No matter what riding discipline you’d like to improve, an equestrian workout is the best way to improve your riding fitness. Horseback riding can take a lot out of you and is more physically challenging than some might think.
It’s important to stay healthy and work out as much as you can before taking off. Additionally, your horses need a lot of upkeep and attention over the years, which means a lot of physical labor is involved.
Just remember: your horse is only as good as you as a rider – so you need to be physically prepared to maximize your horse’s potential.
Why improve equestrian fitness
It’s easy to get bogged down in your horse’s fitness and completely forget about your own. Eating, sleeping, and training habits are just as important as theirs, and can make the difference between a successful ride and a damaging one.
To get you on the right foot, we’ve curated a ton of information when it comes to equestrian workouts and how to reach your full physical potential with your horse.
Whether you’re a show jumper, dressage rider, eventer, or a casual weekend rider, the right equestrian workout will do wonders for your fitness and success in horse rides.
Better balance and posture
Balance and posture are important to overall fitness. To ride smoothly and prevent injuries, you need to make sure you’re positioning your body correctly. Because of this, alignment becomes a crucial element in being able to move with your horse instead of against them.
When you consider balance and posture, it’s time to start thinking about how coordination, core control, and comfort while riding contribute to your experience. Paying attention to these attributes will not only improve the alignment you have with your horse but will decrease wear and tear on your muscles.
We know how important the horse riding lifestyle is for you, but we want to ensure that you aren’t hurting yourself physically in the process. Small laborious tasks such as carrying buckets, stacking bales, lifting saddles, and related activities on the farm should be done with time and care so injuries can be avoided.
An equestrian uses specific muscles unique to this sport, so we recommend creating a workout routine that promotes relaxation, posture, cueing, endurance, and injury protection while riding.
To get started, we created this guide to help you find the best equestrian workout for your needs.
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, we recommend lifting two or three times a week with at least a day off in-between to allow for muscle rehab.
Weights should be lifted slowly, particularly if you’re a beginner doing an equestrian workout for the first time. Form is key, so it’s important to maintain the same posture no matter how many reps you’re doing.
A proper lifting workout is great for those who have busy schedules and only have time for a few reps but is also great for those who are looking to strengthen their upper body. Once you’ve done a few lifting workouts, we’re confident you’ll feel more confident on the back of your horse.
For those of us who don’t have a lot of time in our day, this saddle-ready routine is a great full-body, high-intensity workout you can do at home on your own accord.
All you’ll need is something sturdy like a bale of hay, tackle box, water tank, or anything else that can carry your body weight.
This workout consists of two circuits, which can be done back-to-back with a minute or so break in the middle. This is a fantastic core workout that can be done repeatedly with multiple reps.
- 60 seconds of toe taps – Warm up with toe taps to prepare your body for the exercise.
- 30 seconds of pushups – Get your chest as close to your weighted object as possible without touching. Just remember to keep your core straight!
- 30 seconds of triceps dips – Try to get as close to a 90-degree elbow bend while still being able to push yourself back up.
- 30 seconds of spider planks – Complete this exercise on an elevated object to improve your movement.
- 60 seconds of toe taps – Continue the workout with toe taps.
- 30 seconds of right and left leg step-ups – Make your way through this exercise using objects with varied sizes.
- 20 seconds of squats – Do squats while making sure your heels are down and your chest is upright.
The perfect stretch workout
If you’re looking for more workout opportunities, we’ve curated a few more stretches and exercises you can do at home or right before you start riding your horse. These workouts are perfect for strength training and will lead to more core strength and a higher range of motion for any horse rider.
On soft ground, lay flat on your back and spread your feet-to-shoulder width apart. Put your hands behind your head and slowly lift your head off the ground using your stomach muscles.
Lift your upper body to a 90-degree angle or 45-degree angle, if that’s easier, and do as many reps as you can. Crunches are great for beginners and professional riders alike.
Find a comfortable place to stand and move your feet to a position that’s slightly less than shoulder-width apart. When your hands are on your hips, lift your heels so you’re on the balls of your feet.
You should feel a considerate burning sensation in your calves, but that means you’re doing it right! Hold the lifted position for just a couple seconds, and then go down and repeat the process. We recommend about 15 to 20 reps for this workout.
After finding a comfortable spot, stand with one foot roughly two feet in front of the other. Keep your back leg position bent, and then slowly stretch down until you can reach the tips of your toes.
You should feel your hamstring stretched and a slight burn in this area. Hold this position for about 30 seconds to a minute and switch over to your other leg.
As much as you’re using your legs while horseback riding, it’s important to stretch your arms when possible. Simply bend your arms so your hands are resting on your shoulders and replicate circles in the air with your elbows.
This will not only stretch out your arms, but give some attention towards your back muscles, rotator cuffs, and shoulders.
A fun equestrian workout
Not every workout is going to work for you, and that’s alright!
You may have to experiment with different equestrian exercises until you find one that works best for your needs. If you’re looking for a little motivation, you may find it helpful to seek out other equestrians and do exercise routines as a group.
We know strength training is a challenging prospect but being flexible and creative with your routine will make it easier to have fun. Most of these workouts can be done almost anywhere, so it’s important to recognize that you don’t need fancy equipment to get the most out of a routine.
Whether you’re looking for a heavy workout or a light routine you can do daily, it’s best to commit to a workout so you don’t quit. It’s easy to fall back on old habits after taking a day off, so waking up every morning with goals in mind is key for your success.
Before anything else, you need to set goals to hit it. If horseback riding is your lifeblood, plan on investing a lot of time into your priorities and making your goals a reality. No matter what your goals are, it’s important to review milestones every day to be accountable and eventually make these goals a reality.
To create lasting goals, it should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time bound. These standards will help you see the timeline of your goals and what specific steps you need to set and achieve them.
Lastly, we found that accountability partners are fantastic ways to help you achieve your goals. Should you need a little more motivation, having someone by your side to hold you accountable for your workouts is life changing.
If you don’t have a buddy close by, there are tons of equestrian communities online that would love to take you in.
Finding the perfect equestrian workout for your lifestyle is challenging, but we’ve discussed some actionable steps you can make to improve your health and fitness while riding.
Beginner and expert riders require different workouts, but we’re confident there’s a new stretch or workout available that you’ll love. If you need more information on horseback riding, head on over to our reviews and guides page where we’ve curated the best information out there about riding.