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How to Get in Shape to Begin Horseback Riding

Updated on May 30, 2013

Horseback riding takes a tremendous amount of skill, strength, body awareness, and balance. Riders acquire this skill set through years and years of training, but what about beginners? If you are a newbie horseback rider, here are some tips to practice and get in shape both on and off the horse.

Yoga & Pilates

Yoga and pilates are an excellent tool for riders to supplement their riding practice.

Benefits of Yoga for Horseback Riders:

  • Improves posture-- a rider's posture is incredibly important to his or her control of the horse and success in the show ring.
  • Increases flexibility-- riders need flexibility through the hips and shoulders
  • Maximizes body awareness-- the breathing, meditation, and balancing postures that are practiced in yoga practice skills that are much needed when on a horse

Benefits of Pilates for Horseback Riders:

  • Strengthens core muscles-- strong core muscles are a rider's best friend! With a strong core, the rider has better control over his or her seat, and therefore has more control over the horse and is more likely to

  • balance-- many Pilates postures offer core strength through the balance of your own body weight. complete control over your body and balance is appreciated by the horse! Your weight on his back makes a big difference in his own balance.

  • Health-- if you are healthy and fit in mind and body, you an your horse will communicate better and more efficiently.

Other Exercises

One of the commands you'll get used to your instructor shouting across the ring at you is, "put your heels down." A rider's heels should be directly beneath the hips, and ears, and the rider's weight should be evenly split between the saddle, the stirrups, and the rider's heel. By sinking down into her heel, the rider lowers her center of gravity, improving balance and control.

Exercises for stretching and strengthening the calves:

1) Stand on the bottom step of a staircase.

2) Holding the railing for balance, face up to the top of the stairs with just the balls of your feet on the step. The rest of your foot should hang off the edge.

3) Sink down into your heels until you feel a deep stretch in the calf muscles. Hold for 10 seconds or so.

4) Release the stretch.

5) Now, begin to lower up and down on the balls of your feet. Try to sink down into your heels and then lift all the way up to tip toes at least 5 times.

  • You can do as many sets as you want, but always start and end with a stretch to avoid charlie horses.
  • If it's too difficult to keep your balance on the stair, you can work the same muscles by doing repetitions of releve on the floor.

Recommended Reading

Mind, Body, Spirit and Centered Riding are two books that I highly recommend to riders of any level. I suggest investing in these books as a beginner, and then reviewing them every few years. Both books provide visuals and exercises to help improve your technique and connection with the horse.

Centered Riding (A Trafalgar Square Farm Book)
Centered Riding (A Trafalgar Square Farm Book)

This is an excellent book for a rider of any level-- I highly recommend it!



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    • sgiguere profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Giguere 

      5 years ago from Marlborough MA

      Thanks MysticMoonlight!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      You are so right! Horseback riding is intense! Anyone who would argue otherwise has obviously never woke the next day to sore, aching muscles and an aching backside! This is a great topic and I really enjoyed the advice for exercises, etc.

      Great Hub :)


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