Horseback RidingEquestrian LifestyleHorse Riding & TrainingRider Health

Horseback Riding Fitness: Essential Exercises & Tips for Equestrians

In this article...

Discover why fitness is crucial for horse riders! Learn how enhanced physical fitness improves riding performance, prevents injuries, and extends your active years in the saddle. Explore essential exercises tailored for equestrians, including core strengthening, flexibility routines, and more. Boost your riding skills and ensure a safer, more enjoyable experience for you and your horse.

Ever had that lightbulb moment when you realized how your riding performance is directly tied to your fitness level?

It’s a game-changer, right?

Today, we’re getting into why fitness isn’t just an optional extra but a must-have if you want to up your riding game.

Whether you’re just starting out or looking to refine your skills, resources like Dressage Rider Training, Horse Learner Fitness, Grow with Jo (her energy is contagious even though she’s not horse-specific), and Johanna J Equestrian Physio are here to help guide you.

These platforms can be game-changers with practical exercises tailored specifically for equestrians. So, why is fitness such a big deal in horse riding?

Let’s get into how being a fitter rider means you and the horses you work with will have more enjoyable and effective rides.

Why Fitness Matters in Horse Riding

Understanding exercise for you as a horse riders plays a big role in maximizing your performance and preventing injuries.

Let’s look at why maintaining good physical fitness is essential to you as an equestrian.

Enhanced Riding Performance

Physical fitness is directly connected with improved performance in horse riding. Stronger muscles, better endurance, and increased flexibility will allow you to maintain better control and balance while riding.

According to fitness experts, core strength is particularly crucial as it helps riders maintain proper posture and alignment, which is so important for effective riding.

This is because your core muscles act as a stabilizer during riding, this helps you to move with the horse’s motion rather than against it. This will make for a much more willing and happy horse.

And not only do you better your riding performance when you move in harmony with your horse but also your safety and your horse’s safety increases, as maintaining better balance and control, means a reduced chance of falls and accidents.

Injury Prevention

When you have regular physical fitness routines that’s geared toward equestrian activities, you will greatly reduce the risk of injuries.

Equestrian physiotherapists emphasize that riders often face unique physical demands that can lead to overuse injuries or strains if not properly managed.

Strengthening your muscles used in riding will help you support your joints and reduces the strain on your body.

Flexibility exercises, for example ones found in yoga, Pilates or simply stretching, can help prevent muscle tightness and joint stiffness, which are common sources of pain and injury in riders.

Extending Riders’ Active Years

If you maintain a moderate level of fitness this can help you continue riding well later in life.

Fitness not only helps in reducing the wear and tear on your body which is typical of equestrian sports but also helps you handle the physical demands of riding without unnecessary fatigue or stress on your body.

Experts in sports medicine and equestrian fitness agree that a rider who is fit will likely have a longer and more enjoyable riding career.

So if you want to contribute to your overall health and have longevity both in and out of the saddle make sure to continue with regular exercise that that is specifically tailored for horse riding, including cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility training.

Next, we will review specific resources that offer targeted exercises and programs that can help riders achieve these fitness goals.

Review of Top Resources for Equestrian Fitness

After searching around the web to find the best horse rider workout programs I found these. There are other equestrian workout resources and more I haven’t seen that would work but from what I have found I like these best.

Here’s a look at some top picks from my own explorations and why I think they could be beneficial for you. One of them is not an equestrian based resource but it is good for beginners getting into working out and just moving their bodies without getting discouraged. It is the only one I have actually applied to my exercise routine currently, going on 40 plus morning workouts now taking weekends off.

The other resources I have listed like I said I haven’t tried but I am going to be incorporating into my workout routines. I am taking baby steps so I stay the course.

Dressage Rider Training

Dressage Rider Training is easy to navigate and find specific workouts tailored to improve riding performance. You can find comprehensive programs focused on the key areas that affect riding: suppleness, stability, stamina, and mindset. It is geared toward dressage riders but any rider can benefit from the workouts.

My thoughts: Although I haven’t personally tried the exercises from Dressage Rider Training yet, I’m impressed by the depth of content available. The site provides targeted workouts for each critical area, which is great for riders who know exactly what aspects of their fitness they need to work on.

Check out Dressage Rider Training:

Horse Learner Fitness on YouTube

Horse Learner Fitness provides a variety of workouts designed specifically for equestrians, covering everything from strength training to flexibility exercises. The videos cater to different fitness levels and are well-suited for riders who want targeted improvements.

