I have been getting my butt kicked(quite literally and figuratively) in my training lately and it really prompted this post as I once again realized how much it matters as a rider to at least try to keep physically fit(and I defiantly gotta workout more!) . Said butt kicking is also why I haven’t been able to post much lately! Sorry about that! I’ll be back like normal very very soon!
Why should we as riders workout? Isn’t riding horses a workout in and of itself? Well of course it is and it’s one of my favorite workout of all time but I think theres some really good reasons to hit the gym too!
The biggest motivation for me to workout, is to understand how my horse and his muscles feel as I ask him for more and to work just a tiny bit harder. Its easy to forget how tired and sore a horse can get when we aren’t the ones doing the exercise.
Have you ever been lazy and not worked out in a long time and then suddenly decided to go running? (oh yeah I have! More then once) Do you remember how hard it was to go for very long? Your legs start to burn and maybe cramp, breathing becomes a serious struggle and if you get a side ache you just want curl up and cry. It’s not long before you’re tapped out and mostly just hurt to damn much to continue. Now try doing it with a 35 pound pack and see how far you’ll go. (It hurts oh dear god it hurts! I apparently just like to torture myself sometimes)
Your horse is no different, especially if they have been on a long break or stall confinement for any reason or are just learning to carry you. Horses won’t show that they are tired, at least not immediately. They will keep going until they physically can’t do any more. This makes knowing when you’ve worked them too much very hard to tell. This is also where you can use yourself as a reference. Would you want to have to do 45 minuets of intense workouts when you haven’t even thought about working out in 6 months? Why would you ask your horse to do that?
Now have you ever done a good strength workout and been so sore the next day you didn’t want to move? (oh yeah….still have those horrible days. It hurts so good…at least thats what I tell myself)
Lets not forget that our horses will also be sore the next day. They don’t limp or moan about it like we do unless something is really wrong or pulled. Its really good to give them some light easy work after a hard strenuous day to workout those sore muscles and just let them recover.I know I love my easy workout days!
Don’t let them just sit in a stall either as the lack of movement from standing in the stall won’t let the muscles stretch and can cause them to be even more sore the next day (Just like us!). Let them out to graze the pasture or take them on an easy trail ride.
Constantly working a horse hard will actually end up causing more harm then good. Will they adapt? Sure. Will they be happy about it…probably not but it does depend on the horse and what you’re asking.
The biggest reason not to always do hard sessions back to back is because injuries will become more prevalent. (Huh, weird. Just like people)
It is much easier to detect an injury in its early stages if the horse is given proper recovery time and is monitored well. Always checking the legs for any heat or swelling and watching the movements of the horse as they walk, trot and canter. Checking for any sore spots on the body, especially the back, is a necessity.
Would you wanna go do some barbell squats if your lower back hurt? Or run if your ankle is sore?
Horses will also be stronger on one side then the other. Making a horse supple and equal strength on both sides is something we always are trying to achieve. We as riders should strive for that in ourselves as well.
I bought a TRX so I could workout anywhere and it quickly became even more apparent that I’m extremely weak on my right side compared to my left. I can focus on building up my right side so I even myself out. If my muscles are balanced my aids will be much more effective and less confusing for the horse!
So while I believe its a great idea for us to workout just for the health benefits I think it helps keep in perspective what we are asking our horses to do and how much to push our horses especially in the beginning!