Off-saddle workouts to build in-saddle strength

William Woods Equestrian

The five components of physical fitness are cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition and flexibility. Riders know that taking their horses for a workout is just as much a workout for the rider as well, challenging all five of these fitness components and more – like balance and coordination. You know your horse loves a great ride, but there’s no rougher feeling on a rider than that post-ride stiffness-soreness that hits after having taken time off from the saddle. Below, you will find different kinds of exercises and resources riders can use to stay in shape and get stronger when they aren’t working with their horse.

  1. Weight Training: Weight-bearing muscle work can develop your strength for even the most high-energy horses. Find workout ideas below or ask a trainer and other horse friends for their regimens.
  • Core: Every twist and turn requires strong core muscles –the abdominal, lower back and other muscles that aid in stabilization. Weakness in the core is often a cause for other injuries, as other muscles try to compensate. Focus on your core with planks, side bends, pilates and other core exercises.
  • Lower body: Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Calves: Working legs helps you work well in the stirrups, and the more conditioned your legs are, the less sore they will be post-ride. Find exercises that also work your adductor muscles in the inner thighs.
  • Everything else: There is no question riding is a full body workout. Think about what muscles you use when you’re working with your horse and find workouts that emulate common movements you do on the saddle.
  1. Yoga: A good yoga session can get some of the toughest sore spots out. Yoga is good for concentration, flexibility, balance, strength and harmony. From beginner to advanced, find your favorite poses that emphasize hip-opening postures and spinal stretches or alleviate other tightness you experience after a ride.
  1. Cardio Workouts: Working that heart can only help you in the ring. A spinning class or crisp morning jog can get you relaxed, work your muscles, and clear your mind. You can also try cardio workouts that incorporate agility exercises, like climbing stairs/bleachers or jumping rope.
  1. Barn Chores: Any stable manager would love you for this one! Some chores are hard work, and they serve as a great workout. Be proactive! Carry water or hay, massage your horse using a curry comb, grab a shovel and get cleaning. Think of ways to stay active off of the horse that work your muscles and will get you sweating. Barn = free gym!

Training horse-lovers to become trainers themselves requires an understanding of teaching both physical and mental needs of future trainers.  With an emphasis in equestrian education, the online Masters of Equestrian Education program at William Woods is ideal for the working professional in today’s field to become the kind of educator who incorporates technology and physical fitness into their curriculum.

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