg straight, and tighten your core muscles as you carry out the exercise. Hold the position for 60 seconds.
- Lower the leg back down again, turn over and repeat with the other leg.
Lunge with chair
This exercise is one part stretch (for the hip and the straightened rear leg) and one part leg strength/warm up (for the front leg).
Done slowly and relatively shallow, it can be used as a warm-up. Repeat 20 to 30 times, it can be used to strengthen legs while opening hips.
Squats with Chair
The goal is to stick your seat bones back while remaining upright in the chest area.
Using a chair, wall or more solid prop to maintain balance, doing them without support is better balance training, but it is always more important to err on the side of safety.
Depending on your fitness for this activity, you may start with five to 30 squats per day.
It’s important to keep yourself fit enough to ride your horse efficiently. Lacking tone and core strength could mean that you won’t be as well-balanced in the saddle and a lack of suppleness through your back and hips could cause you to struggle with sitting trot.
Get into the habit of carrying out these fittening and strengthening exercises daily, and always warm up before you begin a schooling session.
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