Does horse riding actually keep me fit in the first place? Do I need to exercise besides horse riding to become a better rider? How do I get fit to go on a horse travel adventure? How do I stay in shape while I’m traveling full time? In this post I will answer these questions in detail so you know exactly how to best prepare for your travels and riding trips!
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Sort of. Which is not the answer you were looking for I guess. Horse riding keeps you quite fit, however you cannot expect to be able to run a marathon just because you are very horse riding fit. There are different types of fitness, and as an example I can ride a horse for eight hours a day with no problems, however walking up a steep hill for over five minutes will send me into a whirlwind of regret and a near asthma attack. If you want to have a generally good fitness level, you need to participate in some other types of activity as well. I’m Dutch, so obviously I cycle, and I try to take my bike as often as possible instead of going by car. I would definitely not say I’m an avid hiker, and whenever I do hike I usually exclaim how much rather I’d be on a horse within the first 10 minutes. Why are hikes always so uphill?! Again, I’m Dutch, I don’t do heights. I do really enjoy walking though, the flat kind. I usually take a long walk every day, preferable in the evening if I have time. Just a few hours or even just half an hour of walking each day makes such a big difference in your overall fitness level. I used to always work on farms, for years. Farm work is extremely hard manual labor that keeps you incredibly fit. I never had to do anything besides my job to achieve superwoman levels of fitness and stamina. However, now that Hooves Around The World is taking off, I spend most of my time behind a laptop. I don’t ride horses for six hours a day anymore, and I don’t lift truckloads of heavy feedbags on a daily basis either. If you have a job in an office, or work remotely from your laptop, I highly recommend keeping your horse riding muscles strong by going to the gym! Personally, I don't necessarily like going to the gym. I enjoy being alone and outside, which is not very much possible at the gym. However, it’s helped me so much in staying horse riding fit when I only get to ride an hour a day!
Fitness for horse riding requires you to be fit both in the saddle and out of the saddle. Especially for some more adventurous horse riding holidays, you’ll need to have good overall fitness. There are a lot of trips with horses that require you to lead your horse through tricky terrain, so you’ll have to be able to walk and lead your horse on these mountainsides. Sometimes you’ll be required to lead your horse for a few minutes, sometimes an hour, and it’s always specified before you book! Doing quite some walking before your trip will help you prepare for that. In the gym, I recommend you focus on strengthening your core and legs, and doing some cardio as well. It will help you get a more independent seat while riding. I normally do full-body workouts, so I do include my arms and shoulders, however if you are short on time and need to get fit for horse riding quickly - focus on core and legs! Cardio will help you out immensely for those long trots and canters. Due to an old injury I unfortunately can’t run anymore, so every time I go to the gym I do 15 minutes on the elliptical before my strength training, and 15 minutes again at the end of my session. Of course, fitness in the saddle is super important. However, not everyone has their own horse or the opportunity to ride someone else’s horse. I’ve guided guests that haven't ridden in years but used to be very fit and experienced trail riders for decades. These people always do well on their horse riding holiday despite not being horse riding fit. If you are one of these people you’ll definitely be alright but you will have incredible muscle aches! So be warned. If you’re already an experienced trail rider and want to avoid that, make sure to get back in the saddle a few weeks before your holiday to at least not get horrible muscle aches, just medium ones... Ride four or five days a week for three weeks before heading on your adventure, and you’ll feel relatively fine the whole way. For intermediate riders I highly recommend not taking a break as you’re not a complete natural in the saddle yet, so to go on an intermediate level horse riding holiday after a year’s break will be very difficult. For beginners, do not stress! You’re going to be very sore, but if you’re fit overall you will be fine. On rides that are catered to beginners, the guide will always go easy on you! If you’re an intermediate or experienced dressage rider, or a rider in another discipline that is ridden inside an arena, please go on an outride. It’s so important to get a feel for riding out in nature before going on your adventure. Sometimes, extremely high level dressage riders drop out of a ride after a few days or even hours because they couldn’t adapt to the style of riding. On long rides, we always ride on the buckle, and we don’t sit pretty, but comfortably. Enjoy a few outrides at home, on a long rein, and at a faster pace of walk, trot and canter than you’re used to in the arena. That way, you can already adapt to the style a little bit.
Currently, I am working on an Adventure Riding Masterclass. In this online video series, I will tell you everything you need to know for extreme trail riding holidays and how to prepare for it!
Most countries host a number of gym chains which you can join. If you’re planning on staying in the same country for a while and don’t get the chance to ride horses as much as normal, sign up for a gym! It will motivate you to work out while traveling, as there will be a gym that belongs to your chain in almost every big city you pass!
Not planning to stay in big cities? Me neither. If you have a bit of budget and would like to stay in AirBnBs while traveling, you can filter for stays with gyms. This will make your fitness life so much easier as it’s right at the place that you’re already staying/working from. Also don’t forget the importance of walks and cycling. Some AirBnBs have bicycles for guests to use, so take the bike to the supermarket, or walk to your hairdresser appointment.
Honestly, I have seen maybe a handful of these outdoor gyms in all my travels, max. I absolutely love them though! There are way more in the US, and they are the perfect way to exercise while you’re traveling. No need for memberships. Find an outside gym, enjoy the sun, fresh air and workout!
There are hundreds and thousands of exercise videos on Youtube! You can of course do these wherever you are in the world. If you are able to motivate yourself to work out from home (I personally end up watching completely unrelated Youtube videos about 2 minutes into every workout), definitely go for it. I do a lot better looking up exercises and creating my own workouts on paper. I normally do these workouts outside and mostly use bodyweight only. I do have some handy extras to work out with, which I’ve linked below.
Extra: I don’t actually have this and had no idea it existed, but I just saw it pop up as I was looking for the links above! A tiny elliptical for under your desk, how cute! I highly doubt it travels well, but maybe you also just switched from a farm job to a desk job and have immense amounts of excess energy…
If you have any more questions about horse riding fitness or preparing for your horse adventure around the world, please feel free to reach out!
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