My thoughts: Horse Learner Fitness looks like a valuable resource. The variety of workouts, ranging from short to longer sessions, seems like a fantastic way to fit exercise into a busy schedule. The focus on equestrian-specific movements is especially appealing as I look to enhance my riding skills.

Check out Horse Learner Fitness:

Grow with Jo

Grow with Jo features cardio workouts that are upbeat, fun, and easy to follow. These sessions are perfect for those just beginning their fitness journey or looking to add some light, energizing workouts to their routine.

My thoughts: I’ve been using Grow with Jo’s workouts and really enjoy how quick and enjoyable they are. They’ve helped me improve my stamina and flexibility, which directly impact my riding.

Check out Grow with Jo:

Johanna J Equestrian Physio

Johanna J offers specialized content aimed at improving movement and mobility, especially around the pelvis and hips, which is vital for riders facing stiffness and body pain.

My thoughts: While I haven’t personally tried Johanna J’s workouts yet, her focus on equestrian physiotherapy looks incredibly promising. Her exercises aimed at enhancing mobility and alleviating discomfort are exactly what I plan to integrate into my routine as I return to taking riding lessons, it’s been quite some time. I have tightness and pain in my pelvis so I think these exercises will really make a difference.

Check out Johanna J Equestrian Physio:

These resources each bring something valuable to the table, whether it’s targeted exercises for specific riding needs or general fitness workouts that can enhance your overall stamina and health. As I continue my journey in equestrian fitness, I’m excited to see how these tools can help improve both my riding and my wellbeing and I hope they will do the same for you.

Detailed Exercise Guide for Equestrian Fitness

Now that we have gone over some of the resources available, let’s look at how you and I can implement targeted workouts for us as equestrian riders to enhance our performance and safety.

Let’s explore specific exercises from the recommended resources, focusing on:

Core Strengthening Exercises

Core strength is key for you to maintain proper posture and balance while riding. Here are some beneficial core exercises specifically geared for horseback riders:

  • Planks: Hold a plank to engage your core muscles, providing stability in the saddle.
  • Dead Bug: Extend opposite arm and leg while keeping your core braced to mimic the independent aids needed for riding.
  • Single Leg/Arm Reaches: Reach opposite arm and leg while on all fours to challenge core stability.
  • Leg Lifts: Engage lower abdominals and hip flexors for stability over the horse’s motion.

Workout From Resource: Horse Learner Fitness – Core Workout

  • Benefits: These exercises will help you stabilize your riding posture, prevent back pain, and improve your ability to absorb movements from the horse.

Flexibility and Balance

Flexibility is also important for you to achieve an effective riding posture and preventing injuries. Here are some flexibility and balance exercises great for horseback riders:

  • Upper Back and Shoulders Release: Stretches to improve posture and balance in the saddle.
  • Hip Flexor Release: Reduces lower back pain and allows the pelvis to follow the horse’s movement more closely.
  • Lower Back Stretch: Frees up tightness in the lower back, leading to better weight distribution through the seat.
  • Horse Stance Pointers: Standing on one leg while reaching the opposite arm/leg strengthens balance and obliques.
  • Wall Sits: Builds endurance in the quads and core to absorb the horse’s motion.

Workouts From Resource: Johanna J Equestrian Physio – Post Riding Stretches and Playlist for Balance and Flexibility

  • Benefits: These stretches will improve your range of motion, allowing for smoother transitions and better control over your movements, crucial for responding to and guiding your horse effectively.

Leg and Lower Body Strength

Having strong legs and a powerful lower body will make a big difference in your riding. Consistently training these leg and lower body exercises will improve your stability, balance, and ability to effectively communicate your aids through toned, independent leg muscles.

Here are some leg and lower body strength exercises for stronger legs:

  • Single-Leg Deadlifts: Improves balance, stability, and strength in the hamstrings, glutes, and core.
  • Calf Raises: Strong calves aid in keeping the heels down and giving precise leg aids.
  • Lateral Lunges: Work the inner and outer thigh muscles (adductors and abductors).
  • Glute Bridges: Engage the glute muscles to keep your seat deep in the saddle.

Workouts From Resource: Leg Strengthening for Riders

  • Benefits: These exercises will increase your stability in the saddle, improve your ability to maintain riding positions, and will reduce how quickly you get tired during longer rides.

