Exercise Is There a Difference Between Being Fit and Being Fit to Ride Horses?

being fit to ride horses

The Founder of RiderCise®, Clare, is a Rider Performance Coach with over 14 years experience as a Fitness Professional, Soft Tissue Therapist and 20 years riding experience.

Is there a difference in being fit and being fit for riding?

There is a difference between being fit and being fit for riding (Conditioned). Being fit generally means having the ability to perform everyday tasks with ease, with a good level of muscular strength, endurance, aerobic capacity, and flexibility.

There is more to riding than not being out of breath. Riding requires coordination, balance, control and independent movement of limbs to provide clear communication. Unfortunately, running, cycling and swimming (as examples), whilst beneficial to general fitness, don’t provide the stimulus to prepare the body for riding.

What is Conditioning?

Sports, such as horse riding, at any level, in any discipline, requires the individual to have the appropriate strength, power, endurance and stamina along with the range of motion (ROM) for the movements required. Why? To ensure that the individuals’ body is equipped to deal with the demands of the sport so not only can you perform, but, you are at a lesser risk from injury.

Conditioning focuses on improving your muscular strength, endurance, stamina, control and agility. Agility is the ability to change the body’s position in an efficient and effective manner. Conditioning uses ‘Training Overload’, which is necessary for adaptions to happen in the body.

The strain (Training Overload) applied to your muscles causes physiological changes, resulting in growth, increased strength, and greater endurance.

These physiological changes not only improve your riding but you generally feel better, and everyday activities become easier. Another huge advantage to conditioning is that it reduces the risk of injury, through improving muscle strength along with connective tissue (tendons and ligaments).

The stronger the entire structure, the less likely you’ll experience a joint (sprain, dislocation, tear) or muscle (pull, strain) injury while in motion.

Why do I need to be conditioned?

Whether you are a leisure rider or a competitor, being conditioned is important for you and your horses’ welfare.

As a rider, if you are not conditioned you may have difficulty getting on, sitting astride, moving with your horse, giving clear aids and having constant communication. In addition, you may find progressing in a discipline feels tough or even impossible. Sometimes, you ache way too much the day after a ride.

As a horse, if the rider is not conditioned, the horse has to deal with their own balance, coordination, control, strength, endurance, and stamina, along with the issues that an un-conditioned rider brings; miscommunication, unclear aids, leaning and/or dominant on one side, unbalanced and bouncing in the saddle, inability to control body movements. This can often result in a horse becoming ‘one-sided’ and/or developing muscular atrophy and/or soreness.

Overall, we ask a lot of our horses. They don’t ask much of us but, to be in control of ourselves when riding.

How do I become Conditioned?

To become conditioned for riding, you need to improve the muscular strength power, endurance and stamina along within the range of motion (ROM) for the movements required.

The RiderCise® programmes have been personally designed by Clare, to help improve the condition of the specific muscles and their recruitment, required for horse riding, of all levels, in any discipline.

The programmes are progressive throughout each 8 week period of each of the 3 levels (Foundation, Intermediate & Advanced). This ensures that a training overload is applied to enable physiological changes in the body.

I recommend, whatever your current fitness and/or riding level, that you start with Foundation. This will start to prepare your body and mind what the more complex and demanding exercises that follow in Intermediate and Advanced. It is also important as we want to minimize the muscle aches and keep you motivated. You still need to go to work, live life and of course, ride your horses!

To purchase a rider specific programme, visit: www.ridercise.co.uk

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