Horse riding physical preparation to do at home

If you think that physical preparation is useless for riding a horse, it is probably because you have never put your butt on a saddle.

Speaking of physical preparation for horseback ridingYou may have heard comments that it's not really a sport, and that the horse does all the work.

Really? Can you believe it?

Well, if you get on a powerful animal that didn't have it written in its calendar that it was going to spend its day obeying you, you'll quickly find that you're working muscles you didn't even know existed before 😆 You'll quickly reconsider your notions of fitness and strength.

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Horseback riding is a real sport

France has approximately 700,000 licensees and horse riding is the most practiced sport by women, the 3rd in total number of licensed riders. According to the national stud farms, there are 2.2 million riders in our country who practice regularly (at least once a week) or occasionally (at least once a year).

That's why I thought it was important to give some fitness tips to the practitioners of this noble sport. YES, horseback riding is a real sport which requires a good physical condition. If you want to test your abilities, jump in the saddle.

Of course, you have to love horses. Otherwise, go rent a jet ski, ride a pommel horse or climb on an electric bull at the local supermarket (the ridiculousness doesn't kill yet).

The last time I rode a horse was during a hike in the Pyrenees. WHAT A TREAT! I inserted 3 of my photos in the article for you to enjoy:

I'm not a pro at riding (far from it) unlike some of my readers, but I've had the joy of riding a few times in my life and it's a real pleasure. But it is also very physicalespecially on difficult terrain such as the sandy forests of the Landes or the mountains. 

I was in agony on my first long ride (7 hours in the saddle), even though I was used to exercising every day. The lack of resistance in my quadriceps and adductors took its toll on my backside before the end of the day.

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I have since learned my lesson.

So, imagine the preparation it takes to succeed in a course with jumps! Especially since the horse might not jump very high if you weigh 110 kilos 😉

Physical preparation for horseback riding - show jumping
You think you can do this without being physically prepared ?

First, I will quickly talk about the benefits of this sport. I will voluntarily leave aside all the advantages linked to the contact with animals, to concentrate essentially on the physical aspect, since it is the object of this blog.

4 beneficial effects of horseback riding on the rider

1. Balance and stability

When you're on an unstable surface like a horse's back, balance is a must. This seems easy enough on a short ride on flat ground, but it becomes a challenge when you want to go faster and have to steer the animal.

When the horse goes to the right, you must try to stay upright to maintain your balance. This means that you will have to shift your weight to the left to stay stable in the saddle.

But at the same time, and this won't make it any easier for you, your arms and legs must remain free to control the horse. And that's impossible if you're desperately holding onto the animal for balance. So one thing is for sure, riding a horse will eventually improve your sense of balance.

Physical preparation for horseback riding - Pyrenees 4
Taal (not the singer) is still eating!
Adjustable dumbbells 40kg

2. Coordination

If you are a first time rider, you will quickly realize that it is more difficult than it looks. You have to do a lot of things at once to get the animal to move faster, or even just to get it to walk the way you want in a circular pen.

You will have to coordinate your leg pressure, reindeer handling and body position at the same time. With experience, you will master these simultaneous but independent actions. This will be useful in many other sports.

3. Thighs and bust of steel

Expect sore legs, abs and arms after a day of riding. Unless you let the horse graze all day (and then some), you will never sit passively.

You will not be able to move without using your leg muscles, especially the adductor muscles (inner thighs). Your abs and your lumbar will also have to work hard to protect your back and help you stand up straight.

Also, don't forget that your position has an effect on the horse itself, and therefore on its physical condition. Your quadriceps, your hamstrings (the muscles at the back of your thighs) and your buttocks should support the work of the adductors. They will also be used for all movements intended to control the horse.

Physical preparation for horseback riding - show jumping 2
The transfer of energy is made to the leg inside the curve

I promise you that if you do this regularly, you will be strong enough to control a jet ski. When you accelerate the animal, you will have to use your leg muscles to reduce the pressure on your back and legs.

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When the animal changes direction, you will need to use your slants and your transverse muscles to stay upright. Yes, whether you believe it or not, horseback riding can really help you have a best physique.

Other than maybe Sgt. Garcia in Zorro, do you know many fat riders?

