Do Equestrians Need The Gym?

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.


If you need any help I offer 1 2 1 training in person or online, as well as programme design, classes and workshops. Just hit reply if you want further info.


Breathing Magic into Your Riding!

I have spoken before on the importance of your breathing whilst your ride.

However I want to focus less on the hip relaxing today and more on the energy and connection with your horse.

To be honest it can be quite a difficult thing to explain how and why horses respond to our breathing pattern when we ride them and there can only really be hypothetical answers ranging from it being how our body language/position etc. changes subconsciously, they feel vibrations and electromagnetic fields to plain old magic!

So rather than try and give you any of these arguments I’m just going to give you some things to try out and you can come to your own conclusion.

Just sat still on your horse or at a walk breathe right into your belly and then progress this by imagining you are breathing right into your thighs wrapped around your horse.  Do this for a couple of minutes just focusing on your breath going right down into your thighs, down your legs and imagining that breath being felt by your horse. How does your horse respond?

If your horse is really tuned in and communicating with you, you may just find he starts to match your breath too, breathing in and out with you so you draw energy from each other’s breath. Imagine how connected you must be for that to happen?

You could also try breathing in for 8 beats (that’s hoof beats not full strides!) and out for 8 beats. This is great way to relax either you or your horse-or both! It can be useful to practice this at home and then it is comforting exercise when you really need it out at a show or on a hack.

When you are in a rising trot and want your horse to stretch down and really use his back, I want you to rise and breath out but think –breath down-yep rise up and breath down! Just try it…….does your horse stretch down a little bit more? This is only way I know how to get a horse to stretch down!

A great way to improve your seat in the sitting trot and canter is to try breathing in for 2 strides and out for 2 strides. This may be because it helps to free up your hips which in turn can also help to free up a lazy horse but to be honest don’t think about the why’s and wherefores just accept the magic as it happens!

Heels Down!

I know many of us can still hear our childhood riding instructors bellowing “heels down” as we trotted around the arena.
No matter what we did they would always creep back up-why isn’t toes down a thing? We can do that!

So with the addition of heels or ballet pumps, spending more time sat down we are constantly shortening our lower leg muscles. I know loads of you spend ages stretching your calves on the stairs etc. to no avail.

I’ve got a really simple solution that might just help. You see the function of the lower leg starts on the bottom of your foot. The Plantar Tendon runs underneath your foot and attaches to the Achilles tendon and into the soleus muscle (one of your calf muscles). Any tightness on your Plantar tendon will cause tightness up the whole chain. And let’s face it we walk around on our Plantar Tendon all day so it’s pretty safe to say it needs some TLC.

This just needs a ball. Any ball will do tennis, golf etc. or you can use the spiky physio balls.

Just roll the ball around under your feet, in all directions up and down, side to side. Focus on any sore spots; stretch the arch of your foot out over the ball just for a few minutes each foot. Not only will this loosen up your lower leg so try it before you ride, it also feels really nice at the end of a long day on your feet.

Oats for you and Your Horse?

As horse owners we will spend hours researching the best diet for our horses, yet most of us don’t put much thought into our own diets. However, as with our horses a healthy diet will give us enough energy to ride, much out etc. as well as keep us healthy. We need to stay healthy so we are able to look after our horses …………….and go to work to pay for them!
In the real world though we have so much to fit in the day that making time for a healthy breakfast is not a priority. So I’ve got some seriously convenient options to help you make time to muck out early doors and have a breakfast on the go.

Overnight Oats.
There are quite a few recipes for these out there so if you like the idea just not this combination google some other options. You just add oats, a scoop of protein powder (I like chocolate) to frozen cherries, chia seeds and a cup of coffee – you can just milk instead of coffee if you want to. Mix together in a bowl, then portion out in to Tupperware in the fridge to take with you in the morning. You then head to the yard and eat this whilst your horse is breakfasting too!

Omelette Muffins
I make these in advance in a muffin tray and keep sealed in the fridge so they are ready to grab on the go, although you could reheat them if you wished. Using eggs and bacon or ham (quantities will vary depending on how many you make, however for a 12 case muffin tray I use around 10 eggs and 200g of ham or bacon) Whisk eggs, add chopped ham and some mixed herbs, pour into muffin tray and bake in oven on 180° for around 15-20mins, until the top starts to turn golden brown. You could use all kinds of ingredients in these like adding, mushrooms, a little cheese, some veg (peppers, onion. Maybe) or salmon and broccoli whatever you like!

Protein Shake.
Again so many recipes for this feel free to experiment. I use a Breville Active Blend as you make it in the bottle, blend it and go. It was about £20 and doesn’t take up much room on the worktop!
300ml milk – I use goat’s milk or coconut milk but regular cow is fine.
1 scoop protein powder – I use chocolate, vanilla or mocha.
1 banana
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon of oats.
Blend and go!