BY RENNIE DYBALL
With a month to go before my competitive local medal finals, all it took was the name of this workout to hook me. I’ll take all the shoulders-back help I can get.
I’ve always been a big proponent of cross training. Before leasing my current horse, I had the time – and, hello, the money! – for barre classes, and the strength and endurance I gained improved my riding in many ways. Now that I no longer have that luxury, it’s just walks through my neighborhood and dropping down for a plank when I think of it – not exactly a grueling workout routine out of the saddle.
Luckily, Fit Equestrian’s Equitation Bootcamp has turned out to be a great middle ground. You get out of it what you put in, of course, since there’s no instructor to encourage you. But here’s what you can’t get elsewhere: this is a workout program designed by a certified personal trainer with equestrians’ specific needs in mind.
The workout plan, available for a one-time $35 download, is divided into a leg day, upper body day, core day and cardio/stretching day. Participants are encouraged to double up on core if possible, and to do the stretches often. The only equipment required is a set of dumbbells and a resistance band.
Equitation Bootcamp’s core workout is no joke – even as a longtime barre devotee, I woke up the day after trying the exercises with soreness in places that I didn’t know had muscles. This is a legit workout for not just your abs, but all of the stabilizing muscles through the front and back of your trunk that you use while riding.
The upper body and leg days are tailored to riders in unique ways, with specific instructions on when to keep your chest open and shoulders back, just as you would in the saddle. Even the stretches are tailored to help you with your position – there’s a specific one for those pesky shoulders that don’t want to stay back, as well as stretches to help you avoid pinching with your knees and releasing a tight lower back. Finally, there’s a list of flatwork exercises geared toward improving your equitation. It’s been fun for me to mix up my flat days with these exercises, like putting one hand behind my back while keeping the rest of my position the same at the trot and canter.
And the best part so far has been the mind-body connection practice. I can take these exercises into my lessons and think about what I need to improve on in different ways. I have a new way to connect with the feeling of lifting my chest and engaging my lats now to improve my posture, and I can put that into practice while riding.
Overall, The Fit Equestrian’s Equitation Bootcamp is an easy, affordable way to up your strength, flexibility and overall wellness, whether you’re preparing for your last shows of the season, or just looking to improve your general position and strength. As The Fit Equestrian loves to say about riding, “trust us, it’s a sport.” And this workout is an attainable way to become a better athlete.