Working on your fitness on the ground will help you be more effective and balanced in the saddle.
One of the (only) good things about not owning my own horse is that I have time to try out new activities.
The good news is – I’ve actually discovered a few exercises that really strengthen my inner thighs while toning my arms. (We all know a forward horse can really exhaust your shoulder muscles.) My core is getting stronger the whole time, too.
I talked to certified personal fitness trainer and friend Brittney Putnam about how to properly do these exercises. She also talked me through the various benefits. Of course, always remember to check with a doctor before starting anything too strenuous.
Over the past few years I’ve noticed that my hips are getting really tight. These stretches really do help my body recover after riding and feel better faster.
We all know it’s pretty unrealistic to think you’re going to stretch at the barn. However, as equestrians, we’re athletes, and stretching is an integral part to strengthening and conditioning our bodies.
“Many athletes don’t spend the time they need on stretching,” explains Britt. “We do a couple seconds here and a couple seconds there. You’re not really allowing the muscle fibers to stretch.”
If you’re like me and usually resist stretching, give a yoga class a try. It’ll force you to spend time slowly stretching the muscles.
Added bonus: Schooling tights are actually work really well for stretching!
Kettle Bell Swings
Britt explains that main concept to remember when doing kettle bell swings is the power comes from your hips. I know what you’re thinking – how does this help my inner thigh riding muscles? Trust me – if you do enough reps, you’ll feel it the next day. I usually used a relatively light weight.
“Kettle bell swings are not about squatting,” explains Brittney. “It’s an extending motion. Make sure you have a slight bend in your knee.
Kettle bell workouts are an overall body movement that works the entire kinetic chain.
“From your hamstrings to glutes to lower back to lats, and your core, the kettle bell swing ties it together in one motion,” she explains. “It’s power and strength but also a cardio, fat-burner movement.
Running helps your endurance. And I don’t know about you, but halfway through a jumping course on a green horse, and I’m huffing and puffing like I just ran a marathon.
Britt recommends that riders do interval sprints.
“A key for a jumper or anyone that’s riding is to do interval sprints,” she says. “Running is great cardio. Do 10-20 second running sprints, then cool down for a minute. Then, do another 10-20 second sprint. By running sprints, you’re challenging our heart rate.”
I hope you give some of these exercises a try. Have you ever done a new exercise or activity and found it highly beneficial in the saddle?
Liked this article? Here are more fitness resources for riders:
HorseChannel’s Guide to Equestrian Fitness
Allison Griest is a freelance writer based in Texas. Follow her on Twitter: @allisongriest.