What Exercise Can Do To Enhance Your “Horse” Life!

As you may recall, I’m a big fan of exercise.  Exercise for me, which happens at the barn, and also EAFTB (exercise away from the barn). Working out gives me much more than strong muscles and a healthy heart, it’s open up my mind to understanding my horses more, too.  They are every bit the athletes that we are.

As the weather gets colder, we are more likely to skip a ride due to blistering cold, mucky footing, road closures, all things weather related that make it difficult to ride at the barn. Since many of us get a workout at the barn between riding, grooming, and barn chores, skipping our barn workouts (plus all of the holiday food!!) can make your waistline crave sweatpants.

When you exercise away from the barn, your time at the barn and in the saddle is enhanced! So pick an exercise routine that sounds appealing, and get to work!  Some factors to think about when picking an exercise routine:

  • Where can you practice?  Picking up yoga or cross training is easier than swimming.  More locations to choose from!
  • Can you receive guidance at home?  Lots of exercise programs have DVD’s, downloads, podcasts.
  • What can benefit your body?  If you struggle to breathe after trotting your horse, pick a fitness plan that supports cardio development.  If you can’t sit the trot, go for core centric exercises, like pilates.  If you can’t stack hay, go for something that focuses on strength training.
  • What do you picture yourself doing?  You can only be happy with a fitness plan if you want to try it.  No need to cycle if you have no desire to pedal yourself anywhere.

Now that you have some ideas, a few tips on how to start your new exercise plan!

  • Take some lessons with a reputable trainer that can help you with your form.  Alignment (like your equitation) is the key to success!
  • When you exercise at home, use mirrors!  This will help you correct imbalances from side to side, and will help you become a straighter rider.
  • Grab your barn buddies and do it together!  Who doesn’t want to see their buddies in spandex doing aerobics?

If you don’t mind the weather, and the footing and grounds are safe at the barn, you can take your exercise routine to the barn for a change of pace.

  • Go for power walks and hikes around the property with your horse – no need to saddle up!
  • Clear some space in the tack room and have a yoga session to limber up before you muck stalls.
  • Tackle those huge projects that you avoid – organize the feed room, sort the tack room, move the break room furniture around for a deep clean, strip and scrub the trailer.  You may be surprised how strenuous these tasks can be.

Exercising can give you many insights into becoming a better rider and horse person.  You will start to understand how muscles feel before, during and after exercise, the value of breaks during exercise, the importance of adding variety to the routine, the necessity for rest days.  You will also understand that a little bit every day is much greater than 110% on the weekends.  All of these insights will better help you support the fitness level of your horse!

Happy Exercising!  And don’t forget to be sensible when you try something new. Talk to your trainer, your folks, and your doctor about your plans!

by Nick Hartog

In 1994, Nick Hartog became an owner and President of Grand Meadows Equine Supplements bringing his talents and extensive background in domestic and international equine sales and manufacturing. He has a reputation for plain speaking of the truth. In 1997, when the US horse supplement market was something akin to the Wild West with a complete lack of standards, Nick personally tested 32 different horse joint supplements to see if they matched the label. Unsurprisingly, to him at least, only 2 products matched the label claim. Read more...