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The Rider's Fitness Program

The Rider's Fitness Program

74 exercises and 18 workouts specifically designed for the equestrian, by Dianna Robin Dennis, John J McCully, and Paul J Juris; Storey Publishing. Softcover, 214pp RRP $49.99. ISBN: ISBN 1-58017-542-2.

January 19, 2011

Put your hand up if you ride one or more horses every day, or most days. Put your hand up again if you're as fit as you could possibly be. You are? Are you sure?

You ride horses, so you're in shape, right? Well, quite probably, wrong.

And you're not alone. In her foreword to this book, US Olympian Anne Kursinski says: “Years ago I didn't believe I needed an exercise program. I thought riding and jumping horses all day was enough. I knew my horses needed to be fit to compete at the highest levels; but I never realised this also applied to me.”

As everyone knows, there is fitness and there is fitness. The fitness most people think of when they hear the word is the ability to run 5km without stopping, or bicycle 20km. But surely dunging out a paddock for an hour every day, walking half a mile to catch a horse, carrying feed buckets and generally running around after your neddy must count for something, too? It does, but maybe a lot of us need to put more focus on what we use and how we use it when we ride.

As we all know, riding uses a whole raft of muscles your average runner or biker may not know exist. (Ask anyone the day after a ride, when they haven't ridden for a few weeks).

The creators of the Rider's Fitness Program reckon all riders can benefit from the 74-exercise programme, by getting stronger where it counts and in improving balance and flexibility.

It's not as scary as it sounds: there is a six-week plan of a great variety of exercises to follow, and each step of the way there are explanatory photographs and hints. Some basic equipment is required, but many will be able to be improvised. If you are already going to the gym, you will be able to follow your own programme with the book at hand.

Along with each exercise are graphics showing how each will help you when riding. Here's a basic example: the half-seat raise, which benefits foot and ankle strength.

  1. Stand upright with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Position the balls of your feet on a foam roller or block. This is your starting position.
  2. Assume a half-seat position with your elbows bent and hands forward, as if holding the reins.
  3. Once you have a balanced position, lower your heels while maintaining the half-seat.
  4. Pause for 1 second at the bottom, then slowly return to your starting position.
  5. Raise your heels as high as possible.
  6. Pause for 1 second, then lower yourself to starting position.
  7. Perform seven to ten repetitions.

What you weigh is not relevant to your fitness, and even the most slender rider may be extremely unfit and inflexible. A heavier-set rider may be more "at one" with their horse. Who knows.

However, what is certain, I am sure, is that we could all do more in order to make ourselves better riders. We owe it to our horses.

 

 

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