Stamina and Movement

Your stamina is especially important for long rides or competitive events.

By doing light, fun dance routines or more structured cardio workouts you can boost your cardiovascular health, making sure you have the energy to handle those extended periods of riding. And sometimes it might be that shorter rides make you tired. You will have more endurance to ride longer thanks to these exercises.

  • HIIT: Improves cardiovascular fitness and stamina.
  • Steady-State Cardio: Builds aerobic base fitness for endurance.
  • Dynamic Stretching: Improves joint lubrication and range of motion before riding.

Workouts From Resource:: Grow with Jo – Fun Dance Playlist and Beginner Cardio Playlist

  • Benefits: Cardio workouts enhance your lung capacity and endurance, making it easier to perform at your peak for longer periods. It also limbers you up because motion is lotion for the joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments.

21-Day Movement Challenge by Dressage Rider Training

I thought I would share this because the 21-Day Movement Challenge is an excellent program for equestrians looking to build consistent exercise habits without feeling overwhelmed.

This challenge is designed around the concept of “just five minutes a day,” making it accessible and manageable for everyone, regardless of their current fitness level or busy schedule.

Each session focuses on movements that benefit riding, such as core strengthening, flexibility, and balance, promoting a healthier, more balanced body capable of meeting the physical demands of horse riding. This approach ensures you’re not only working on specific areas like core strength or leg power but also developing a routine that supports long-term fitness and riding success.

Resource: 21-Day Movement Challenge

  • Benefits: This program encourages riders to engage in short, daily routines that can significantly impact their overall fitness and riding performance. It’s designed to be simple and doable, aiming to help riders create lasting habits that support their riding and general well-being.

Incorporating Fitness into Your Life

Integrating fitness into your daily or weekly riding routine is not just about enhancing your performance; it’s also crucial for your comfort and longevity in the sport.

Here’s how you can start including fitness effectively into your riding routine, along with a personal story to motivate your journey.

Practical Tips for Integrating Fitness Alongside Riding

Alright, so actually sticking to a fitness routine when you’re an equestrian can definitely be a challenge.

You’re already spending tons of time at the barn, riding, doing horse chores, etc plus everything else going on in your life. But trust me, it’s worth making the effort to get some focused fitness work in too.

Here are some tips I am following for myself:

  1. Schedule it like appointments. Seriously, put workout times in your calendar like you would a riding lesson or any other can’t-miss commitment. Morning person? Get it done before work. Night owl? Evening sessions after rides can work great. Just pick time slots that realistically fit your schedule and routine.
  2. Always warm up first! I know, I know, it’s tempting to just throw a leg over and get going. But taking 10-15 mins to move a bit with leg swings, arm circles, and other dynamic stretches makes a huge difference. It gets the blood pumping and preps your muscles, which helps prevent stupid injuries once you’re in the saddle.
  3. Hit the big muscle groups 2-3 times a week. For us riders, that means targeting your core, legs, and back hard a couple times per week. Planks, squats, lunges – these are your friends! Start out just using your bodyweight if needed, and add resistance bands/weights when you’re ready.
  4. Don’t sleep on flexibility. Yoga, Pilates, or just some good ole stretching – get it on your schedule. Increasing your mobility and range of motion makes riding so much more comfortable and enables you to apply aids better. Less tight hips/backs for the win!
  5. Cardio, cardio, cardio. Running, spinning, dancing, aerobics swimming, even brisk walking or whatever else. You’ve gotta build that aerobic base if you want stamina for lessons, clinics, shows, trail rides, etc. It’s easy to blow through your endurance when you’re in the saddle for long periods.
  6. You don’t need a fancy gym. Can’t make it to the gym or barn’s fitness center? No biggie, do stuff at home! Even just 20 mins of core and stretch work squeezed in here and there is better than nada.

The biggest thing is finding activities you really vibe with and will actually stick to consistently. It’s all about creating a sustainable routine that supports your riding. Get after it!

Personal Story for Motivation

As someone who has experienced both the fit and less fit sides of riding, I understand the impact fitness has on equestrian activities.

When I was in better shape, my movements with the horse were more in sync; my hips were flexible, I could stay balanced and move with the horse and I rarely felt sore after rides.

Now, after a period of inactivity, I notice my back and pelvis area often hurt, and my legs get sore after riding, and I lose my balance much more easily.

