Get Fit to Ride!
As we move in and out of COVID-19 lock down measures, maintaining our fitness has become a universal concern, and horse riders are very fit people! Having strong muscles is an important part of equestrian fitness. But what makes it especially complex is training your brain and eyes as well as balance and body control whilst on a moving horse. If you don't get this experience regularly, you will not be in the best possible shape for riding. For many of us, horse riding is not only our love, but our primary fitness regime. For those not fortunate enough to keep their horses on their own property, during these lock down times, access to local stables or yards is a challenge. So, how to keep up your riding physique during these difficult times?
Take the Stairs!:
To keep ourselves fit, we need to do exercises that will build our hip and leg muscles, like stair step-ups and hip adductors. We also need to focus on building our core strength through yoga, sit-ups, and planks. Even while under quarantine at home, we can do many strengthening exercises at home. To build up riding specific strength, do stair exercises. If you don’t have stairs, then a step machine or even a stepladder will do. Use the lowest stair, hold onto a railing. Balance on the balls of your feet , and slowly stretch down and lower your heels. Sound familiar; you are recreating the stirrup. This will improve riding position as well as balance.
Use an Old Beach Ball:
Beach ball hip adductor exercises increase your ability to hang onto your horse with your thighs. Sit on a chair with a beach ball between your knees, and squeeze, hold, and release the ball for a minimum of 15 times, building up each time. These exercises will help avoid the inner thighs pains one gets when they start riding again.
Build Core Strength:
A good rider uses his or her abdomen, so proper core strength is essential for good riding. It means you use your abdominal muscles to balance yourself while clinching the horse with your legs when needed. To maintain your core, spend five minutes two or three times per day doing sit ups or crunches as well as reverse sit ups. Use yoga poses too; holding a few key poses each day will improve your back strength, open your shoulders, and improve posture. It is easy to become complacent about posture when sitting at home all day, so these are some of the best times to work out your back and shoulder muscles by simply sitting up straight and opening your chest. Riding is an aerobic activity, and the longer you are able to maintain your posture, the better equipped you will be for getting back in the saddle.
Take a Dip in the Pool:
For those of you with pools, swimming is also a good core strengthening option. Many beginner and intermediate riders focus too much on abdominal strength and end up leaning forward in the saddle. Counter this tendency by exercising back muscles through swimming and think "lean back" instead of "sit up" when on the horse.
Leave No Muscle Group Behind!:
Finally, it's necessary to maintain general fitness without neglecting any muscle group. In riding, you need to maintain an even tone all over your body. Do not neglect doing some upper body exercises. Many regular riders have a small set of weights and lift them a few times a day. Endurance is a huge part of being a good rider. Running in place of skipping rope helps build your aerobic endurance, but you need to build muscular endurance also. Try starting a weight lifting regimen with light weights and high reps. Fitness is great, but if you don't have endurance you can't go anywhere.
Make the Most of Chores:
Those of you who keep horses on your property, do your own horse chores. Give your horse a good massage with a rubber curry comb. Carry your own water buckets and hay. Do chores around the barn like cleaning the horse's stall or paddock and wheel the wheelbarrow. We have loads of time these days, do all that twice, and faster, and then see how many muscles ache afterwards! All of these horse related activities are exercise and make the barn your free workout gym, whilst certainly maintaining social distancing. As far as we know, we don’t have to horse distance – not yet anyway!
Lastly, from us at Cavago – we know everyone is keen to get back in the saddle. Let's keep confident; these times shall end soon. In the meantime, we urge you to follow us online, check out our site, and start planning your future horse riding trips and other equestrian experiences. It won’t be long before we are all able to get out in the world and discover the ‘Best Places to Horse.” If you’re looking to improve your fitness or wellness as a rider, check out the Chukka Wellness page on our website by clicking here. India Parker Smith of Chukka Wellness has a series of virtual masterclasses that detail how you can keep fit and be a more effective and supple rider.