You lack physical strength. The Solution: Improve power and endurance.
Even fit riders experience post-ride soreness following a particularly long, grueling session. But routine soreness means you lack muscular strength. Another weakness indicator is that you find it difficult to maintain good posture, drive your horse forward, cue effectively, or stay balanced in the saddle. Weakness is more than a fitness problem if it affects your riding; it’s a horsemanship deficiency.
Riding strength all starts with a strong core. Your abs and lower back keep you upright, balanced, and stable. Core strength keeps you balanced in the saddle as your horse maneuvers a powerful rollback, ascends a steep hill, or spooks suddenly. Along with muscular strength, endurance allows you to drive your horse forward for extended periods or in involved gaits, such as the extended trot or posting without stirrups.
Your glutes, hamstrings, and hips also help drive your horse forward and support your core. They’re responsible for the forward and backward movement of your leg to cues. The insides of your legs, or adductors, squeeze and grip the saddle so you can ride with cadence, rather than bounce around as you trot.
Your shoulders, upper back, and the muscles along your spine and lower back help you maintain your athletic in-saddle posture: upright, chest up, and shoulders back. Proper posture creates eye-appeal in the arena, but more importantly it keeps your weight distributed in the center of your saddle. If your weight is too far forward, either because your shoulders are slouched or you’re upright but with an excessive forward lean, your weight distributes over your horse’s shoulders and throws off his balance. He’s unable to achieve the long stride and rear-end impulsion that you look for. A forward seat also tilts your hips down, making it difficult for you to use them to drive your horse forward for lengthened stride or increased speed. If you lean too far back because you can’t sit upright, you put yourself out of position to cue with your legs, drive with your hips, and stay balanced as your horse moves.
As you work to build muscular strength, be mindful of balance as you exercise. Your strength and flexibility should be complementary on both sides of your body, and from front to back. If one of your hips is stronger or more flexible than the other, your cues and seat will be uneven, leading to imbalances in your horse over time. If you don’t have time to go to the gym, you can improve your strength and endurance at home through timesaving, tabata-style workouts. See “Saddle-Ready Routine” on pages 64 and 66, and then visit facebook.com/west ernworkouts for more rider-fitness tips. Regardless of where you workout, find a routine that’s fun, challenges you, and that you can stay consistent with.