There are many different equestrian events that require fit, strong riders to execute demanding maneuvers with a high degree of skill. Both humans and horses are taxed and tested in competition in a variety of gaits, jumps and obstacle courses. Physical training for riders should include workouts geared for increased muscular strength, endurance and balance.
Types of Events
There are many different equestrian events at the national as well as the international and Olympic levels of competition. Events include dressage, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining, vaulting and para-equestrian for the disabled. Skills required cover movement across and over obstacles, cross-country racing and jumping for short and extended periods, as well as precise control over the horse in progressive levels in the dressage arena.
Equestrian sports utilize most of your major muscle groups. Your core muscles -- the abdomen and lower back muscles -- contract to keep your torso upright, providing spinal stability and movement. Your quadriceps on the front of your thighs, hamstrings along the back of your thighs, and calves all work to lift and lower your torso and direct the horse. Your inner thigh muscles contract to squeeze your legs together to grip and communicate with the horse. Your back and biceps contract to pull the reins toward you, and your shoulders work to lift your arms.
Weight training workouts require your muscles to exert force to overcome a resistance beyond a normal workload. The United States Equestrian Federation recommends exercises that use weights as resistance, such as dumbbell presses and bicep curls. Push-ups and pull-ups, using your body weight as resistance ,are also effective. Workouts consist of three to four sets of six to 12 repetitions for each exercise. Benefits include increased muscular strength and endurance as well as a lowered risk for injury in the middle of strenuous exertion or in unexpected moves.
Isometric training requires your muscles to contract to keep your body in a stable position, using weights or your body weight as resistance. Sport Fitness Advisor recommends isometric training for activities such as horseback riding. Isometric exercises work your body in a stable position for extended periods. Exercises such as the plank, squat, calf raise, leg extension and inner-thigh squeeze require you to hold the position for three to five seconds. Do a total of 15 to 20 sets of various isometric exercises.
Yoga, Pilates and core training workouts provide a combination of increased strength, endurance and balance that can be helpful in equestrian sports. Additional benefits, such as increased flexibility, further reduce your risk of injury.
- Blue Horizon Farm: Top 5 Exercises for the Equestrian
- United States Equestrian Federation: International Disciplines
- Horse Channel: Get Fit to Ride
- "ACE Personal Training Manual"; 3rd Edition; C. Bryant & D. Green; 2003
- Sport Fitness Advisor: Exercises and Static Strength Training