Barn Aisle Chats is a new series where we’ll meet equestrians from all walks of life and disciplines. As a kick off to No Stirrup November, we chat with Idun, founder of Horse Learner Fitness.
Amanda: Hi, Idun! Welcome to Horse Nation! Take a minute to introduce yourself.
Idun: Hi there and thank you for the opportunity to present myself! My name is Idun (she/her) and I am from Norway where I currently live with my fiancé. Actually, in a few days I can call him husband! I work remotely for an e-commerce company and also run Horse Learner and Horse Learner Fitness in my free time.
A: When did you first fall in love with horses?
I: As a little girl I always looked up to my five-year-older big sister and usually wanted to do whatever she did. So when she started riding, well, I wanted to ride too. And by the time I had spent my first hour in the saddle at nine years old, there was no turning back — horses would always be a part of my life from that day on.
On my 10th birthday my parents gifted me a two-days-a-week lease of a kind and adorable Shetland pony called Tornado. He carried me through my first dressage and show jumping competitions as well as countless canters in the forest and through the snow (even when he almost disappeared into it!). Unfortunately, I grew quickly during my adolescence and after a couple of years I had to accept it was time to move on to a larger pony. After that I have been riding a multitude of different ponies and horses that have all taught me lessons — good and bad!
A: Do you currently own any horses?
I: I have never owned my own horse and I don’t currently plan to. As much as I enjoy riding, my #1 core value is freedom. I love to be location independent and live in different places around the world. I am lucky enough to have a job that I can take with me anywhere and having my own horse would significantly limit that freedom.
I always seek out opportunities to ride in the locations I am in and that has given me a multitude of riding experiences on different horses and in different conditions that I would not trade for anything. I just recently started riding a beautiful 12-year old mare in Norway a few times per month and that is off to a really great start!
A: According to your website, your love for horses is only rivaled by your love for travel. Tell us a little about your adventures on horseback.
I: True! As I mentioned, my situation allows me to pack up my laptop and relocate to somewhere else if I feel like it. This is a freedom I have worked intentionally to achieve and that I am grateful for every day.
Some of my most memorable adventures on horseback have been working as a horse trek guide in New Zealand, cantering full-speed on wide, open beaches in France and Thailand, and a one-week trek through the mountainous landscape of Corsica with my sister.
A: When did you become interested in rider fitness? Tell us about that journey.
I: Fitness and exercise has been an important part of my life since my early teenage years. Whenever I feel off, it’s usually because I have fallen out of my exercise habit. It does so much good for body and mind and I wish to inspire others to incorporate movement and exercise into their lives as well, because I know from experience (and from the overwhelming scientific evidence out there) that it is so good for us.
I enjoy trying new things within the fitness and wellness space and have gone from aerobics, body pump, kick-boxing and crossfit to pilates, yoga and pole dance. Right now, I really want to try aerial yoga and dance. I don’t consider myself particularly graceful, so that would be a fun challenge!
A: I’ve done a few of your workout videos. I love the stretching routines, I love the posture exercises, and I totally had my butt kicked by the full body workouts! How do you build your workout routines specifically for equestrians?
I: Oh wow! Thank you for trying them out and for the lovely feedback. Hearing that people enjoy my workouts and get results from them is what keeps me going!
When I build programs, I usually focus them around particular muscle groups or areas of the body that I know are important for horse riders, such as the core, obliques, legs and glutes. I know equestrians have a lot on their plate and time is of the essence, which is why very few of my workout videos are longer than 25 minutes. I really believe it doesn’t need to be more as long as you put in a few sessions each week and you stay consistent.
But really, my ethos is balance and variation — otherwise it can get overwhelming or monotonous. Everyone needs to find out what works for them and how they can incorporate fitness into their day.
A: What do equestrians need to target during a workout? Legs seem like the obvious choice, but it has to be the core and back, right?
I: All of those areas are important for sure and again — balance is key. The core is really essential and is connected to so many things we need in the saddle — balance, a good seat position, correct alignment and posture. What’s cool is that a lot of core exercises also challenge other parts of the body so you can really get the most out of your workout.
A: If you could tell every rider to do one exercise a day to improve his or her riding, what would it be?
I: Airplanes. If done right, I find it challenges balance, hip alignment and core at the same time.
A: And we always need to help the horse. How does being fit improve our equine partners’ lives?
I: The better strength, endurance and flexibility we as riders have, the easier it will be for us to move with the horse, give the right signals and endure a strenuous ride. The better we ride, the easier it is for the horse to work with us and we can achieve that amazing feeling of harmony that I think most equestrians are searching for!
For anyone who is wanting a little ‘kick in the butt’ to get a fitness routine (re)started to reach their riding goals, I have recently launched an Equestrian Kick-Starter Fitness Program which is a one-month long program with four short video workouts per week that cover strength, cardio and flexibility. All workouts are designed for equestrians and you can do them at your own pace and when it’s convenient for you. No equipment needed and there are options for most exercises to suit different fitness levels.
A: Thanks so much for joining us! We’ll finish with our “fast five” questions. Coffee, tea or soda?
A: Sunrise or sunset?
A: Summer or winter?
I: Summer for sure!
A: Cats or dogs?
I: Please don’t make me choose!
A: Black Stallion or Black Beauty?
I: Black Beauty
Amanda Uechi Ronan is an author, equestrian and wannabe race car driver. Follow her on Instagram @uechironan.