Equestrian Fitness

Strength and Stability
An exercise program designed for horseback riding can help prepare a beginner to ride, improve performance in the saddle for established riders, and decrease the chance of injury for everyone. Horses also benefit from a rider who is able to maintain stability and stay supple in the saddle.

Training can be of three types, which is similar for any sport:
  • The most important is time in the saddle, both for learning skills and increasing your body's specific capability to ride.
  • The next priority is a foundation of strength, conditioning, and movement important for people in all sports and fitness pursuits, This foundation provides improved fitness and health well beyond riding. See Functional Strength.
  • Finally are exercises that emphasize the physical demands encountered while riding. This includes building strength, dynamic stability, and developing good posture. A good example is being able to recover smoothly on landing after a jump. Trying to exactly imitate riding isn't attempted though- the movement patterns and coordination of muscles can't be recreated on the ground.

Squats are a key exercise to improve your riding:
Coaching at the barn...
...better riding in the arena

Squats with a lateral pull integrate legs, hips and core:

Pulling and core strength combined

Another exercise that combines upper body strength and core stability is an inclined row using a suspension device. The movement is in the arms and shoulders, and the entire body is involved down to the feet.

Core, hips, and balance at once
A strong core, working at all angles together with the hips and legs, in a dynamic environment, is essential.

Training is available at your barn or home.

Some excellent research:
Core fitness training for riders boosts symmetry in the saddle – research
"The physical influence of the rider is increasingly being recognized as an important contributor to equine back pain and lameness, and research demonstrates that asymmetrical loading in particular can be damaging to the horse."

Thanks to riding instructor Deborah Mendelsohn of Redhorse Equestrian in Woodside, California for her help with photography.

"Redhorse Equestrian Training provides high-quality personalized horse training and lessons focusing on dressage and ground schooling."

I also do equestrian photography!
Steven Rice Photography

Bay Area Equestrian Network
Member of the Bay Area Equestrian Network