There are so many benefits to riding a horse, from improving your balance and coordination to removing stress and resetting your mental palette to a more calm and relaxed state of mind. But every equestrian knows how much of a physical benefit there is to ride a horse as well. No matter what discipline or style of riding that you do, it all takes a lot of muscle. Riding a horse works muscles from your hands all the way down to your feet. There are so many exercises to do in conjunction with riding your horse as well as for those times in life when we are unable to get on our horses as often as we would like. This post will go over five great exercises that do not require any equipment to stay in or get in great riding shape!
It is always a good idea to start any workout routine with some cardio to warm up your muscles and some stretching to ensure that you do not get injured while working out, and always remember to breathe evenly during all exercises.
The first exercise is the plank. This workout is fantastic for horseback riders. It strengthens the entire body such as your arms, shoulders, back, legs and glutes, but especially your abs. Having a strong core is key to being a great rider, as this is how we balance on our horses. To do this exercise, you will get into push up position on the ground, planting you hands directly below your shoulders. You want to make sure you ground your toes into the floor and squeeze your glutes to ensure your body is stiff, straight and stable. Make sure your head and neck are also in line with your spine, and you can find a spot to look at on the floor about a foot in front of your hands to help make this possible. Hold this position for as long as you can, without compromising your form and you will be sure to feel the results. There are also many plank variations to help focus on other muscle groups as well, but doing this move on a consistent basis will greatly improve your core strength.
The next exercise that is great for equestrians is the squat. Our legs are one of the main ways that we communicate with our horses (as well as staying on), so having strong legs is very advantageous. The benefit of the squat is that it works muscles in your legs such as the hamstrings, hips, quads and glutes, all which are used in various ways in the sport of riding. To do this exercise, you’ll want to start standing with your feet a little bit wider than your hips with your toes pointed slightly outward. Start the movement by sending your hips back first and then bend your knees to lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor, all while keeping your chest lifted. Make sure to keep your knees pointed in the same direction as the feet when bending. Then press your heels into the floor and squeeze your glutes to stand back up to starting position. This is a great bodyweight move that can be done just about anywhere and has so many physical benefits if done regularly.
Although core and legs are used during the entire ride, working our arms is also very important. Not only do we use our arms to groom and tack, but also as we ride with holding onto the reins and steering. A great bodyweight arm exercise is the plank up. For this exercise, you will start in a plank, just like in exercise one. From this position, you will bend one arm to bring the forearm to the floor and then bring the other arm to the same position so that both forearms are on the floor. Again, one at a time, push back up to your hands so that you are in starting position and continue this while alternating which forearm is lowered to the ground first. As in exercise one, remember to keep your spine straight by really engaging your glutes and keep your neck neutral by staring at a spot on the floor in front of you. This exercise is such a great arm workout and will also continue to strengthen all the other muscles mentioned in exercise one as well.
Next, a wonderful work out to strengthen the lower body is the bridge. This move works the lower back, glutes and hamstrings. In order to do this exercise, start on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor near your bottom, about hip width apart. Your arms should lay flat next to your body with your palms facing down. Lift your bottom off the ground and press your hips toward the sky, pushing your heels into the ground and keeping your knees over your heels while doing so. Then lower your bottom back to the ground. Repeat as many times as you can, focusing on squeezing your glutes every single time you raise your hips to the sky. There are also many variations to this move, such as keeping one foot lifted to the sky while using the other leg to raise and lower your hips. This move is so great to improve your riding stability and to keep you safe while on your horse.
The last exercise is coincidentally called the horse stance. This move really allows you to work on your balance and coordination; very important skills when riding. You’ll want to start on your hands and knees, making sure your hands are below your shoulders and knees are below your hips. While keeping your spine neutral and your body stable, lift one arm straight ahead, keeping your thumb facing up. Then add in your opposite leg, pointing your foot straight out behind you. Then lower them both back down to starting position. Try raising and lowering at the same time at a steady rate for as many reps as you can. Then repeat on the opposite side. It may seem like a simple move, but it takes a great amount of concentration and balance.
There are so many more exercises that are great for equestrians, but these are a few of the great ones that help improve overall strength as well as making sure we are evenly balanced. We always tend to worry about our horse’s strength and endurance, but we cannot forget about our own. With making sure both we and our horses are fit and healthy, our riding experiences are more likely to be a success.