Whether it’s winter, your horse is injured or you’re just taking a day or two away from riding, there are many workouts you can do in place of riding to keep your muscles toned and your brain engaged.
Riding horses is a hobby that takes a significant amount of muscle. As a rider, you have to use muscle groups from each area of your body. A horse can feel, and can be cued incorrectly, from rider imbalance or weakness in a certain area. We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect,” but sometimes we need to step away from riding and engage our muscles and mind using different techniques.
As riders, we can remember what we felt like after our first day of riding as opposed to how we feel after we’ve been conditioned for riding. The morning after the first ride everything hurts. It feels like leg day, arm day and back day at the gym were all combined into one sixty minute session. But, now that we are conditioned to this specific type of activity, we barely feel as if we received a workout anymore.
Once you have reached this point in your riding, seeking workouts that challenge you will be beneficial to you and your horse. When you become increasingly fit, you can more easily isolate muscle groups and your balance improves, giving you a better seat and clearer cues.
But, to be frank, going to the gym and lifting weights can be a bit of a drag. Who wants to go to the gym, smell sweat and pump iron when you could be enjoying the aromatherapy that comes along with horses and riding? As much as some of us don’t want to believe it, horses will absorb more if we give them some days off during the week. That leaves us as riders days to improve ourselves for the sake of our equine partners.
Here are some non-traditional activities that are sure to make your muscles sore but are more fun than staring at yourself in the mirror as you lift 10 pound weights next to the sweaty guy that’s grunting.
Barre is a class that uses ballet movements and techniques, along with a ballet barre, to improve posture, balance, flexibility, strength and endurance. This type of exercise really emphasizes isolating the lower body in order to strengthen the lower body, core and back muscles. Form and alignment are crucial for the exercises in this class and if done correctly, ambulating the next day is going to be a challenge.
You may be wondering how a ballet type exercise class will benefit you and your horse, but ballet and horseback riding have a lot more in common than you’d believe. Improving your posture, balance, flexibility, strength and endurance in a ballet class will directly correlate to improving all these things in the saddle. The more control you have over your body, the more subtle you can be in the saddle.
People often are deterred from Yoga because they believe it to be easy, or walk into the class with the mindset that it’s not exercise. Do not shy away from this type of exercise — Yoga will improve your riding in more ways than one.
In Yoga you may not participate in traditional exercises, but the poses you are instructed to take are ones that isolate multiple muscles for long periods of time. It is not unusual in yoga to be in the same pose for several minutes. You may not feel the burn right away, but isolating multiple muscle groups for that long of a period slowly fatigues the muscles, making them stronger.
Yoga is also know for strengthening the mind. Sometimes, as riders, we can’t grasp concepts and cues we’re attempting to learn and teach our equine partners. There are so many factors and situations that stimulate our mind. Yoga helps slow and clear one’s mind giving you, as a rider, a clean slate when you return to riding.
This activity is an exceptional workout for the body and brain, aiding in improved muscle strength for riding and an improved state of mind to be able to clear and de-stress the mind while riding.
Rock climbing is extremely challenging and rewarding. It takes strategy, control, endurance, agility — and not to mention every muscle in your body. There is no correct or incorrect path. You take the path which best suits you. You utilize your entire body to make progress upward. Some movements are straightforward, easy movements, while most others require strategy and extreme body control.
This type of work is also mentally demanding. It requires you to strategize while you’re physically fatiguing yourself. You need a clear mind with the ability to execute clear thoughts and direction for each move. A person without a positive mindset will not make it as far upward as a person who has an open and clear mind.
Being on the same page as your equine partner utilizes many of these same skills. Using this type of activity teaches you how to isolate your body parts independently from each other as you are climbing or riding. It allows you to problem solve which helps when you and your equine partner are not riding as one — and it makes you extremely strong.
Continuing riding several days a week is great for you and your horse but adding these three types of workouts into the mix are so beneficial to you and your equine teammate. You’ll find yourself more subtle and relaxed in the saddle, your cues and your mind. It’ll be easier to grasp new concepts and you’ll find your horse learning at more as well.
Don’t be afraid to switch up your routine. Experience new activities and bring back what you learn and utilize it in your riding.
Go work out Horse Nation, and go riding!