Unfortunately, most of us can’t ride as often as we’d like, whether it be due to time, financial or family constraints. Fortunately, there’s plenty we can do out of the saddle that will help with riding. Getting your body in the best physical shape possible will reflect in the way you feel about yourself in the saddle, the way you sit and your ability to maintain balance towards the end of a long canter Plus, regular exercise has been proven to boost the immune system, raise levels of self-worth and relieve stress and depression.
If you riding exercise is limited, try these:
Jogging is great for general fitness and, the fitter you are, the easier you’ll cope with weekly or infrequent riding, especially at sitting trot and faster paces.
Also, when you exercise aerobically (this means with oxygen), you increase the amount of oxygen you take into your lungs, making them work harder.
Your metabolic rate increases and this means you burn calories more quickly. Jogging is also a load bearing exercise, putting pressure on your bones and joints. This type of exercise increases bone density and protects you from osteoporosis.
One word of warning, too much running on hard surfaces can cause painful joints and shins, so go stead and don’t overdo it. Stop the minute you feel any soreness in your shins.
Yoga is an ancient discipline involving static postures and breathing exercises which can be used to good effect to produce many desirable rider qualities. Devotees claim that regular yoga practice can enhance body awareness, improve flexibility, balance and help you breathe in rhythm with movement. Yoga teaches you to listen closely and gently coax your body – all excellent qualities when it comes to riding and training horses’ bodies.
It’s a versatile exercise that you can pretty much do anywhere and for as little as 0 minutes at a time. There’s no reason why you can’t practise your stretches in front of the TV. Yoga exercises make great warm-up and cool-down exercises for before and after riding to help prevent injury and relieve muscle stiffness.
You’ll find yoga classes at your local gym, village hall or sorts centre.
The gym thing
Working out improves your overall fitness, makes your body stronger, helps your posture and makes you feel more energised. Resistance work with weights will build muscle tissue (and muscle burn calories, even when you’re not exercising). Most of us have a strong and weak side (just like horses) and this is bound to affect our riding, most often with rein contact. Work in the gym will identify your weak areas and help you balance your strength evenly across your body. Make sure you enroll at a reputable gym where staff are well trained and will talk you through a fitness programme tailored to your needs.
Developed in the 1890s by an Australian actor, who was also a rider, the Alexander Technique aims to increase awareness of your body’s habits and improve balance and posture. Teachers use their hands to gently direct your attention to areas of your body, such as your head and spine, to gently re-educate and re-balance your posture. It’s great for riding as students develop greater flexibility, plus a heightened awareness and ability to control each individual part of their bodies. All this while maintaining better balance, poise and an improved riding position.
This technique was developed help dancers stay fit while recovering from injury. The movements in most of the exercises are small, many are done lying on the floor and concentrate on the abdominal muscles, but they’re hard work!
Students also learn to concentrate on breathing in time with the exercises – which is great for riding. Pilates strengthens your whole body, improving balance, posture and poise.