Physical fitness simply means the ability to carry out and sustain a physical activity by mobilising motivation, concentration and physical ability.
For anyone practicing a sport, whatever the sport, their level or their goals, physical fitness is an important parameter as the body needs to be prepared to sustain the effort in order to reach the expected objective.
On a horse riding trail, the main goal being to be in the saddle for 4 to 7 hours a day without being in pain at the end of the day, and to be able to happily get back into the saddle the next day – which is not always a piece of cake! Keep reading to know about the 3 types of preparation you can do ahead of your holiday to be in your top shape and have the best time of your life.
Work on your endurance to enjoy exhilarating gallops out in the open.
How to work on stamina / endurance
In order to improve your riding fitness, working on endurance is key. That way you won’t be out of breath during short but intense bursts of effort such as cantering or galloping. All the more, you’ll be able to hold on longer and enjoy the ride throughout the whole duration of the trail.
Here are a few very simple tips you can follow a few weeks before you depart to work on your endurance:
Take the stairs instead of the lift
If you’re commuting to work, get off the bus or the tube one station early and walk to your destination
Go for a run, cycle or swim, and vary the pace
Go on regular walks or hikes
Cycle to your destinations instead of taking the car or public transports – and it’s good for the planet too!
If you can, go ride in a horse riding center to get back into the saddle before your trail
If you can, go on longer hacks in the countryside, riding for over an hour.
And don’t forget to do some stretching before and after these physical efforts for a faster and smoother recovery!
Keep reading below for the other 2 types of physical and mental prep that will make you a healthy and happy trail rider.
Strength train for a better, relaxed posture for these long hours in the saddle.
As riders know, being both toned and relaxed are key when horse riding. That is why strength training is essential for riders.
But strength training does not have to rhyme with stuffy gyms and intimidating machines. You can easily strength train from the comfort of your home, without any equipment, using body weight exercises only. You will very quickly see progress by training regularly with just a few simple moves – the ideal frequency being 2 to 3 times a week. There are many strength training exercises and routines out there, but some moves are more suited to complement and support horse riding.
We have selected some here for you, and you can also find some specific horse riding-targeted strength training routines online:
Core and abs strength training: simple exercises like holding a plank over 30 seconds, lie down leg lifts, slow bicycle crunches.
Back strength training: holding bridge pose, superman holds, swimmers.
Quads strength: squats, holding a chair pose with your back against the wall.
Hip flexors: in a table top posture, straighten one leg back then bringing the knee in to the chest; open and circling the knee out to the side; “dead bug” move lying on the back.
Thanks to these exercises and without even realising it, you will get more toned, stronger and you will find yourself being more relaxed in the saddle.
There is still one more thing you can do ahead of your horse riding holiday – read on to find out!
Breathing exercises and meditation help you better connect with your horse.
Preparing your mind and relaxing mentally
Learn or re-learn how to breathe, slowing down the breath and focusing on yourself and on your body sensations. This is great for you and for your horse! You will be more relaxed in the saddle, your posture will naturally improve and riding will feel less tiring on the body.
If you can, take some yoga or stretching classes (in person or at home watching videos online) to work on your mobility and flexibility, which will greatly help with your posture in the saddle and with recovery after riding. This will also give you plenty of ideas for great stretches you can do at home and on the trail to help with muscle and joint recovery every day.
All of the above activities will prepare your body and mind for the long, sustained effort that is a horse riding trail, and you will feel physically and mentally more comfortable.
As you are more relaxed and mentally available, you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of the incredible landscapes you will be riding through even more!