Fitness and Horseback Riding
Beginning Riders: Horseback riding requires more physical exertion than most people realize. Riding at beginner paces is a moderately intense exercise equal to cycling, or tennis doubles, AND it’s a fun way to exercise. For those who count steps, 2,000 steps are about the equivalent of horseback riding for fifteen minutes. Riding horses can help you become more physically fit, in addition to improving your balance, coordination, and even your mental health.
Your muscles will also get a full body workout without going to the gym. So, don’t be surprised if you are sore for a few days when you start learning to ride. You’ll feel it most in your core muscles: the abs, pelvis, thighs and back, because these are important for balance and stability when handling a horse. Your arms, legs and even your neck will get a workout too.
Experienced Riders: Even more energy is required when trotting and cantering. Exercise requirements for this level are approximately 60% of maximum capacity and increase to 75% when jumping. This is a desirable level of exercise to build aerobic fitness. Tests of endurance and strength have shown that those who ride three to four times a week have greater physical endurance and strength compared to their less-active peers.
Elite Riders: High levels of fitness are required for elite equestrians. Good strength and aerobic capacity can be a factor in performance during competitions. Regular riding practice provides a good basis for competition. However, additional physical training for strength, conditioning, and flexibility are recommended for those who compete at higher levels, even though they may be riding many hours a week.
Charles T. “Chad” Price, MD
Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon, Ret.
Former Clinical Prof. FSU Medical School, Orlando