I’m started taking lessons again after taking a 5 plus year hiatus and riding more frequently now, and I’ve realized that getting back into shape is crucial not just for my performance but for my overall well-being.

This personal experience has reignited my commitment to my fitness journey. I know from both personal experience and watching friends that maintaining fitness can make a huge difference in your riding.

A Little Encouragement For You

A Little Encouragement For You Alright, I want you to take a minute and really think about how your overall fitness level impacts your riding. Are you struggling to keep up the stamina for your rides? Feeling tightness or pain that makes it harder to apply aids effectively? Or maybe you’re already fit and it’s making a big difference? Whatever your situation is, I wanna hear about it!

Drop a comment below and spill the deets on your fitness journey as an equestrian. If you’re just getting started, what motivated you? If you’ve been at it for a while, what strategies are finally clicking for you?

Don’t be shy! Your story could be just what someone else needs to hear to quit procrastinating and commit to getting fitter for their riding.

At the end of the day, using tips like dedicating workout time in your schedule, warming up properly, hitting strength training, stretching for flexibility, building cardio stamina – that kind of thing can seriously glow up your riding game.

It’s not just about performance though. Maintaining your fitness long term means you get to keep doing this sport we love for way more years with way less pain and fatigue.

So share your experiences! Let’s inspire each other to take our fitness to the next level. Whether you’re just starting to figure it out or you’re a total fitness guru by now, we’re all in this together as equestrians striving to keep living our passion as safely and comfortably as possible.

Find Your Fit: Which Equestrian Fitness Resource is Right for You?

So you’ve checked out all the awesome equestrian fitness resources I covered, but you might be thinking “OK, but which ones are really going to level up MY riding?”

Whether your goal is increasing flexibility to apply aids more effectively, building core and leg strength to stabilize that position, or just straight-up endurance to hang in the saddle longer, the right targeted fitness plan is key.

That’s why I’ve put together this super quick quiz! Answer a few questions about your riding discipline, goals, schedule, and so on. Then I’ll match you up with the ideal combo of fitness platforms to kickstart your regimen in a way that fits your equestrian lifestyle.

In just a couple minutes, you’ll know exactly which resources to focus on for stretching out those tight spots, firing up strength where you need it most, and developing the stamina to be a straight-up riding machine. No more guesswork or wasted time – just an efficient gameplan to have you riding your best.

The quiz removes any barriers and sets you up to integrate fitness seamlessly into your life as a rider. You’ll be optimizing your body’s capabilities in no time! Quick and easy, just how us equestrians like it when we’re not on the horse.

So what are you waiting for? Take two seconds to tap into my personalized recommendations tailored just for you. Your fittest, strongest riding self is just a few clicks away!

Why Take the Quiz?

  • Personalized Recommendations: Tailored suggestions for your specific riding discipline and fitness level
  • Maximize Your Training: Laser focus your efforts on what will truly elevate your riding
  • Discover New Techniques: Expand your horizons with exercise styles/programs you may not have considered

Ready to meet your perfect equestrian fitness match? Take the quiz now and kickstart your journey towards feeling and riding your absolute fittest!

Quick-Start Personality Quiz

More Resources to Check Out

We’ve already covered some awesome YouTube channels and programs to boost your equestrian fitness, but there are always new gems popping up. Here are a couple of Instagram accounts that look promising. I’m still exploring them myself, but they might give you some fresh ideas and motivation.

Hay Bales & Barbells

Instagram: @haybales.barbells

Hay Bales & Barbells combines a love for horses with weight training and general fitness. From what I’ve seen, they offer a mix of workout ideas that can help build the strength and stamina you need for horse riding. It’s not just about lifting weights; it’s about building a stronger you to handle the demands of equestrian activities more effectively.

Jack EquiBody Fitness


Jack EquiBody Fitness seems to be run by a fitness enthusiast who really gets riders. The account features exercises designed to meet the physical demands of riding. Whether you’re looking to improve core stability, boost flexibility, or enhance overall endurance, this profile offers insights and routines tailored to equestrians.

Try out Theses New Ideas

I encourage you to explore these profiles for their unique takes on equestrian fitness. Every rider has different needs, and sometimes a new perspective can be just what you need to refresh your training routine. Check them out, see which exercises and tips resonate with you, and you might find some new favorites to incorporate into your routine.

