Fit to Ride: Fitness on the Go!

By Kim Harries

Demonstrated by Jessica Fulcher

As equestrians, we all know how important it is to keep our horses in their optimal condition. We go to great lengths to make sure that they are able to perform the work that we are asking with as much ease as possible, and to do this they must maintain a certain level of fitness. As riders, we can take some of that advice to heart, and work to maintain our muscular strength, endurance and balance as well.

For this month’s Fit to Ride I have designed a circuit-type workout that you can do literally anywhere: at the barn, in your hotel room while on the road at shows, or in your own living room. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results you see and feel, both in the saddle and out. Happy riding!

SERIES 1 is a squat-knee lift that will fire up the rear kinetic chain, in addition to some core conditioning.

FORM: Remember when you squat to visualize a chair behind you, so that your hips shift backwards and your knees stay above your shoe laces.

FUNCTION: Placing one hand on top of the other, and holding them out in front of you will garner additional balance, and give your knee a place to land when bringing it up to meet them. Start with sets of 10 and increase from there.

MAKE IT HARDER: After you’ve done 10 squats, then 10 alternating knee lifts, put it together with one squat, then one knee lift, changing sides each time.

SERIES 2 involves the core for balance as we combine the split-stance lunge with a rear glute press.

FORM: Your starting position in the split-stance lunge is crucial to your success. Your front foot is solid as a rock, and your back foot is balanced on the ball of your foot with your heel lifted. Each leg is positioned in line with its respective hip; this way you will avoid feeling like you are on a tightrope. You may need some balance help (as seen in figure xx); if you do, you can utilize the back of a chair until you are strong enough to hold the position with your core.

FUNCTION: Just as in series one, you want to keep your front knee above your ankle, and not allow it to push forward. Think of sending your back knee straight down toward the floor. After 10 lunges, move on to standing on the front foot, stretching the other leg behind you, squeezing your seat so that your heel moves toward the sky. A small lift and squeeze of the seat is all you need here to feel the burn!

MAKE IT HARDER: After you’ve completed the above series, add on by lunging down once, then lifting your back leg up. A series of 15 on each side is a great way to increase core and leg strength.

SERIES 3 adds some upper body to the mix by starting off in a plank position with arms extended. We’ve shown the use of a bench or even a tack trunk!

FORM: Set up this exercise series by bringing your body into a plank-type position. Your back should remain flat throughout the entire series, and core engaged. If you do feel your back start to sag, that’s a good indicator that your core is fatigued. Keep track of how many reps you can do in perfect form, and try to keep increasing as you get stronger.

FUNCTION: While keeping your core tight and back flat, bend your elbow slightly out to the side and then straighten. We’ve added on here to bring one knee up toward your chest and then sending that leg back to straight behind you.

MAKE IT HARDER: Moving to one side will create the need for even more stability in your core and strength in your upper body. Holding the “starfish” pose for 30 seconds to one minute and then bring your knee in and push it back out, leading with your heel.

SERIES 4 is the last set in this circuit where we round out the upper body to include upper back and triceps.

FORM: Tricep dips can be done on almost any raised surface. Be sure to pull your shoulder blades back and down during this exercise to maintain good posture.

FUNCTION: Keeping your eyes up, and stretching the back of your neck long, bend and straighten your elbows, keeping them narrow behind you. Be sure to bend and straighten at the elbow, instead of moving from the hips.

MAKE IT HARDER: Picking up one heel from the floor will increase the need for core stability. You can do 10-15 reps on each side or alternate to fatigue.