Rider Fitness – Keeping the rider fit

I hate don’t enjoy running.

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I am much more of a sprinter than a marathon runner.

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I don’t particularly enjoy going to the gym either. However, I will play 2 hours worth of badminton without a second thought. I think this is due to my competitiveness, you don’t really win when you go out for a jog – well not in my eyes anyway because you are competing against yourself and its not particularly social. Ok you could run in a group but I like having my own pace.

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We spend so much time thinking about getting our horses fit or keeping them fit but tend to forget about rider fitness. We see our horses as athletes but forget that rider also is required to be reasonably fit as well. Think of the core strength and the flexibility need while we ride.

I am definitely not as fit as I was when I was at school because at school I was riding 3 to 4 times a week and then playing badminton at least 3 times a week a long side – more if there was a competition – this descended into nights out and lazy days in pyjamas while at university – ha! I say “at university“, I sit here 2 years out of university in my PJ’s writing this!

So while I am on the path of getting my mare fit I am now wanting to get myself fit as well.

How am I going to do this?

There is a badminton club once a week that I go to and play for a few hours and I occasionally play with a few friends but this is very inconsistent and tends to stop over winter. If there was a good pool near me I would swim as I feel like the great feeling people get while running I get while swimming.

In order to start off getting fit I have decided to start running !! At least until I find another badminton club or a decent pool.

I went out for my first run on Sunday morning and just about died. No. Im joking but I found it very difficult! I ran 2.7km in just under 20 minutes. So by no means was this a long run.

Ok yes, I didn’t run all of it I’ll admit there was breaks for walking… mostly when it came to hills. However I am reasonably pleased with this as I haven’t done any running in years – not taking into account the run I had to do after my mare and I had a parting of ways.

I plan on going out a few times a week by no means every day I’m not insane!

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I will keep to the route that I ran on Sunday as it is a nice loop and there is a bit of a hill at one point but after that its reasonably easy going it doesn’t get worse. I will probably go before I go to work which means I will have to get up a 5.45am to fit it in before work….thats quite early actually… I might rethink this….

Anyway, rider fitness I feel often gets neglected as it does get hard to juggle a full time job and attend to the horse every day and work out or play another sport. If you work on a yard and are mucking out, filling hay nets, carrying water buckets and riding however many horses you probably don’t need to do much extra training keep you fit. However if you are not working on a yard, perhaps like me you sit in an office, and you have the one horse that you obviously aren’t going to give a full work out every single day, personally I think you probably need to do a little extra to keep you fit and if you are determined to do something you will find the time for it.

Take a look at the top riders they will keep fit by going to the gym as well, for example, Charlotte Dujardin who speaks here about riding 8/9 horses per day and also goes to the gym 3 times a week to build her core strength.

At the end of the day how do we expect our horses to be fit but not be fit enough ourselves to ride them at that fitness ? We need core strength to sit those sitting trots in dressage, stamina to stay light in the saddle on a cross country course and we need strength through our legs to keep control of our lower leg. Riding by itself -in my opinion – is not going to get us fit.

What are your thoughts on this ?

What ways outside of horse riding do you use to keep fit ?

15 thoughts on “Rider Fitness – Keeping the rider fit

  1. I agree that only riding won’t really get you fit, although it does help a little! I guess, though, the more you ride the more you gain that core strength in certain areas of your core so you would need to do something different to work all the places of your core, and same goes for your legs and seat.
    I ride once a week and work three days a week at my barn and I still do yoga to keep up my core strength, hip flexibility, arm strength and leg strength every day.
    Everyone just needs to find the routine that best works for them:D
    Happy trails!

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  2. I have to go to the gym 3-4 times a week or I just cannot maintain enough fitness and core strength to ride. I am 68 and I’m sorry to have to tell you this but as you get older fitness vanishes faster if you do not keep it up. I think it is important because if I get tired then I ride badly and that means I’m training my horse badly. So good for you for starting with a fitness regime now!

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    • Oh no! Dont tell me that! I really hope to play more badminton as I competed for the team in uni but that has slipped since I started working full time . I think when you have been fit and ridding you can really notice it if you loose the fitness and get tired quicker therefore effecting how you train.

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  3. An advantage of moving back in with my parents due to health problems after college is I now live on the farm where I keep my horses. That means I get to help out during hay season, mend fences, hike out to check on the herd daily (over several hills, we live in the mountains), and trim horse hooves. I don’t have much energy left for working out. Farrier work and slinging hay, two activities that keep you fit all year round. πŸ˜€

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  4. I would love to have the energy and time to do more to keep my fitness up. I work in an office too, 9 – 5.30 but of course this turns into 8 – 6.30 more often than I would like. I go straight to the horse after work, I ride, muck out etc and then go home to walk the dog. By this point it’s around 9pm and I still haven’t had anything to eat since lunch time. So the two days that I don’t ride a week are well and truly reserved for catching up on my tv shows and working on the blog. Sometimes I wish there were more hours in a day πŸ™ˆ

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    • I know how you feel which is why Im thinking on going out in the morning before work. Im lucky enough that I found a badminton club that starts at 8 and goes on until 10 so am I able to make it after the stables but this does mean a quick dinner in the car inbetween. Having a dog would get you out walking though which would help your fittness.

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  5. Oh man, this has been a recent goal of mine too. It’s all too real! I lose stamina quickly, something I need to work on long-term. But I figure us equestrians have more fun motivation than most people do.

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  6. I do think that if I didn’t have the horses at home and would muck out every morning and have all of those physical jobs to do, I would need to join the gym to stay fit enough to ride!

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  7. I agree with above, the older you get the harder fitness is. I used to run 6km 4 times a week and horseride 4 times a week and compete every week and go to the gym 4 times a week. Ah the 20’s and early 30’s of your life are fun. At 41 i want to be up at 5am and asleep by 7.30am. I get so tired at times, (i work shift work too). But i keep on keeping on. Been to the doctors saying “Hey i’m tired” yeah mel, you are healthy, you are just aging and you need to accept it. lol.

    I am trying swimming at the moment and i love it. It is easier on my ankles, knees and lower back that all suffer from arthritis from falls or from bad posture for 4 decades! so i think swimming is good.
    Also, it is a way of calming me down, i suffer from a little anxiety at times and swimming is wonderful for that.
    Mel x

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