Riding and Fitness .... what kind of fitness are you?
There are two kinds of fitness for riders, or should I say there are two kinds of riders for fitness ... allow me to explain. The first type of fitness is for the rider that needs to get in better shape to improve their riding. To strengthen the muscles used while riding, improve core, range of motion and cardio. The second type of fitness is for the competitive rider, the ones that ride so much that they use the same repetitive motion over and over again. That in order to perform better, rebalance the body and prevent injuries, they need to work out their antagonist and lateral muscles. Stretching plays a major factor as well as proper physio on any old or new injuries.
While interviewing some of the top athletes of the sport I approached Andrew Bournes and Martin Fuchs to get their insight. When asked "what do you do to keep your body and health in peak riding condition?" Martin Fuchs replied "Once a week gym with my trainer for 90 minutes, Every day stretching usually in the morning." Andrew Bournes detailed answer was " most of my fitness comes from riding. Realistically I ride for 6 to 8 hours per day when im not at a horse show. Right now I work out with a physio therapist for 1.5 hours 5 days a week and I do pilates 1 day a week. This is my rehab program for a broken collar bone injury that I suffered n May. I'll have to continue this for at least 6 months. I used to work out in the gym one day a week and do pilates 2 or 3 days a week."
Wow! this answer excites me and is an eye opener. How quickly we sweep our injuries under the carpet eager to get back in the saddle again. Instead of taking the time we need to heal and seeking a proper physio program from a professional who understands the equestrian sport. When I asked Andrew Bournes "what do you do to prevent injuries?" he replied "I try to stay fit and as flexible as possible. I find that pilates helps to keep my core strong and this helps avoid back injuries and other wear and tear. I also always wear a helmet. One of the most common injuries is concussion. I have always worn a helmet while riding, I make all of my students and staff wear a helmet while riding. Every day, no exceptions." When asking Martin Fuchs the same questions he confirmed that stretching was his main focus.
We spend so much time working on the horse that its easy to forget about ourselves and our conditioning. With our sport already being so financially strenuous not everyone can afford a personal trainer 5 days a week. However there are options to achieve your fitness goals at every financial level, even low income. Remember dont let anything stop you, No excuses!
Cherish Thomas is BCRPA certified, has been a riding instructor for 18 years and personal training for 10 years. She has developed programs called Equishape and has worked with riders of all levels.