Fit for Kit

why rider fitness is as important as horse fitness

Equestrian sport is one of the few sports that require the complete fitness of two athletes, horse and rider.  We, as the rider, need to be as fit as our precious mounts in order to perform well in the competition arena.  I am always the first to make sure that Kit has the best of everything -  that he is warmed up, stretched, warmed down and cooled off to maintain his level of fitness and avoid strains etc.  But do I do the same with myself?  We need to be as supple and flexible, strong and fit as they are but it is something as riders that we often overlook.

With eventing and show jumping there is an immediate energy and explosion in the movement of horse and rider that is not always evident to the untrained spectators eye in the discipline of dressage.  I remember someone saying to me, ‘come on, how hard can that be, you are sitting still not doing anything’, boy, oh boy, if only they knew.  Like ballet, dressage, when ridden well should be seamless, beautiful and symbiotic and much like ballet. To achieve that vision of apparent effortless, gracefulness, a huge amount of effort is required back stage and on stage from both horse and rider.

Training with Sandy is tough as she pushes hard to get the best out of both Kit and I, but it was only when I noticed that I was sweating more than the horse at the end of each session that I realised I had to  take stock of my own fitness, suppleness and stamina.  Dressage is not about strength, brute force, or throwing your weight around, but it is about riding efficiently  with co- ordination and the ability to use your core strength  and muscles discreetly and effectively. All of this takes body tone and flexibility.

To my horror, Sandy suggested a Personal Trainer for me whom I affectionately named Simon Tight Stomach.  He took on the task of working with me when out of the saddle  to ensure that I was fit to fight when in the saddle.  Mr tight Stomach has worked a lot on my core strength through Pilates and my flexibility through teaching me a variety of torturous stretches, most of which result in my getting in a complete knot and looking like the loser in a game of twister.  However they have helped enormously in loosening up my body and helping me to ride more efficiently and in balance.   Although helpful and fabulous to have you don’t actually need a Simon Tight Stomach in order to  improve  your suppleness and fitness as a rider.  There is a lot you can do by yourself that will help both you and  your horse  get on to the next level.  There are many simple exercises that you can do at home  that will be of great benefit to you in the saddle.  I will be talking about these in my next blog.

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Ant Lynch

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