While on horse riding holiday, you’ll be in the saddle for quite some hours every day. The trail rides are likely longer than you normally do at home, or longer than you’ve ever ridden before! Muscle aches are normal for these long trails, and everyone gets them. However, even though you can’t completely prevent it, there are things you can do to prepare for your horse riding holiday and lessen some of those aches!
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Training your abs and having a stable core is one of the most important things for horse riding, and will prevent a lot of back aches. Besides being more comfortable yourself, your horse will also thank you for having a strong core as it allows you to sit the canters and trots more smoothly. Just trail riding a lot won’t get your core as strong as it needs to be, so make sure you do lots of core work during your at home workouts, or in the gym! While riding, make sure to tilt your hips so that your bum is tucked under to make sure your core is engaged. If you ride long hours with your bum sticking out, you’ll get a very sore back, and after a while, so will your horse!
Unfortunately, you can’t ever completely rule out knee aches while riding, but training your legs in the gym or at home will help a lot. Make sure to occasionally take your feet out of the stirrups, or even walk next to your horse for a few minutes if possible. If your knees are very painful you can make your stirrups a bit longer. Especially walking for long distances will make your knees sore, so switch it up with some trots and canters!
If you are an experienced rider, you don’t have to ride regularly before a horse riding holiday, however it will prevent lots of muscle aches. It’s recommended to go for a trail ride four or five days a week for three weeks before your horse riding holiday to prevent bad muscle aches. If you’re used to riding in an arena, make sure to go on quite some trail rides before your horse riding holiday, as the style of riding is very different and the pace is higher. Most riders struggle when making the transition from arena riding to trail riding, but if you practice a few weeks beforehand, you can already get used to the different style, faster gaits and the uneven terrain.
Having an overall good fitness level will help you a lot while in the saddle! Go for long walks, go mountain biking, jog, or work on a farm or stable to make sure you’re fit for your horse riding holiday and prevent those dreaded back and knee aches.
Also read: Staying horse riding fit while traveling
As I said before, you can’t completely prevent all aches and pains when you’re in the saddle for very long hours on trail. To make the muscle aches a bit better and to be ready for the next day of horse riding, start the day or wind down with some yoga. During our next meet-up in Mexico, we will be doing lots of yoga as we are bringing our very own private yoga teacher!
Also read: Yoga and horse riding in Mexico
Dipping into a lake, river, waterfall, or just taking a shower will also make your muscle aches a lot better! In Argentina, we get the opportunity to swim and bathe in rivers and waterfalls everyday. There is even one camping spot where you can dip into a natural hot spring, which will make all your muscle aches disappear in a few minutes!
Also read: Horse riding adventure in Patagonia
When we’re going on an equestrian meet-up where we’re in the saddle for very long hours, I usually recommend bringing vaseline. Your bum and the insides of your legs will get a bit chafed, especially if you’re riding in saddles you’re not used to, so make sure to bring a jar with you! During our last meet-up in Argentina, I told the other riders to bring some vaseline too, and they did, but they did the unspeakable… The first day on trail we rode for quite some hours, and one of the girls told me she was going to put some vaseline on when we arrived at camp. She was an experienced rider and I was a bit surprised she was sore! Turns out, she had ridden in a thong for all those hours… Please, don’t ride in a thong, but bring your granny panties instead!
Riding with the correct footwear will spare your knees. I personally always ride in hiking boots with soles in them, and my knees hurt a lot less in them than when I used to ride in flat boots or jodhpurs. Even though you’re not walking on the ground, the shoes you’re riding in make a big difference for the position of your knees while in the saddle.
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