Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Riding and Fitness

Riding and Fitness

Rider fitness is something that should concern all of us who ride. We make sure our horses are fit, but what about our level of fitness. Once you make the commitment to ride you must make the commitment to achieve a certain level of fitness in order to be a good rider.
As we are heading into the cold miserable winter months, there may be less riding and more down time. It does not take long to pack on a few extra pound as we hibernate. Everyone knows we should eat healthy and maintain a close to normal weight. While it would not be appropriate for me to tell you what to eat or how much, if you have trouble in this area a good nutritionist can be helpful. Some of you may enjoy a group atmosphere like Weight Watchers or prefer to address this on your own if you think you need to. If you are still the perfect weight, congratulations you are one of the lucky ones.
Riding a horse is good exercise but unless you ride quite a lot every day, riding alone as exercise simply will not keep you physically fit. A little extra effort will be needed in the work out department. The experts suggest aerobics to help build your endurance, resistance training with weights for strength, and stretching for flexibility and mobility. Joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer would be a great way to get started on a fitness program if money or time is not a concern.
Choose an aerobic exercise which appeals to you and one that you will actually do such as walking, swimming, bicycling,jogging etc. Personally, I like to walk for thirty minutes a day at a moderate speed on the treadmill or outside, this is the easiest and least expensive exercise to do, a good pair of sneakers and you're off. Always warm up and cool down, before and after your preferred exercise. Additional things you might want to try if yo have arthritic joints would be the elliptical machine, or the dreaded NordicTrack ski machine, which I absolutely despise. When this machine is not collecting dust, it actually makes a good clothes rack for your workout attire. Except for the fact that it really works I would never recommend it.
Stretching for flexibility is great for the stiffness and decreased mobility that comes with age. I have personally tried the Equi-Stretch videos below and would recommend them:

Equi-Stretch--Strengthening and Stretching Techniques for the Rider ~ Dan Weltner
Equi-Stretch--Strengthening and Stretching Techniques Level Two ~ Dan Weltner

Equi-Stretch--The Seated Workout ~ Dan Weltner

Product Description
is a home workout video series designed primarily for, but not exclusively for equestrians, these videos offer a great 40-minute low-impact workout. Equi-Stretch consists of exercises designed to enhance muscular efficiency. These exercises help both riders and non-riders learn to improve their strength and flexibility, as well as overall body awareness, by developing a greater range of motion, building stronger abdominals, and learning isolation. Learn more at equistretch.com


The following two videos are a good introduction to yoga and easy to do. Relaxation and balance are an integral part of riding that all equestrians should strive to achieve. Linda Benedik has also written ' Yoga for Equestrians' books if you prefer the book version.

Yoga & Riding: Balance and Symmetry Techiniques for Equestrians

Product Description

are introduced to the author's yoga methods and learn how to achieve a balanced and symmetrical position on the horse.

Yoga & Riding Volume 2: Breathing and Relaxation Techniques for Equestrians

Product Description

this video, riders build from the yoga lessons they learned in Volume 1, with the focus on learning to relax in mind and body.

Pilates for the Dressage Rider
by Janice Dulak

Product Description

this beautiful new book, dressage rider and Level 2 Pilate's Instructor Janice Dulak has compiled a program of Pilate's exercises specifically designed to help the dressage rider enhance her ability for success in dressage. While they use different terms, both Pilate's and dressage share an emphasis on the torso, or the "Powerhouse" in Pilate's-speak, and achieving core strength, good posture and muscle flexibility. The goals of Pilate's program are often identical to what riders try to achieve in the saddle in the sport of dressage.

I cannot vouch for this book as I have not read it yet, but it looks interesting and I am sure it is excellent for getting in shape. Even if you are not a dressage rider, I am sure that this book will benefit any rider no matter what your riding discipline. Pilates is probably the best exercise system you can do as a rider, so having one geared to riders has to be helpful to us. Having tried the Winsor Pilates videos, I can attest to the fact that there is nothing easy about Pilates. To be fair though, I never really gave it a chance and will have to bite the bullet and try again. Balance ball exercises are another option to compliment Pilates, however, keep in mind that staying on top of the ball during the exercises is so much more beneficial than sliding off and landing unceremoniously on the floor with a thud, which can be quite amusing to onlookers. From now on, I will do the exercises without an audience.

The fitter you are reduces your chance of injury if your horse takes a misstep or spooks, you will be more able to handle the situation and stay in the saddle. Be sure to start slowly and work your way up to the level of fitness you desire. One last helpful hint, before you put a foot in the stirrup, take the time to warm up and stretch your muscles.

Whichever exercises you decide are right for you, check with your doctor first to see if you can start an exercise program at this time.

While we are speaking of fitness, let's not leave our horses out, stretching is beneficial for them as well. There is a great book on horse stretches and the proper techniques to use.

' The Path to Perfect Suppleness' by
Karin Blignault

If you are interested in trying out any of these books or videos they are available through:

Until next time

Quote for Today

Wild oats aren't meant for sowing - but they make a nice trail snack

I have added a You Tube video of this amazing horse and rider combination. I just love this team. Wouldn't it be nice to be as fit as these two are!

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