Feeling Tired 20 Minutes into a Ride? Here’s What to Do…

Feeling Tired 20 Minutes into a Ride? Here’s What to Do…

Feeling Tired 20 Minutes into a Ride? Here’s What to Do…

That feeling. When you had the best of intentions about what a ride was going to be like for you and your horse. Only to realise, 15 to 20 minutes into the ride, that you are ‘beat’!  Your legs are just not doing what you want them to do. Your head and shoulders feel like they weigh a tonne and self-carriage on your part is just exhausting! And as for coordination and concentration; nope and nope!

If you are noticing a pattern where you’re feeling physically ‘done’ 20 or so minutes into each of your riding sessions with your horse, you need to begin working on changing that for you and your horse.

Physical fitness is an essential part of improving as a rider. You don’t have to be as fit as a flea, but there is a certain level of physical abilities that are essential if you are to improve as a rider – and as a trainer for your horse.

The good news is that there are a few simple key areas you can focus on in your next ride so that when you hit that point where you’re feeling tired, you will have a few ‘go to’ exercises and practices to help you squeeze out a few more minutes of goodness in your training!

Quality Over Quantity

Before we go any further, I want to reiterate that I do not believe in ‘Clock-In Riding’.  Clock-in riding is when you set a goal of a specific amount of time that you and your horse will work together for a ride. 30 minutes or 45 minutes are popular ones.  My big question is WHY?! If you and your horse have achieved something great at the 23-minute mark, is it essential that you continue on for another 7 minutes to ‘reach your goal’? No, absolutely not!

Instead of setting goals about the amount of time you will spend in the saddle, rather set an intention for what you would like to work towards or achieve while riding. 

More often than not, continuing on after you’ve achieved the thing you set out to work on will only result in actually lowering the quality of the training session! Shift your mindset so that you begin to focus on and then celebrate the quality of the work, rather than the quantity of the work.

The tips I’m sharing with you today are ideas to help you go a little further ‘if’ you still NEED to go a little further in that particular training session. They are not for you to use to hit an arbitory ‘time goal’… Okay? Okay :)

Use Your Walk Intentionally

The walk is always a great place to catch your breath.  However, spending 10 or so minutes of each riding session aimlessly wandering around an arena trying to stop yourself from ‘blowing’ too hard is not time well spent.  So my advice is to begin becoming intentional with your walk.

You can measure the walk in lots of different ways; the rhythm, the length of the stride, your horses frame, your ability to follow with your seat without doing funky dance moves with your shoulders are just a few to mention…

I’m going to suggest focusing on the length of stride and your horse’s frame as a great ‘allows us to regroup and also continue to remain focused on the work’ exercise for when you’re feeling tired. Work on transitioning from a more ‘medium’ walk; it does not have to be medium in the truest meaning of the word, you can also use the word ‘gathered’ walk or ‘put together’ walk. To moving into more of a ‘free walk on a long rein’.  These two different ‘types’ of walk have the potential to show a massive difference in how your horse is working and using his body.

And when you are working on improving the quality of both of the walks and creating smoother transitions between, your body is allowed to rest and prepare for the next more challenging exercise you choose to ride.

Position, Position, Position

One of the most noticeable symptoms when a rider is feeling tired is how drastic their overall position and posture changes! Your position and posture are essential to ride well. And when you begin to notice that your energy is fading, you MUST check both.

When tiredness is creeping into to the rider’s body, the horse will also usually begin travelling a little differently. Many times the horse becomes heavy in front.  Hanging on the bit…  And because the rider is feeling ‘beat’, they often just brace against the horse.  This usually results in any wins that might have happened during the ride being wiped out!

If you feel like your horse is becoming heaver on your hand, check your position first. Are you supplying him with something to hang on (your arms and shoulders)? Rather than using your aids to ask him to begin carrying himself again?

Allowing your horse to hang on your arms and shoulders will not help either of you long term. And if your legs and seat are feeling too tired to ‘ask’ him to make a change, bring it back to walk and try there. Allowing yourself to continue on with a bad position or posture will only lead to far worse habits further down the line! So be careful!

Transitions & Half Halt

These are another great way to lighten your horse up in front and put less physical pressure on your upper body. When you are feeling tired, riding good-quality transitions can be a challenge. So make it easier by riding these transitions in the walk.  Work between walk and halt.  And then walk and trot.  You can add intentional and well-ridden transitions between being ‘straight’ and riding through a bend, curve, or corner.

Riding transitions that include the walk allows your body to ‘keep up’, even when it’s feeling tired.  And allows you time to rest a while still continuing with the training so not to break the focus. 

However, remember that you will need to have first checked over and ‘tweaked’ any position or posture issues.  I like walking serpentines here.  They include so many different elements and are just as beneficial in the walk for rider and horse.  Use the centre line (the point where you cross it each time) as the point for your transitions.  Maybe halt on the centre line.  Or trot the loops and then 3 strides of walk as you straighten out while crossing the centre line.

Of course, before and after all of your intentional transitions you will sprinkle a couple or more half halts. This will help you to remain connected and help your position and posture. 

10m Circles in Walk

My final suggestion for when you’re feeling physically tired while in the saddle is 10m circles in walk.  I like to ride these before I begin ‘working’ again in trot or canter. And, of course, I say 10m but this can also be 12m and 15m depending on you and your horse’s training level.

10m circles in the walk work well to reestablish the connection between horse and rider after a little break to catch your breath. Especially if you are then going to trot or canter. 

You may find that after the walk and especially when you’re feeling tired, the trot and canter can become a little ‘flat’ or ‘front heavy’. Neither of which you will want. So the smaller focused circles in the walk with the intention of ‘gathering’ things up again, can really help you both to re-focus.

Stop Feeling Tired…

Again, all of the above suggestions are made for you to try when you are really focusing on quality over quantity in your riding. Not just to help you ‘push on through’ for another 20 minutes in the saddle! At the end of the day, it will be up to you to increase your physical abilities so that you tire less or later in the ride. Obviously, riding itself will really help with this. But there are also other things you can do…

        • Prioritize enough good-quality sleep
        • Watch what you eat – especially what foods cause inflammation in your body
        • Stay hydrated throughout the day – not just after you ride
        • Increase your suppleness – yoga
        • Improve your stamina and fitness with cardio – walking and hiking are great
        • Create more control over your body and aids – strength training and workouts

There will be days when your body is just ‘bushed’ at a certain point in the ride. Start listening to your body and know when you need a short ‘rest’ to recover, or you need to end the session and dismount! There is no shame in feeling tired.  And very often ‘pushing on through’ will only cause more issues down the line for you and your horse.

Equestrian Fitness Challenge ’24

And in the meantime, work on improving your overall strength, fitness, and stamina as a rider. The all-new and free 2024 Equestrian Fitness Challenge is a great place for you to do this.  It is walking and yoga-based (no workouts), so it will ease you into becoming a better version of yourself in the saddle gently. You can sign up HERE or by visiting https://equestrianfitnesschallenge.com/24 
There will be a daily walk, a 10 minute daily yoga practice, and lots of tips, ideas, exercises, and ways to improve so that you can show up as the best version of you – for you and your horse.
Sign up today and let’s transform your riding – one stride at a time! 100% FREE 2024 Equestrian Fitness Challenge
Remember, there’s so much you can do to improve your riding, especially your energy levels.  Don’t just accept feeling tired as being the end of your training session.  Begin to work with your body so that you and your horse can go further in your training together.
Happy Riding

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