A Basic Guide to Rider Fitness

Horseback riding can be great exercise, but like any sport you’ll need to work out in other ways in order to improve your overall fitness. Improving rider fitness does not mean you must buy a gym membership or spend countless hours working out. There are plenty of at home and simple exercises to help improve rider fitness.

Why Exercise?

Horseback riding can be strenuous and not just on our horses. The more fit your horse is the less likely they are to be injured in regular activity. The same can be said of riders. Rider fitness is not all about gaining muscle or losing weight as it sometimes can be for other sports or exercise programs. Riding is a partnership and we are not ever going to be stronger than our equine counterparts. As riders, flexibility and stability are just as important, if not more so, than the strength of some of our muscles.

Stretching before horseback riding


If you do nothing else, stretching is beneficial for riding. For any exercise, it’s recommended you stretch before and after. For riding you can also improve flexibility and body position with specific stretches. A major problem for riders is keeping heels down and elastic. An easy way to stretch your heels is to stand on the edge of a stair and balance on the balls of your feet. Stretch your heels down until you feel stretching in your calf and ankle. When you first start this stretch hold onto a railing, as you become comfortable let go for a few seconds at a time to improve balance. You can also try this exercise by leaning into a wall with your feet flat on the floor and one leg, held straight, stepped back with your heel pressing into the floor. You will get a similar stretch to your ankles and calves as you would with the stair stretch.

Importance of core strength in horseback riding

Core Stength

We’ve all felt a little like a sack of potatoes on top of our horse at one point or another. This feeling often comes from a weaker core than needed for the horse we’re riding. Crunches or sit ups are simple exercises to improve core strength. You can spend five minutes on sit ups a few times a day to help strengthen abdominal muscles. Yoga is also a great addition to a workout as it benefits your core as well as your posture.

Building endurance for horseback riding


Increased strength and flexibility will help to improve your ride but you’ll also need improved endurance. Running will increase your aerobic endurance but you may want to consider your muscle endurance. For better muscle endurance lifting weights is necessary. But to increase endurance you don’t need to use the heaviest weight you can pick up. Try lighter weights but higher repetition. This will help lessen the fatigue you might feel after a longer ride.

There are no quick fixes to improve rider fitness as there are no quick fixes to make your horse more fit. These basic exercise ideas can be a good foundation for a larger fitness program or the sum of your fitness regimen.