Being a proactive rider myself with many different horses on the go and a personal trainer, I have encountered along the way many ways to help improve the way my body flows to benefit my riding. There are some exercises we can do to help improve our aids and increase our fitness.
As a rider we want our horses to be fit to be able to do the riding we ask of them such as dressage, jumping, trail riding or maybe we need them to be fit for an endurance ride or a rodeo. We expect so much of our horse and consistently work and build on their level of fitness and balance, but we should also be looking after our own health and fitness to get the best out of ourselves and the horses we ride. Some benefits of introducing an exercise to our daily routine is that we become more limber, have better balance (so less falls!), ability to mount and dismount easier, our cardio improves so we can ride longer.
I have put together some exercises that anyone can do either at home or at a gym.
Balance Building Exercises:
Leg Raise on Stability Ball;
How To: Sit on stability ball with legs at 45-degree angle, lock in core through using your pelvic floor muscles (lift your pelvic floor and pull belly button towards spine), slowly begin to lift one foot off the floor do this as slow as you can by counting to 10 with the lift and 10 back to floor, repeat on other leg – you want to lift your foot and straighten your leg.
Complete 3 sets of 12 per leg. This will greatly improve your balance on your horse through building a strong core and stabilising you on the horse in movement – think less falls! Stability balls can be purchased for approximately $10 from any K-Mart, Target, Sports Shop even some cheap shops such as Reject Shop stock these now.
Plank on Stability Ball;
How To: Start in a kneeling position and place elbows on stability ball, begin to place weight distribution onto the ball and straighten body out into a plank position (you may need to slowly do this to ensure you have balance), lock in core muscles through lifting your pelvic floor muscles and pulling your belly button towards your spine. This is a great way to switch up the normal plank and activate your core stability to aid with balance on the horse. A stronger core leads to improvement of moving with the horse when they spook or when you are jumping. Working on core stability and strength is something that has helped me with my balance and many others I know.
Repeat this for a set of 3 and maintain position for 30seconds gradually working towards 1 minute when you have become stronger. Ensure your body is in straight alignment as if you were standing.
Strength Building Exercises:
How To: Stand with feet shoulder width apart (difficulty can be adjusted to suit various abilities – use a chair for depth and initial balance of stabilising in the squat or add weight when more advanced). Have your toes slightly turned out with your knees in alignment following your toes, look forward, hold core in pulling your pelvic floor up and belly button towards your spine, bend from the hips first pushing them back whilst maintaining upright position with the chest, bend knees whilst these track in alignment with toes, have arms straight in front of you to aid with balance, lower body until hips and knees are in 90 degree angle as you are lowering do this slowly at a count of 3 down, hold position for 2 seconds, and then push through heels to slowly push body back into standing position for a count of 3 seconds up.
Complete 3 sets for 12 reps. Benefits of this aids with warming up the legs and knees, strengthening the lower body. If you find that your knee wobbles or goes inward, use a resistance band ($10 from sports shop or cheap shop like Target or Kmart) and place the band just above your knees. You will find with having the band on it helps with your body to naturally push against the band to ensure that there is better glute activation and knee stabilisation.
How To: Stand with feet shoulder width apart and place your hands on your hips or wherever feels comfortable for you, look forward, locking in your core through lifting your pelvic floor and pulling belly button towards spine, take a step forward to get a triangle with your legs and the floor, ensure your feet are facing forward in a straight line and so are your hips (this is very important!), bending and dropping your back leg to a 45 degree angle whilst maintaining an upright straight body. Complete this exercise slowly, once your legs are at the 45-degree angle, push from your front heel so your glutes and hamstring are activated and straighten up into the triangle you started with, ensure that your hips remain straight, your feet remain facing forward and your head up, ensure no knee wobble.
Complete 3 sets of 12 reps. This exercise assists with stability in the saddle, stability of the quads, hamstrings, knees, and glute activation to aid with various gaits in the saddle, this can also aid with better lower leg control with your cues.
Back Rows – Resistance bands
How To: Stand with feet shoulder width apart stepping onto the resistance, have toes pointed out slightly, bend slightly at the knees and bend upper body slightly through moving hips back, ensure locked core and flat back to prevent injury, bending at your elbows pulling the resistance band back, squeezing your shoulder blades together, keep elbows close to body as you are performing this exercise, when elbows are pulled back as far as can go comfortably, hold the contraction for 2 seconds and release to starting position slowly.
Complete 3 sets of 12 reps. This exercise assists with strengthening back muscles for maintain position of the arms, aids strengthening core, lower back.
Many struggle with cardio but if you put in some time to do 30mins of a cardio based exercise per day this will greatly advantaged your ability to withstand longer or more strenuous rides. Some great ways to pick up your cardio endurance is through jogging, rowing machine, cycling or HIIT class just to name a few.
Written by - Lila Walker