Ask any new rider how they feel after their first hour in the saddle and they will tell you that they ache in places they didn't know they had!
It's true that riding is just more than sitting on a horse. Riders are athletes in every sense of the word and riders must be fit to ride, which means having the suppleness and strength to maintain their position and posture no matter what the horse is doing underneath them without straining muscles. In addition, cardio-vascular fitness will give a rider the stamina needed to keep up with the horse on an arduous cross-country trip, or even just cantering around the arena.
This fact was brought home to me recently. Readers of the Horses Forum will know that my horse, Annapolis, is recovering from a bowed tendon and is just now coming back into work. While I have been careful not to overtax him, but to steadily build up his fitness level, I haven't been so careful about my own fitness level.
My days (and evenings, come to think of it) are spent mostly sitting at a computer. I'm completely out of shape. Recently I decided to try some trotting without stirrups, lengthening my legs and deepening my seat. At one point, I found myself sliding to one side and, of course, my entire body tensed up and gripped to stay on. I quickly righted myself and visualized my legs as soggy noodles, hanging loosely down Annapolis' sides, a la Sally Swift.
However, the damage had already been done. I began feeling a definite twinge in my lower back and by the time I dismounted, the pain was quite severe. This incident resulted in my being off work for four days and spending my time standing in a hot shower or laying flat, trying to find a comfortable position.
I ride every day, why should I take up additional exercise?
Here are a few reasons:
- Reduced fatigue and less aches and pains
- Reduced risk of injury
- Increased range of motion
- Increased stamina and performance
So how does a rider get fit and supple enough to ride? Read on and find out how.