Hi everybody! It’s that time of year again. The period of new years resolutions has worn off. If you’re like me, you’re thinking it’s finally safe to start working out–nobody’s going to accuse you of following the crowd. You’re working out because you totally were planning on starting. You know, after the mobs of high falutin’, trend-following, yoga pants wearing people gave up and made space for you in the gym.
I trade chores and training for lessons at a nearby Arabian farm. If squeezing into stark white, unnervingly thin breeches and hopping on a midget horse doesn’t motivate you to trim down, I don’t know what will.
I’ve come to realize that my horse has way surpassed me on the fitness front. Shiloh is still raring (figuratively, real rearing is not typically permitted) to go and I’m huffing and puffing. I’m out of shape and I have no stamina. What to do?
I’ve been reading up on best work out routines for equestrians and there is lots of great material out there. I’ve found that nearly everything comes down to riding with your core. So the most important thing to develop is the abdominal muscles and the back, but give special focus to the legs, especially inner thigh and calves, and arms–bicep, tricep, and forearm…so your whole arm. The goal is not to get ripped (though I certainly wouldn’t mind having a nice six-pack) but to achieve a level of fitness with good stamina, flexibility, a strong core, and an stable energy level so you won’t poop out after two rides.
I’m trying to start slow. The way I figure it, I’m already working out just doing my regular barn routine twice a day:
- 6 under electric fence squats (great negative reinforcement if you don’t squat low enough!)
- ~10 feed bucket bicep curls
- 2 40 lb feed bag dead lifts (I’m dead after I carry them to the pasture)
- And 3/4 mile impromptu run to catch a horse
But sweating off the clock doesn’t really count. Baby steps. I’m not committing to a crazy diet or impressive workout plan, but I am going to start doing some regular, conservative Pilates-type exercises and cardio.
I’ve been reading Sally Swift’s fabulous books on her philosophy on “Centered Riding.”
“Centered Riding is a way of reeducating the mind and body toward greater balance and integration, which in turn opens up a new dimension in the world of equestrian arts. It gives you a new way of expressing the old classical principles in whatever your style of riding.”
~ Sally Swift
In essence, Sally stresses throughout the book that only when you are balanced, centered, and in harmony with your own body will you be able to pass that along to your horse. There are insightful hand-drawn pictures of how you can be more aware of what you are doing with your body while riding. One of my favorite illustrations is of a rider with a ball floating in water on her pelvis. The ball is your center. When you need to deepen your seat, imagine the ball settling deeper and the water in your pelvis thickening into mud or cornstarch. Another reason you need to to have a strong core: how else will you be able to do all that weird stuff with your center?
So to start us out, I found an awesome Youtube video by Rebecca Ashton’s channel with Equest Elite. She has tons of Equestrian workout videos that I plan to go through for help with my Pilates pursuits. I was so inspired with Sally Swift’s book I decided to draw my own illustration based on Rebecca Ashton’s video. She envisions the rider’s body as a cylinder that stays in position but allows the contents to shift to the front, to the back, or downward.
Happy riding…and working out!