Zumba-ing My Way to Better Rider Fitness

Catherine Ford shares how a seemingly unrelated fitness activity has improved her riding.

When you say “Zumba,” some folks conjure an image of older women doing awkward salsa dancing in tights. While I’m not knocking old ladies salsa dancing, the local Zumba classes I began attending this past spring are run by toned and fit dancers.

This is a good example of a toning song — we do about 10 songs total in the hour long classes:

It’s been amazing for my riding and understanding the athlete that my horse is. A few revelations I encountered:

1) I was out of shape. Yes, I was riding a few hours about five times a week, but I wasn’t working all the muscles just riding and doing barn chores. Working out tightened my back, my sides, and helped me pull my shoulders back naturally without having to force them to go there (the squats don’t hurt your two point either).

2) Fixing my shape made me ride better. Guess what happens when you ride your horse over a fence better? Your horse jumps better! Supporting my own core with my additional strengths let my horse give me a jumping form I’ve been training and sweating for over a year — all I needed to fix was me.

3) I gained a new perspective. I could feel what muscles that were cold felt like when you asked them to work. I could feel the energy jolt that happens once you are warmed up, pouring sweat, and halfway in on a session. The next day if we’d targeted a muscle group I could feel what worked to ease the soreness and what was too much to ask that soon. I was feeling a fraction of what I was asking my horse to do!

4) My forgiveness levels increased. I’m my horses’ biggest fan. I adore them. Still, the human in me got frustrated when we’d worked on something quite a few times and they’d botch it. I felt like they weren’t trying. Going to Zumba I’d miss steps I knew, ones I’d done before. Some days were just “off” no matter how hard I tried and it wasn’t because I didn’t want to get it right.

Go take a class, get fit, and get good. New is awkward but it’ll make you better. If you expect your horse to work as an athlete, give him at least a *somewhat* athletic partner. Who knows… you might even find out you like to turn it out to Pitbull while you’re doing chores — the horses won’t tell (and your significant other won’t complain either).

Go Riding.

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About Catherine: I rode 3-day when I was younger until a bad fall broke my back and I gave up riding for 15 years. As an adult I came back into horses with my five very young children (including a set of triplets) in tow and immediately fell in love with the Off Track Thoroughbred. Our small family farm is home to two OTTBs that I do hunter jumpers with and two ponies (a POA and a Welsh) that my children are learning to ride.

Read more of Catherine’s writing at horsesofsevenhearts.blogspot.com.


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