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Rider Conditioning

16 August 2011 No Comment

Rider Conditioning
Laura Phelps-Bell has over 25 years experience in the equine industry as a trainer and instructor. Her background includes successfully competing in dressage, on the “A” Open circuit in hunter/jumpers, showing in many western events, management of several large training/boarding facilities and teaching equine management courses at the college level. More about Laura

Question
From: Shari

I have been out of the saddle for a couple of years. I am looking for a program of exercise to help me get in shape for the riding season. I am particularly interested in exercises to strengthen and condition the muscles I will be using to ride. (You know, the ones that have gotten soft and flabby from lack of use.)

I have been doing lots of ground work with my horses, so they are all most ready. Now I just need to get me in shape.

Thanks

Shari

Answer
Hi Shari, I know exactly where you’re coming from because I was out of the saddle for quite some time due to a badly fractured leg.

When I decided that I was finally ready to get back to riding, I first started working with stretching exercises sitting on my living room floor. Basic exercises like sitting with my legs in a V and slowly extending my hands down one leg toward my toes. At first, I was so stiff and inflexible that I couldn’t bend at the waist and reach my hands farther down then mid-thigh, but I did a little every day and was finally to the point where I could reach to my toes on both feet and then was also able to “walk” my hands straight out in front on the floor so that my chest almost touched the floor. I did leg-lifts and “kicks” and built up my stamina that way too. I also started working on doing “squats” with my arms extended in front of me and with my feet evenly apart, I would squat and straighten. I started off with only about 10 repetitions and as I became stronger, I increased the repetitions and also squated slowly lower. This is a great thigh workout. I also would walk around pigeon-toed to retrain myself to be able to ride with my toes pointed nearly straight ahead so that I was riding with my inner leg. Walking this way helps condition the muscles to allow you to ride with your inner leg and not on the back of your legs and on your rear-end. Taking your horse for long hand walks is also a great conditioning exercise for you and he both.

You don’t say what style of riding that you’re doing, but I was riding huntseat and dressage, so I would begin with short workouts of posting trot, walk and rest and then more posting trot. After a few weeks of this, I began to work on posting without stirrups. I had fractured my femur, so my left thigh muscles and quads were somewhat atrophied, but eventually I did get the tone back by not pushing myself too hard, but just enough to keep the conditioning improving over a period of a few
months.

Hope this info helps!
Laura Phelps-Bell

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