Riding Fit

Fit for the Fall

Riders need to be fit to stay on and fit to fall off.

There is always a chance that when you climb aboard a horse, you could find yourself abruptly back on the ground. Sometimes horses spook and catch us off guard, or we just are not paying attention, end up losing our balance – and you know the rest. The question is, how will your body handle the fall?

If you are not flexible throughout your body -- if your muscles are tight and your range of motion is limited at your joints -- you are at risk for a pulled or strained muscle. The joints most susceptible to injury are the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Strains take 1-2 weeks to heal with rest, but pulled muscles can take up to a year depending on the severity of the pull! To avoid this, a modest stretching program addressing range of motion at the larger joints would guard against many possible injuries. Flexible muscles will allow the body to adapt to the awkwardness of a fall with less chance of injury.

Falling off is never fun, but it's an integral part of learning to ride. Horse trainer Martin Black says he never stops learning, and that's the key to being a good horseman. Learn Martin Black's practical solutions to common problems in AQHA's Horse Training Techniques with Martin Black downloadable report.

Core strength is the biggest key phrase when discussing balance. After all, isn’t that what we are doing? Balancing on top of giant beasts? Are we crazy? It is a beautiful thing to move as one with your horse, and at the heart of that movement is your core: the abdominal, chest and back muscles that stabilize the upper body. Of course, by no means do I want to undermine the ability of some riders with pure talent. However, while these top riders simply know that their core muscles are at work during a ride, they may not be as conscious about them as the rest of us need to be.

Performing exercises such as planking or Pilates can enhance core strength and posture and give you the essential tools to improve balance on the horse or the ground.

Hopefully, as a rider, you realize that this sport requires a certain level of fitness, regardless of talent. Riders need to be fit to stay on and fit to fall.

-- Emily J Harrington, CPT, equestrienne fitness trainer, is a multiple AQHA world champion and top-10 World Show finisher. Visit her website, www.bodybalancefitness.org.