When you begin a new sport, one of the first things you do is get in shape. Every sport uses different muscle groups and stretches new areas of your body, which means that you will concentrate on different exercises in order to get in shape.
This is no different with horseback riding. Some say that riding isn’t a sport, which I think is ridiculous. Horseback riding uses several different muscle groups depending on the discipline, and requires that you be in shape to perform.
Horseback riding typically uses the following muscle groups:
Back of the Calf
You will use different combinations depending on the type of activity, but these will be used every day. In order to stay in shape and to perform best while you ride, there are several exercises you can perform on a daily basis to help stretch, strengthen, and tone these muscle groups.
If you have stairs in your home – perfect. If not, a stair stepper will do or a step ladder if you have one.
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, raise up to your tip-toes and hold for another ten seconds.
Reps: Do this fifteen times per day until it is easy, then increase to twenty.
Why: This will help you learn to lengthen your leg in the stirrup and give your calf the strength to hold you in a two-point position. It will also give you more flexibility in the saddle.
They make exercise balls for these types of activities, but I’ve found that a beach ball works just as well. You can use any rubber or plastic ball as long as it is at least a foot in diameter.
Sit on a hard chair that allows your knees to sit at right angles to the floor. Scoot to the edge of the chair so that your thigh’s are completely off of it, and place the beach ball between your knees.
Squeeze the beach ball between your knees, hold for fifteen seconds, and then release.
Reps: Do this thirty times per day until it is easy, then increase to forty.
Why: This is a great way to increase your ability to hang on to your horse with your thighs. It increases the outer thigh muscles.
Using a bungee cord for your neck, shoulder, and arm muscles can make an amazing difference.
First, attach the two ends together with the clips on the ends. Slip it around a stationary object (such as a fence post or hard-backed chair) and hold onto the object with your left hand, bending forward slightly. With your right hand, pull backwards on the rope, using the backs of your arms to increase tension on the rope. Bring your elbow up and back behind you. When you are finished, switch arms.
Next, holding the ends in each hand, pull outwards with both arms, hold for fifteen seconds, and then release.
Reps: Do each exercise ten times per day until it becomes easy, and then increase to twenty.
Why: Your arms should be strong for riding in case you have a horse that wants to take off. You should have enough strength in your biceps and triceps to stop a runaway horse.
Lay down on the ground with your legs propped up on a chair, calves parallel to the ground. Interlace your fingers behind your head, and raise yourself about five inches off the ground, keeping your back straight. Hold for three seconds, then lower yourself slowly back to the ground.
Reps: Do this twenty times for a week, then increase to thirty.
Why: Horseback riding uses your upper abdominal muscles, which aren’t worked doing regular crunches. Having your feet in the chair increases the tension on the muscles directly under your rib cage.