When it comes to horseback riding there is no substitute for “time in the saddle”. But this is not always practical; bad weather, work, family commitments and a whole lot of other thing often interrupt saddle time.
Here are some exercises that you can do “on the ground” and with your horse or pony that will help improve your riding.
1. Good base fitness
Horseback riding requires a certain amount of base fitness – it’s a form of cardio exercise. Any type of basic cardio exercise will help improve your riding: running, walking, cycling, rowing etc. If you’re unable to ride your horse or pony consider a cardio session in the gym or a good road run or cycle as an alternative.
Pilates is an excellent way to build up core strength and balance. Good core strength and balance are essential aspects of good riding. Pilates will also help improve your posture, so you’ll sit up straighter on your horse or pony.
3. Lengthen your Achilles tendon
Many horseback riders have the problem of lifting their heels. This affects your balance and causes your feet to slip forward in the stirrups. Often the problem is a shortened Achilles tendon. This can be caused by various things (often wearing high heels makes the problem worse). To help lengthen your Achilles tendon: find a step, stand with just your toes on the edge of the step (so your heel hangs down), and gently push your heels down. Don’t bounce! Hold it for 15 seconds and then lift your heel again. Repeat this as many times as you can and often as you can. The key to this exercise is slow stretching over a period of time. Don’t force you heel down otherwise you could injure yourself.
4. Horse grooming
Grooming your horse or pony is a great total body work out. Your arms, in particular, get a great workout.
5. Use your horse to help you warm up
As with any other exercise, you have to warm up before you go horseback riding. Here are some ideas to warm up that you can do while riding your horse or pony. You should do these exercises while walking your horse or pony to warm them up as well.
While walking your horse or pony, take your feet out of the stirrups; working from your hips lift both legs as high as you can away from the saddle. Hold this position for a few seconds; drop your legs back down. Repeat.
Keep your horse or pony walking and your feet out of the stirrups. Working from your hips swing your legs backwards and forwards i.e. when your right leg is forward your left leg should be back.
Both of these exercises are great way to help loosen up your hips.