6 Best Exercises For Horseback Riders

The 3 Best Exercises for Horseback Riders

Horseback riding requires an enormous amount of strength, muscular endurance, and balance to be able to straddle and control such a large, powerful animal. Riding activates all the major muscles of the body, but the ability to stay upright and stable while simultaneously absorbing the power of the horse comes primarily from the core. The following exercises for horseback riding will strengthen all major muscles of the body, with a particular focus on core training and stabilization, specifically for improving your horseback riding.

1. BOSU Squat

The BOSU squat is one of the best horse riding exercises as it mimics the balance needed to stand in the reigns on the horse. It uses the quads and core to control the movement patterns and power that a horse exerts. This exercise improves balance control while also improving lower-body muscular imbalances as well as soft tissue and neuromuscular conditioning. The BOSU squat will train balance, muscular endurance, core stability and promote the correct range of motion needed to protect hips, knees and ankles from injury when riding.

How to perform:

  1. Stand on the flat side of a BOSU ball with a shoulder-width stance. Maintain good spinal position with your chest up and head looking forward. This will be your starting position.
  2. Flex the knees and hips to lower your body, keeping your knees aligned with your feet and hips. Squat as deep as flexibility allows. Do not allow your knees to cave or allow your thoracic spine to flex.
  3. Pause at the bottom of the motion, and then return to the starting position by extending at the knees and hips.

2. Seated Physio Ball Cable Rotation

This exercise is specific to being seated in the saddle and using the core to stay balanced and upright while riding. The cable rotation improves rotational strength and the ability to resist being thrown off balance in the saddle.

How to perform:

  1. Adjust a cable machine so that the anchor point is between waist and shoulder level when you are seated on a ball.
  2. Use a stability ball that allows you to sit with your hips and knees in a stable position.
  3. Maintain a neutral spine and upright posture, exhale and rotate your arms and torso away from the resistance on the cable machine.
  4. Hold for a brief second and then slowly return to the starting position.

3. Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell swing will train your anaerobic cardiovascular endurance and power endurance in the posterior chain so that you are able to withstand stand up riding for a longer period of time. The kettlebell swing is a great exercise if you have issues engaging your hamstrings to get your legs back and underneath yourself when riding or find yourself falling forward.

How to perform:

  1. Start with your feet slightly wider apart than shoulder-width.
  2. Hold the kettle-bell with both hands and then push up from your heels and quickly thrust your hips into extension by contracting your hamstrings and glutes.

4. Leg Raises

Leg raises are effective in targeting the muscles in the thighs, hips, and lower abdomen – all of which are responsible for maintaining a secure seat while riding. Strong and toned leg muscles not only provide stability but also aid in keeping proper posture during extended periods in the saddle.

How to perform:

  1. Lie on your back with your hands under your hips.
  2. Lift both legs towards the ceiling, keeping them straight.
  3. Lower your legs towards the floor without touching it, then raise them back up.

5. Planks

A strong core is the foundation for any horseback rider. Planks are one of the most effective exercises for horse riders to engage and strengthen the core muscles, including the abdominal, oblique, and lower back muscles. A stable and powerful core helps riders maintain balance and stability in the saddle, allowing for better communication with the horse. Aim for a variety of plank exercises, such as front planks and side planks, to target different muscle groups.

How to perform:

Front Plank:

  1. Start in a push-up position with your elbows directly under your shoulders.
  2. Engage your core and straighten your body, keeping a straight line from head to heels.
  3. Hold the position for 30 seconds to 1 minute, gradually increasing over time.

Side Plank:

  1. Lie on your side with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder.
  2. Lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from head to heels.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds on each side, focusing on maintaining proper alignment.

6. Yoga

Yoga is a fantastic cross-training activity for horseback riders, offering benefits such as improved flexibility, balance, and mindfulness. Yoga poses like the downward dog, and the tree pose help enhance flexibility in the hips, thighs, and spine while also improving balance and body awareness. Regular yoga practice can contribute to a more fluid and connected riding experience as riders learn to move with their horse’s motion more gracefully.

How to perform:

Downward Dog:

  1. Start on your hands and knees, lift your hips towards the ceiling, straightening your legs.
  2. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart and press your heels toward the floor.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, focusing on stretching your hamstrings and shoulders.

Tree Pose:

  1. Stand on one leg, bringing the sole of your foot to the inner thigh or calf of the opposite leg.
  2. Bring your palms together in front of your chest.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each leg, focusing on balance and stability.

The Bottom Line

By incorporating these five equestrian exercises into your fitness routine, you can significantly enhance your performance as a horseback rider. This balanced combination of exercises will not only improve your riding skills but also contribute to a healthier and more enjoyable equestrian experience. Remember to consult with a fitness trainer or healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program to ensure it aligns with your individual needs and capabilities.

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

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