4. Flexibility

While in other sports you can get by without stretching, you will hardly get by on a horse if you are not flexible at all.

Nothing will help your adductors, hamstrings and hips do the work if they are too tight. Regular horseback riding, you will increase flexibility of these muscle groups. This means you'll even increase your ability to lift weight when you do squats.

The improvement of your flexibility and the reduction of tensions in the muscles will also reduce your risk of injury in other sports, including weight training.

Get the most out of your equestrian physical preparation

Physical preparation for horseback riding - difficult courses
The horse and rider must be sharp

Since this sport involves many muscle groups, you need to focus on them in your preparation. This means that you should focus on strengthening :

  • the quadriceps
  • the adductors
  • the abdominals
  • the back
  • the shoulders

We could try to make everything work, but I want to help you to focus on the essentials for your sport. In addition, you must stay slim, because being overweight is not a friend of the horse.

You will need to burn calories during your training. You can do this if you follow interval training. Ideally, you should train 20 to 30 minutes in a very intense wayYou will be able to do this at almost your maximum heart rate.

This means you'll need to do intense sessions tailored to your sport. Because of course there is a difference between fitness in general and fitness for horsemen.

The difference is that you won't be doing the exact same exercises. Here are the movements I recommend for your horseback riding training at home. Of course, it is better to do it without the horse. Well, it's up to you...


Exercises for your physical preparation for horseback riding

For obvious reasons of work in balance, I recommend you some exercises to be done with a swiss ballalso known as gymnastic ballA Swiss ball costs very little. It can also be used for many exercises designed to improve your balance and flexibility.

This one is suitable for most women. If you are taller than 1.85 meters, choose a balloon with a diameter of 65 cm:

trenas Gymnastics Ball 55 cm - Anti-burst - with Pump -...
  • Gymnastics ballfitness and seating areas.
  • The delivery includes a practical foot pump.
  • Thanks to its various characteristics, our balloon of...

Quadriceps, glutes and adductors:

Prisoner Squats (click to see the Youtube video). This type of squat is the most appropriate for horseback riding, because it is performed with the legs sufficiently spread.

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Side slots (click to see the Youtube video). You will easily understand the interest for the strength and flexibility of the quadriceps and gluteal muscles.

Push on a Swiss ball. An excellent exercise for the adductors! You will do it at the end of the session:

Upper back and lumbar region:

Spreads with a Swiss ball. Be sure to follow the advice of our Quebec cousin in the following video with her wonderful accent. She explains very well what you have to do.

Alternative without hardware: Superman (I still can't fly when I do it 😉 

Abdominal Strap and Lumbar:

Sheathing with a Swiss ball. Don't be fooled by the title of the video, this is an excellent core training exercise.

Alternative without equipment: The board (click to see the Youtube video). You already know how much I like this exercise. You can abuse it.

Shoulder work:

Extensions with a Swiss ball. You can use dumbbells in addition if you wish. This video will show you how:

If you don't have any equipment and you're not afraid of the ridiculous (which still doesn't kill), you can do the bear walk (click to see the Youtube video).

Physical preparation for horseback riding - Your session

To establish your timingdownload the Android application Tabata Timer for HIIT. Then follow the following workout routine:

ExerciseDurationRest time
Prisoner Squats20 to 30 seconds15 seconds
Spreads with a Swiss ball
or Superman
20 to 30 seconds15 seconds
Swiss ball gainer
or Board
20 to 30 seconds15 seconds
Side slots20 to 30 seconds15 seconds
Extensions with a Swiss ball
or Bear Walk
20 to 30 seconds15 seconds
Push on a Swiss ball (if you have)20 to 30 seconds30 seconds to 2 minutes 
before the next series

Repeat until you have done 3 to 5 full sets. It will take you 15 to 25 minutes in total according to your fitness level. 

Remember that like any sport, horseback riding can cause injuries such as tendonitis. A good physical preparation is therefore essential. Even the horse will thank you!

If you love riding, please share this article with your friends and club members 😉

What do you think of this article? What would you like to add? Leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

Let's saddle up, folks!

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Last updated on 2022-03-03 / Affiliate links / Some images are sourced from the Amazon Product Advertising API

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