I think Equestrians have come late in the game to fitness.
For years it has been considered enough to just ride the horse and that be it, and if you needed to improve things you rode some more.
Is that really all there is to it?
The professionals and those competing at the top level have over recent years recognised how improving their own general fitness improves their riding too.
The likes of Laura Tomlinson do Pilates, Jay Halim is now a seasoned lifter and runner and many eventers supplement their riding with time in the gym or out running. In fact strength and conditioning has even reached jockeys training regimes.
If you are a happy hacker you may be thinking that surely you don’t need to be that fit, however how your body moves has a huge impact on your horse-you are sat on top of him!
If we are stronger we are able to carry our bodies more effectively and therefore have a lighter seat. We are also able to use our bodies more effectively in particular our core to give clear aids, and hold ourselves in balance rather than relying on our arms or legs which can give mixed messages to our horse, or cause them to brace and become tense themselves to try and counteract us.
If we are more flexible we are able to move with our horses movement, again this gives us a lighter seat, and enables better aids. Doing mobility work can help to prevent asymmetry which long term could have caused asymmetry in our horse. It also prevents areas of tightness or tension that could affect our position and aids and therefore cause confusion to our horse. Your legs may have said go but your hips said whoa!
In terms of cardio fitness we all know that feeling of being out of breath during your lesson. Improving your general fitness will ensure you still finish your lesson strong and therefore get more from it. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to get something perfect only to have to save it for another day because you are too tired to ride it effectively.
So, yes I do think we should improve our own fitness in order to ride not only because it will make us better riders in general but because we owe it to our horses to be the best rider we can be for them.
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