Horseback riding holidays: Get fit for riding!

BY Jody Dahl | Sat 19 May, 2012

Horseback riding seems like such an elegant sport that it can easily fool people into thinking that getting on a horse's back and maneuvering an animal more than five times your weight is child's play. It's not. And if you're thinking of taking a  horseback riding holiday then you need to get ready for the physical demands that come with it!

Like all other sports, horseback riding holidays require that you train your body, paying particular attention to leg and core exercises. If you're going to be able to control that horse with precision, you're going to have to get those leg and core muscles at their best.

Some leg exercises for horseback riding

1 Stirrup Stretch
The stirrup stretch is great for improving posture and balance, two things you will need on your horseback riding holiday.

Walk up to any kind of stairs you have access to do this exercise. Stand on the first step and hold on to the railing for support. Slowly stretch up until you are balancing only on the balls of your feet. Then slowly stretch back down, lowering your heels until you start feeling a stretch in your calf area. Hold for 10 seconds.

Advanced move: Add difficulty to this stretch by letting go of the railing and just balancing on your feet. You can also increase the length of time you're on the balls of your feet slowly. Aim for two seconds first and then increase that to five and so on.

Perform the Stirrup Stretch on stairs or with weights for maximum results

2 Wall Stirrup Stretch
A variation of the stirrup stretch, this exercise will simply call for any wall you can find.

Put your foot up a wall at about half or three-fourths of the position it would be if you were in your stirrups. Lift your foot up as if it were in a stirrup and hold for three seconds. Release the stretch and repeat five times.

Advanced move: As you are able to do more, increase the period of time you have your foot up.

3 Thigh Squeeze
This exercise trains your inner thigh muscles so you can easily hang on to a horse using your thighs.

Get a beach ball or any kind of plastic or rubber ball you can find, as long as it is at least 12 inches in diameter. Sit on a stable chair, ensuring that you're in a position wherein your knees make right angles to the floor. Move over to the edge of the chair so that you are sitting on your butt. Make sure your thighs are completely off the chair and place your beach ball between your knees. Squeeze the ball and hold for 15 seconds. Release. Do this several times a day.

Advanced move: Each day, increase the number of seconds you are holding the beach ball during the squeeze.

Some core exercises for horseback riding

1 Sit-ups
Sit-ups are traditional but they are still effective for building core muscles if you do them regularly.

Advanced moves: Get a better core workout by an exercise ball while doing sit-ups and its variations.

2 Plank exercises
The plank is a yoga move but it is very effective in building core muscles and stabilizing your center of gravity.

Assume a push-up position, but lean on your forearms instead of supporting your body with your hands. Push up with your core muscles, ensuring that only your forearms and the balls of your feet are touching the floor. Hold this position for 15 seconds and repeat about 15 times throughout the day.

Some cardiovascular and weight exercises for horseback riding

Additionally, you will need to have good endurance for long/fast rides on horseback riding holidays, so prepare with some cardio and some high-rep, low-weight weightlifting as well.

For cardio Feel free to mix it up between jogging, stairs / stepmill, elliptical training, and cycling.

For weights Keep it light with high reps (such as 12-20), but don't forget to do the important "compound movements" such as bench press, lateral pulldowns, squats, deadlifts, assisted dips, upright dumbbell military presses, lunges, and some bonus movements for your calves, triceps, and biceps. And don't forget to get an occasional rest day after hard workouts -  you don't need to work out 7 days a week!

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