Are you an athletic horseback rider or is your body more or less the shape of a weekend rider? Your horse would greatly appreciate you being physically fit for riding. There are some very simple ways to find out if your body is really ready for horseback riding.
- When mounting your horse, do you tend to pull yourself into the saddle?
- When riding for only 30 minutes or less, does your back or knees hurt?
- Does your crotch area get sore or develop a rash?
- When you have just gotten off the horse, do you need to find your “walking legs”?
If you answered yes to any of those questions then you are out of shape for riding and need to strengthen some muscle groups. Keep in mind that an incorrect riding posture can also be a cause of pain during and after the ride.
Getting in good physical shape for riding should not mean having an expensive gym membership; it means just doing some basic exercises to help with muscle strength and balance. Many of the exercises that I do can be done in the barn for about 15-30 minutes before you get your horse for grooming and tacking up. Some of the exercises that I do are squats and side lunges for leg muscles. For general toning I do jumping jacks (yes the ones they taught us in grade school) and jumping rope. The balance exercises I do are not done at the barn but another time and place and they are using one of those large exercise balls that are inflated. I have also seen people use those small trampolines for practicing balance.
You will find that the better shape you are in for riding, your overall riding ability will improve. If you were having a hard time with your horse not performing to its full potential and now the horse is better, it might have been your balance or your weight that was having an adverse effect on the horse.
I cannot tell you how many times I have seen riders video themselves riding their horses and want someone to tell them what they are doing wrong. While most people comment on the horse needs more training or the equipment is not fitting or adjusted right, no one wants to mention that the rider is either over weight or unbalanced due to not being physically fit. My guess is that no one wants to be the first one to point out that “hey, you are out of shape for riding”. So the poor rider, who wants to know badly what is going on, will never truly know.
Do yourself and your horse a BIG favor – get in shape before the first ride of the season.