What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- How your fitness impacts your enjoyment levels when riding
- The whole ‘staying on the horse’ element
- Why it improves your communication with your horse
- Fast tracking your progress and breakthroughs
Do you find yourself huffing and puffing after a couple of rounds of canter with your horse? Or perhaps you feel exhausted after only 20 minutes into a lesson? You find yourself wanting to do or give more effort, but you just can’t…
My goal for this episode today is to inspire you to have even better communication with your horse through improving your overall fitness in the saddle. It really has absolutely nothing to do with your horse at all. This is all down to you, and what you can do to become a better team leader, for “Team You and Your Horse”!
Rider fitness is a topic that a lot of people seem to avoid or overlook its importance to the overall effectiveness of how the horse goes. Many riders spend hours planning out fitness, feeding and conditioning programmes for their horse, but fail to pay attention to their own fitness.
Riding is a team sport, you and your horse. I believe it is unfair and irresponsible, for you as the rider not to try to be the best version of yourself in the saddle. The best version of you is one that can respond quickly and effectively and this comes down to your fitness levels.
Focusing on improving your riding fitness levels will have benefits in so many areas of your riding.
1. You Will Enjoy Yourself More
Have you ever experienced physical tiredness when riding? It causes a slight lag in the relationship between your brain thinking something and your body doing it.
When I returned to riding after a break, I both understood and experienced this a lot. There were days where I felt mentally fine after riding, but physically I was exhausted. That next day and the John Wayne Walk that it brought with it was not fun!
In order for me to fully enjoy riding, I realised that I had to begin focusing on my personal fitness journey.
2. The Whole ‘Staying On’ Element
One of the biggest benefits for many riders when they begin improving their fitness levels is the fact that they usually feel they can stay on a little easier! Who doesn’t want that?
The fitter you are, the better you will be able to cope with any unexpected movements that you horse may throw at you. As riders, we know that when it comes to horses, things can sometimes be unpredictable. The fitter you are, the better able you will be to control your body.
Improved fitness simply means you can control your response; as opposed to just reacting, and trying to hang on for dear life.
3. Improved Rider Fitness Improves Communication with Your Horse
Personally, I feel that this is the most important reason for improving a rider’s fitness levels. As an instructor, I often see how after twenty minutes into a lesson (usually the warm up), tired riders begin to carry or hold themselves differently.
A further ten minutes into the actual lesson, where real focus and concentrating is called for, they are pretty much exhausted. The riders become frustrated because they want to do more, and mentally their brain is telling them to push on through. But the reality is that their body is just not able to respond.
Those slow responses, and sometimes even wrong responses ends up muffling the whole communication between the rider and the horse. This in turn leads to even more frustration – not only for the rider, but for the horse as well.
Imagine, if you were riding fit, how much more you could accomplish in your schooling time. Physical fitness also lends towards a mental fitness. So, when you are physically fit you will find that mentally, your concentration levels also improve.
Again, from my personal experience, when I returned to riding I often found that my mind would start to wander after a while – obviously from fatigue. It led to me being less than one hundred percent focused on what I was doing. But as my fitness improved – so did my focus and my concentration.
4. Fast Tracking Your Progress and Breakthroughs
Which do you think would help you and your horse get quicker and more consistent results? An hour of ‘so-so’ work or twenty to thirty minutes of focused, quality work? When it comes to riding horses, quality definitely out-weights quantity.
Building your riding fitness will ensure that when you are finished, both you and your horse have enough in the tank to actually enjoy the cool-down, and enjoy each other’s company. It feels like ‘celebration time’ together; you achieved a good quality work out.
Imagine finishing each riding knowing that you both gave it your best, you gave it your all, and you had breakthroughs.
Your becoming a better version of yourself fitness-wise, is going to directly impact the breakthroughs that you have in your riding. The truth is that when a rider is unfit, they spend so much of their time in the saddle playing catch.
When you are fit, you can focus on what you are communicating to your horse and how you are communicating it to your horse. This allows you to respond in such a way that your horse is able to gauge exactly what you are looking for from him in the saddle. It is only natural that this ‘better communication’ will have a direct positive impact on your progress and the speed of that progress.
Now, bear in mind that I am all for having relaxing rides on your horse, the two of you enjoying yourselves together. But wouldn’t it be great if you could get the same point across to you horse in, for example, 7 minutes rather than hammering away for 30 minutes and perhaps still being unsure whether the communication was clear.
5. Imagine What Your Horse Would Say…
Hopefully I have inspired a little something inside of you today to make your personal fitness a priority in your riding and your life. If not, here is one final ‘nudge’ that might just help get you off the fence and onto the exercise mat…
Imagine this … you are finished riding, and you put your horse either in the field or in his stable – either way back with his friends (the other horses).
What would your horse say about you and about the ride as he experienced it?
If you are thinking (even a little), ‘oh thank goodness he can’t speak, or even if he can, thank goodness I can’t hear him’ – perhaps that is a sign that you should be doing a little bit more on focusing on your fitness.
Links mentioned in the episode:-
- Join the FREE 30 Day Rider Fitness Challenge HERE
- [Blog Post] Exercises in the Saddle to Improve Your Coordination
- [Blog Post] Building Rider Fitness