Your Experience Counts

If you try out any of these or any other new equestrian fitness resources, I’d love to hear about your experiences. What tips did you find helpful? Did any particular exercises stand out? Share your thoughts and discoveries in the comments below to help our community grow stronger together!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) On Horse Riding Fitness

How does being fit prevent riding injuries?

Stronger muscles and better flexibility allow your body to distribute forces more efficiently, reducing strain on joints/tendons. Having the strength endurance to maintain proper form prevents compensations that lead to overuse injuries. Increased mobility reduces tightness that can impair your balance and position. You’re simply more resilient against the repetitive stresses of riding when you’re fitter overall.

Can fitness really elevate my riding abilities?

Unequivocally, yes! Greater strength provides power and endurance to influence the horse more effectively. Flexibility allows for seamless communication through your aids and laterally suppleness. Muscular endurance prevents that “jelloggy” feeling by enabling you to hold your position securely. And overall conditioning boosts mental focus too. A fit rider can optimize technique, develop feel, and achieve true harmony with the horse’s movement. The transformation is remarkable

How often should I exercise to improve riding fitness?

For real results, aim for a minimum of 3 dedicated fitness sessions per week, but 4-5 is ideal. Mix it up with strength training 2-3 days, flexibility work 2 days, and cardio 2 days. This balanced approach builds the muscular strength and endurance, mobility, and cardiovascular capacity needed to excel in the saddle. Consistency is key, so schedule your workouts like appointments and stick to the plan.

When will I see payoff from a riding fitness plan?

Be patient and consistent. Most riders report feeling benefits like improved stamina within 4-6 weeks of regular training. Significant strength and mobility gains take 8-12 weeks. For a total overhaul of your fitness level, allow 6 months. But you’ll experience steady improvements along the way if you stick with it!

The Wrap Up

Alright, we covered a ton today on why dedicating real effort to your overall fitness is an absolute game changer for enjoying riding to the fullest.

Whether your goal is a stronger core to nail those sitting trots, increased flexibility to solidify that independent seat, or just the stamina to make it through your entire ride without feeling gassed – prioritizing fitness delivers major payoffs.

Building up those key areas of strength, mobility and endurance allows you to synchronize with your horse’s movement in a whole new way. Suddenly sitting those tougher gaits, influencing their body with precise aids, and maintaining your position for extended periods gets exponentially easier. Every ride just flows better when you’re fit enough to go with the motion.

To get visuals on the specific exercises that will level up your riding, definitely check out the YouTube channels we discussed: Dressage Rider Training, Horse Learner Fitness, Grow with Jo, and Johanna J Equestrian Physio. These resources lay out killer routines targeting exactly what us equestrians need most.

But enough from me – now I want to hear from you riders out there! What struggles are you facing with fitness impacting your riding? Or if you’ve already been prioritizing it, share what’s finally been clicking for you! Any favorite workouts or tips to overcome common hurdles?

Drop a comment below because your story could be just what someone else needs to hear to quit the excuses and start treating their fitness like a key part of their riding journey. We’re all in this together after all.

At the end of the day, developing your skills in the saddle is crucial, but putting in the work to build your body’s capabilities off the horse is an equally important piece of the puzzle. An unfit rider can only go so far before hitting a plateau or racking up injuries.

So let’s keep this discussion rolling and motivate each other to make fitness a non-negotiable! Share your experiences, ask questions, swap tips – that’s how we’ll all keep progressing as strong, unified equestrian athletes.

The path to your personal best riding is paved by the fitness work you put in. Let’s get after it!

Join The Joyful Equestrian Newsletter

If you're intrigued by the equestrian lifestyle and eager to learn more, join our newsletter! You'll receive updates on new blog posts, journal entries, free printables, and much more.

Disclaimer Notice: Please be aware that horseback riding and related equestrian activities carry inherent risks. The advice and experiences shared on this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional training or advice. Ensure your safety and that of your horse by wearing appropriate gear, practicing safe horse handling, and consulting with certified equestrian professionals. Remember, each horse is unique, and techniques may vary accordingly. Always prioritize safety, respect, and patience in your equestrian endeavors.

Kacey Cleary Administrator
Kacey has been an equestrian since 1998. She was a working student at several eventing and dressage barns. She has owned horses, leased horses, and trained horses. Kacey received an A.S. in Equine Industries from UMass Amherst, where she rode on the dressage team. She was certified with the ARIA and is licensed to teach riding in MA. She has been a barn manager and has run her own horse farm.
follow me