Oh yeah, we’re crushing it. Day number 4 is here! And today we are going to be stepping back from working with our horses, but you can if you want too. I will be for sure, that is after I do my 4 simple exercises for the rider!
But today I want you to focus on doing something that will help you while you are in the saddle. And that means, getting your core muscles fit.
Exercises for the Rider
I should preface this by making sure you know I hate working out. Anything even remotely resembling structured exercise is not my jam. However, if you tell me to load multiple wheel barrows full of heavy manure and then lift 50 lb bags of feed repetitively, I will do so enthusiastically.
But I have found a couple of exercises that aren’t too bad. And if you focus on doing these exercises to be a better rider, it might make doing them a little easier, right?
And I have to start this with a disclaimer….Before you embark on any new exercise program, please be sure it is safe for you to do so. If you have a knee, or back injury, or any injury for that matter – please talk to your health care professional before starting any new exercises. I don’t want you hurting yourself before you even get to ride your horse! So please, use caution and know your limitations before starting a new work out routine!
And if you have any discomfort or pain while doing any of these exercises, STOP! If it’s painful, you need to stop until you have seen someone to figure out why you are having pain. (I tell this to every patient I talk to while I’m doing my day job as an Orthopedic nurse!)
Ok, disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to the exercises!
Squats – For Legs
Squats aren’t that horrible. And they really do help strengthen your leg muscles which will help when you are in the saddle.
You perform a squat by bending your knees and drop your rear end toward the floor. You allow your hips to bend, while keeping your back straight. Then you lower your body (booty) until your thighs are almost parallel with the floor. I say almost because after a few times of doing this for the first time, your thighs will burn. So getting close to parallel is ok at first (This is where I’m at).
Keep your eyes looking forward, your back straight and your feet flat on the floor. And then you slowly rise and then bend. Rise, and then bend. To get the most out of the squat, your knees should stay in line with your feet through each squat.
And doing them slowly and with intention is how you get the most out of this exercise. And no leaning forward! Your back needs to stay perpendicular (straight).
It’s also a good idea to do squats in sets. I like to do 3 sets of 10.
Planks – For the Core
Planks are a great exercise to increase your core muscle strength. And they aren’t too hard to do. You can modify a plank too, which will make it easier when you first start them.
Planks are one of those exercises that make their way into almost any core workout. And when done correctly, the plank exercises not only fires up your core, but the muscles in your shoulders and legs, too. But if you do a plank incorrectly, you put yourself at risk for a back injury. So knowing how to do a plank correctly is really important.
According to the professionals, the forearm plank creates the most tension in your muscles, which is what we want to do if we are wanting to gain strength.
To do this plank, put your elbows on the ground directly underneath your shoulders with your feet hip-width apart. Make sure your back is flat and your head and neck are in a neutral position. Drive your elbows into the floor, and squeeze your quads, glutes, and core. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth—don’t hold your breath, breathing is important!
And the good news is, you don’t have to stay in this position for extended periods of time. Research has shown that to get the biggest benefit of planks, you want to do it in 20 second increments. That’s not horrible right? So start slow, and build up as your strength permits. But limit each plank to around 20 seconds to get the biggest benefit.
Single Leg Lift – For Better Balance
My balance is not that good, and that’s on the ground. Getting into the saddle just compounds the balance problem for me. So I found a couple of exercises that I work on to help improve my balance.
My favorite exercise to do is the single leg lift.
Stand next to a chair with a back, and raise one foot off the ground in front of you. If you need to hold onto the chair back for balance at first, that’s ok! The goal is to eventually be able to lift your leg in front of you and hold it for 10 seconds without losing your balance, or needing to use the chair back.
You do each leg 10 times, in sets of 3.
And another exercise that I like to do, but is a little more intense is backward leg raises. And I use a dog toy to assist me.
I put a dog toy on the floor in front of me, and then raise one leg off the ground, while bending forward and I reach down and pick up the toy. BUT do this slowly, and only once your balance is fairly stable.
At first I would do this 2 or 3 times on each leg. But in time, I have been able to increase it, as well as increasing the amount of time I am balancing on one leg.
This in turn has helped me to have better balance while I am in the saddle.
Heel Lifts – Strong Calf Muscles
I love doing heel lifts. They are pretty easy to do, and they have a LOT of benefits. If you suffer from Plantar Fasciitis, this is a great exercise to do because this exercise helps strengthen the gastrocnemius (gastroc) and the soleus which make up the muscles of your calf.
And by improving these muscles, you will be improving your lower leg strength as well as making it easier to really stretch your heels down in the stirrups.
To do a heel lift, you stand with the balls of your feet on a stair, and hold on to the railing for balance. Then you lift up onto your tip toes, and then lower yourself back down.
You want to feel a stretch in your calf when you reach the downward position of this exercise. But don’t over do it! Don’t try to get your heels down to the ground! That’s over doing it. You just need to stretch a little bit lower than the stair. And then raise yourself back up.
Do this exercise in sets of 10, and for 3 to 6 sets of the 10. I like to do it for a set of 10, then walk around my living room for about 100 steps or so, then I go back to the stairs and do another set of 10.
Exercises for the Rider
Alright, so there are 4 different exercises you can do to help improve your level of fitness while you are riding your horse. They really do work! Just start slowly, and build up as you can.
And although I am not an athletic trainer, physical therapist, or professional athlete, I did make a video showing how I do these exercises. But I won’t be putting that video below, no that will come tomorrow. Instead, here is yesterdays video….
The exercise video will be coming out tonight at 7:00 PM, so be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel, The Budget Equestrian to see all of the videos in my 30 day VEDA challenge!
And regarding my form during the exercises….Don’t judge ok? But maybe this will help show you how to do the exercises. Or, it might just give you a good laugh. I’m ok with that! And be sure to come back tomorrow for another day of the August challenge!