The Athletic Rider: Farrier Fitness, Part I

Hoof care professionals have incredibly demanding jobs, requiring the physicality of weightlifters, the skill of craftsmen and the patience of saints. All that hard work takes its toll and is the focus of a new series by equestrian personal trainer Leah Hinnefeld.

From Leah:

Once I decided I wanted to write a series on the specific fitness needs of the talented professionals that keep our horse hooves ready to roll, I realized the challenge of the series would not be what to write, rather what to call the PERSON about whom I was writing! Having been a part of that industry for well over a decade, I knew certain terms could be considered anything from inaccurate to politically incorrect. Farrier. Horse Shoer. Barefoot Trimmer. Natural Trimmer. Natural Farrier. Oh my.


I finally settled on an acronym that I think covers all bases with leaving anyone one untagged. This next series that I am tackling is written specifically for Hoof Care Providers or Hoof Care Professionals — the men and women who make sure every Athletic Rider has an Athletic Horse, because every rider knows that no hoof means no horse.

There is no shortage on the ‘net of concerns and complaints from farriers struggling with aches and pains, but there is a disturbingly short supply of solutions being offered. I found an article or two recommending that all farriers should include squats in their fitness programs (but don’t they do this all day long already?) and a few others that suggested stretching before starting the day (without question, good advice as a part of a well-rounded fitness program but less helpful if used in isolation). I hope to add value to the information already available by discussing the common muscular imbalances inherent to the profession, by identifying the typical flexibility issues an HCP can expect to face during his or her career, and following up with a few sample exercises that should be included in the HCP “fitness prescription” to ensure total body strength. The result should be an HCP more resistant to injury and the excessive wear and tear that goes with the job.


Let’s start with a simple posture assessment. People in general suffer from three common postural distortions:

  • Pronation Distortion Syndrome
  • Lower Crossed Syndrome
  • Upper Crossed Syndrome

The most common of these distortions is called the Pronation Distortion Syndrome. The common characteristics of pronation distortion syndrome are foot pronation (flat feet) combined with adducted and internally rotated knees (knock knees). To give you a clear image of what this looks like … well … it looks almost exactly like the position that an HCP is standing when he has a hoof between his front legs to clean or trim! The Lower Crossed Syndrome is characterized by an anterior pelvic tilt (arched lower back), while the Upper Crossed Syndrome is identified by a forward lean and rounded shoulders. I have a funny feeling there is an HCP or two who can identify with at least one if not all of these ways of standing and can probably tell me the resulting pain before I can type out the prevalent injuries that follow when the distortions are not corrected.


Images courtesy of Clark, Michael A., Sutton, Brian G., Lucett, Scott C., “NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training,” 4th Ed., 2014. Jones & Bartless Learning. p. 134-136.

In the next three parts of the Series I will discuss each specific postural distortion, how the HCP’s daily posture exacerbates each distortion, and offer flexibility as well as strengthening exercises. For best results, each exercise would be used in conjunction with a well-designed overall fitness program. If you are or know a HCP who might benefit from an individualized program please CONTACT The Athletic Rider.

Leah Hinnefeld is a lifelong equestrian who spent over a decade studying hoof health and metabolism in horses before turning her attention to rider fitness. Leah is a personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Fitness and offers Virtual Fitness Training for riders and horse lovers. You can learn more about how to get fit to ride at Please contact Leah if you are interested in learning more about the Rider Fitness Boot Camps offered by The Athletic Rider.



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