Fitness & the Older Rider

More and more middle-aged and older people ride now. In fact there are more of us than ever before. And although some of them will have had horses their entire lives, many of them are only just coming back to horses now their children have grown up whilst others are achieving a lifelong dream and getting their first horse now they have retired and have some time!

However, as we grow older it becomes harder and harder to maintain our fitness and suppleness and whilst we all know riding is good for us, it just isn’t enough by itself to develop the core strength and flexibility we need to become the riders we want to be. Even taking into account the amount of general exercise we do just looking after our horse, it still isn’t enough when we are in our 40s, 50s, 60s or beyond. Those years of working at a desk, sitting at a computer or behind a wheel have taken their toll.

Whether your interests lie in dressage, jumping, fun rides, endurance rides or just hacking around the lanes doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t be a burden for our horse. Horses just aren’t designed to carry humans and unless we ride in positive balance and help our horse to use his muscles correctly our riding is detrimental to our horse.

The most frequent “problem” areas I see when doing posture assessments with PI (my posture & alignment electronic horse) are tight hip flexors and lack of core muscles. Tight hip flexors in the rider will restrict the movement of your horse’s back, not to mention limit his lateral flexibility whilst a weak core in the rider will be reflected by a weak core in the horse. Both issues can cause pain and suffering to both the horse and the human.

As riders, most of us have to juggle time spent riding and looking after our horse(s) with all the other aspects of our daily lives, but investing a little time in an exercise regime for your body will be beneficial for both yourself and your horse.

Start using a Swiss Ball to sit on whilst you watch TV  – you need to use your core just to stay balanced. Targeted exercise can really help improve the more mature rider’s core, suppleness, flexibility and alignment. Now the nights are starting to draw in, think about joining an exercise class. Pilates and yoga classes are excellent to help the rider become more aware of their body and to teach them how to isolate and use specific muscle groups although classes aimed specifically for riders, be they on the mat or Swiss Ball are even better. Once you start your classes it is important to remember that going regularly is important. As we grow older improving our fitness and suppleness takes time but loosing condition and fitness seems to happen virtually overnight.