These fitness tips were offered up on our sister site, Eventing Nation. But this is one exercise that is good for all riders not just event riders. So start lunging and improve your strength and position!
You might think that this is a blog post on how to ride. If you’re looking for that, please check out anything written by Jimmy Wofford — he is the master of the galloping position.
There is so much great content on how to improve your galloping position, and what it should look like. This is not that article. Rather, this article focuses on a lunge done off the horse that will improve your muscular strength — and your galloping position along with it — on the horse.
The galloping position executed correctly is not just important, it’s essential for the health of your horse. While nothing compares to getting your stirrups short enough and really dedicating the time in the tack to stop posting in the gallop, this is nonetheless a great exercise for strengthening your lower body and your core. In particular, your glute medius and glute minimus — which are also, as an added bonus, really important for the sitting trot — will see benefits from this exercise, if it’s done correctly and regularly. It is rare that a client of mine will go a week without doing the lunge.
Are you a righty or lefty?
Do you know what your dominant leg is? You might be surprised that it does not always match your dominant hand. Whichever leg you would most likely kick a soccer ball with is usually your dominant leg. Start this exercise with your non-dominant leg forward and finish with your dominant leg forward.
- Start in standing position with your feet hip-width apart
- Step forward with your non-dominant leg; your feet should be about as far apart as if you are measuring strides (about 3 feet). One leg should be in front of your torso, one leg behind
- Keep your trunk upright and bend your knees until the back knee practically touches the ground. Keep your front foot firmly on the ground, driving through your heel to properly engage your hamstrings and glutes, but raise the back heel
- Straighten both legs until you’re standing back up again with your feet apart
- Try to do this slow and controlled for two minutes. Focus on using your strength, not momentum, to go through the range of motion
- Switch to the other leg forward, repeat
How long should you lunge for?
The trick for a successful training session is to do the lunge longer than when your brain is telling you should quit. Set a timer and just do it for as long as you can, then push yourself to do a little bit more (about ten seconds longer than you think you can do).
Most riders can do the lunge on one leg for a minute. This is a great starting point, and you can then work up to doing each leg for two minutes. If you are able to do the lunge on one leg for longer than two minutes, great! But beware: the wear and tear is not worth the additional gains you will get, so feel free to stop at the two minute mark.
Try this out in your regular exercise routine (or use this as kindling to start a fresh one!) and pay attention to the after-effects of this added strength and muscle awareness in the saddle!
Laura Crump Anderson is an avid equestrian who realized from a young age the importance of taking care of our bodies like the athlete we expect our horses to be. Laura has competed up to Training Level in eventing on a horse she bred and started herself, and has the goal to get back out competing again on her 2019 homebred Still Stanley. She holds her degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science from Longwood University, is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and has her 200-hour yoga teacher certificate. Laura’s goal is to help riders be connected with their horse and be fit sound and ready to ride. Laura works with riders across disciplines from weekend warriors to Olympic athletes. She is the Owner and Founder of Hidden Heights Fitness, where clients can participate in one-on-one Virtual Personal Training via a virtual platform for which all that’s necessary is an internet connection, the space the size of a yoga mat, and a dash of determination.