As one of the most peaceful pastimes, horseback riding provides a way to train an incredible animal and explore the scenery, or become involved in competitions and shows. Whether you are a novice or a lifetime rider, we all can use a few helpful tips to make riding even more enjoyable.
Samir Becic, four times the number one fitness trainer in the world and author of the book ReSYNC Your Life, and his Health Fitness Revolution (HFR) team have compiled a list of the top ten tips to improve your riding experience and skills. If this article interests you, feel free to read our other horse articles, including “The Top 10 Health Benefits of Owning a Horse” and “The Health Benefits of Horseback Riding.”
Yoga: Yoga is a relaxing way to lengthen and loosen muscles. As a horseback rider, it is critical that your body remains relaxed and that you are able to move rhythmically with the gait of your horse. Some helpful poses that lengthen your muscles and release tension include downward dog, eagle, chair, and triangle.
Leg Stretches: The hamstrings and achilles tendons are especially important when it comes to riding a horse. In order to become acclimated to the saddle’s stirrups, you should perform the seated hamstring stretch as well as calf raises and dips. With more flexible tendons in your legs, keeping your feet in the stirrups will become much more comfortable.
Inner Thigh Exercises: While riding a horse, the rider squeezes the horse’s sides with her inner thighs in order to remain stable on the horse’s back. By doing inner thigh exercises, you can improve your stability riding, allowing for a more comfortable ride. Some suggested exercises include plie squats, squat jumps, and even squeezing a volleyball in between your knees.
Abdominal Exercises: Great posture plays an incredible role in a proper ride, and the best way to maintain this is through keeping a tight core. Planks, crunches, Russian twists, and any ab exercise will contribute wonders to amazing core strength, and your riding will be that much enjoyable because of it.
Upper Body Exercises: As a horseback rider, you use your upper body to guide the horse. With a stronger upper body, you can lead your companion with ease and grace, making for an effortless time riding. Suggested exercises include seated rows, push-ups, tricep dips, wrist curls, and dumbbell raises to work the major muscle groups in your upper body.
Neck Exercises: To avoid misaligning the body, a rider needs a loose occipital joint. One slight tilt of the head to the left, will force the body right in compensation, and as a result riding is no longer comfortable and can quite possibly take a toll on your neck. To prevent this, you can try isometric neck exercises, chin to chest stretches, and even practicing perfect posture daily.
Start With Protein: Eating a breakfast high in protein releases the chemical serotonin into the bloodstream. Known as the happy chemical, this will improve your mood and make every ride more enjoyable.
Increase Potassium: Found in bananas, sweet potatoes, white beans, and many other foods, potassium is a mineral we consume daily that aids in muscle contraction and prevents cramping. By increasing your intake, you will be able to maintain a better hold on the horse with your legs and remain comfortable.
Hydrate: The more water, the better your body works. If riders doesn’t consume enough, they are prone to dehydration and losing the capacity to think properly - putting both themselves and their horses in danger. During a horse show it is best to avoid the tea and coffee and quench your thirst with the classic: water.
Increase Body Awareness: By increasing how aware you are of your body, you increase your balance. Better balance means an easier and more relaxing ride. Some ways to get more in touch with your body that simultaneously improve your center of balance include walking on all four sides of your feet, single leg balancing, and standing on stability balls.
Putting these tips to use outside of the show ring will allow them to happen naturally. You won’t even have to think twice about it. Remember, you’re not only riding for yourself, but for your horse as well. Practice makes perfect.