Wouldn’t you like to have a dollar for every time a non-horsey person says, “Riding isn’t exercise except for the horse”?
I must admit that the intensity of my riding these days is lukewarm compared to the white-hot obsession of a few years back, when I was competing on the show circuit. Instead of containing the impulses and re-directing the energy of young, rambunctious warmblood sport horses, I’m cruising around on the likes of Wally the Curmudgeon and Danny the Lap Dog.
Yet I’m still wrung out and tired by the end of the day and I think it’s because I’m a hands-on horse owner. I’m not handing over the reins to a groom when I dismount and heading to the kitchen for a lemonade. No, I’m bathing dirty horses, wiping down tack, mucking stalls, raking the barn aisle, sweeping the tackroom and…. Well, I’m sure there’s something else left to be done before I stand in the kitchen at 5:00 p.m. and stare at the refrigerator, praying that when I open the door something fully cooked and tasty will magically appear.
Additional exercise is the last thing I need. Instead, how about a personal chef?
I suppose the exercise topic is on my mind because I body shaved Danny yesterday. I’d finally had enough of his overly enthusiastic winter coat—he resembled a giant Stieff teddy bear—and decided to rid him of his fur coat. I knew he’d be much more comfortable, especially since we’re back to our typical mild winter weather. It’s been in the low 80s all week. (Please don’t throw snowballs at me!)
At any rate, after hefting those industrial-sized clippers for an hour, contorting my body this way and that in what must be some kind of yoga posturing, I ended up with a much less hairier horse and an overwhelming sense of fatigue. I began to question if I was horribly out of shape until I considered that I’d also shuffled around eight 110-pound bales of hay that morning and transplanted a tree next to Wally’s stall. No wonder I was a little tired by the time my horses expected me to cart several flakes of hay to their doorstep for dinner.
The next time someone questions the validity of horseback riding as exercise I’ll explain that it’s not the time in the saddle that burns the calories, it’s the time on the ground. If they don’t believe me I’ll invite them over for a workout.
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