Getting Fit to Ride Guidelines

by Hidden Trails 04/08/2010

A bit worried about being sore after spending 6 or 8 hours a day in the saddle?  Maybe you have just started riding, or haven’t ridden in a few years – but you want to make sure you get the most enjoyment possible on your Hidden Trails adventure.  The following are several easy out-of-the-saddle exercises you can use on a daily basis to help stretch, strengthen and tone important muscle groups to get you in shape for a great week of riding!

Shoulders, back, overall body
Practice good posture with your shoulders pulled back, and your back stretched tall.  Think about this when sitting at your desk, driving your car, and walking down the street.  This will help you have the correct position on horseback and strengthen your shoulders and back. 

An exercise ball is a great tool to improve your balance, strengthen your core, and can be used to strengthen specific muscle groups.  Trade the couch for the ball! An easy and effective start is to simply sit straight up on the ball with your feet on the floor and your knees at a 90 degree angle while watching TV or sitting at the computer.  Other exercises using the ball can be found here or ask for some tips at your local gym. 

Abs – sit ups and the Plank

Good riding is abs riding. This means that you need to really use your abdominal muscles to balance yourself, rather than clinching the horse with the legs. If your abs are weak, spend five to ten minutes a day doing crunches, and other abdominal exercises. Doing sit-ups with an exercise ball is up to 20% more effective.
Another good abs exercise is the Plank.  This is a yoga move but it is great for your core muscles. Put yourself into the pushup position but instead of leaning on your hands, lean on your forearms. Push yourself up so that only the balls of your feet and your forearms are touching the floor. Crunch your inner muscles as well. Hold for about 15 -30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 5 times depending on your fitness level. (A modified version is just being in the upper pushup position and holding). 

Inner thighs – beach ball, leg lift and/ or hip abductor
Your inner thigh is likely to be the sorest part of your body after a long day of riding, so be sure to do some exercises to strengthen these muscles!  Having a strong inner thigh is a great way to increase your ability to hang on to your horse with your legs.

Beach ball exercise:
Use any rubber or plastic ball as long as it is at least a foot in diameter.  Sit on the very edge of a hard chair so that your thighs are completely off of it and your knees are at right angles to the floor.  Place the beach ball between your knees.  Squeeze the beach ball between your knees, hold for fifteen seconds, and then release. Do this thirty times per day until it is easy, then increase to forty.

Leg Lift:
Lie on your left side with your head resting on a rolled-up towel to maintain proper alignment of your head, shoulders, and hips. Bend your right leg and rest it on the floor in front of you while extending your left leg straight with the foot. Slowly lift your left leg about six inches. Hold for a moment and then gradually lower the leg, beginning the next lift before your foot touches back down on the floor. After ten lifts, roll onto your right side and repeat. Complete 2 sets of 10 lifts with each leg. 2 sets of 10 repetitions each is a good starting point.

If you are a member of a gym use the "hip abductor" machine.  It is a very effective machine that works your inner and outer thighs. 

Calf - Stairs
Using a stair, stepstool, box or step, of a similar height (between 6” and 12”), stand on the stair with just the front part of your foot at the edge (about as much as would be in a stirrup). Slowly stretch down and lower your heels until you feel the stretch in your calves, and hold for ten seconds. Then, rise up to your tip-toes and hold for another ten seconds. Do fifteen repetitions until it is easy, and then increase to twenty.  This will help you learn to lengthen your leg in the stirrup. It will also give you more flexibility in the saddle.
Cardiovascular Conditioning
Try to fit in 30 minutes of cardio activity at least 3 times a week.  Walking, jogging, biking, dancing, a game of squash…anything that gets your heart rate going!  This will help you especially on rides that include greater amounts of trotting and cantering. 

Don’t forget to stretch!
WikiHow.  < > Accessed February 24th, 2009. 

 BNET.  “Slim your inner thighs: three new moves to get you sleek and sculpted – Targettraining.” <>. Accessed February 24th, 2009. 

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