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TheEquestrianAthleteCoach 04-06-2011 08:31 AM

Gym Fit VS Riding Fit
Hi All

Hope you are having a great day! I have had this question in my mind for a while but just wanted to get your thoughts. I am very clear where I stand on this subject but I would like your thoughts.

How do you feel about the differences between being ‘gym fit’ and riding fit? I know where I stand but how do you feel about this subject?

speak soon


sarahver 04-06-2011 08:51 AM

Hey Matt, I am so glad to hear that there are Equestrian Fitness coaches out there, just as we must strengthen and condition our horses, we must also do the same for ourselves.

I will give you my perspective and in order to do so I will give you some background. I used to event competitively however now I have one green horse of my own and spend my time breaking in horses for other people. The physical demands of each can be rather different in my humble opinion. Let me illustrate:

Dressage phase of eventing - I believe the most important thing is to develop a strong core, excercises such as yoga and pilates are best to develop long twitch muscle fibres and increase control over every square inch of your core.

SJ phase of eventing - core and lower leg strength is key, excercises such as lunges and squats are brilliant.

XC phase of eventing - lower leg strength is imperative, not only for correctness but also for safety. Core again must be solid. For this phase you also need aerobic fitness as it is physically exerting burning around a XC course and the LAST thing you want is to be out of breath on the approach to a 3' drop into water. Unless of course you wish to incorporate some aquatics into your fitness regime.

Lastly, with breaking horses or working with greenies, I really believe that aerobic fitness is required. Just on the weekend I was training a young 3yo stud how to lead (as in for a lead line class) and boy was I out of breath after only a couple of rounds running in the sandy arena. Same with riding greenies, it can be physically demanding so in addition to having a strong core and good lower leg strength from strength training, I also believe you need to be aerobically fit so that you can keep up with the little boogers!!

MHFoundation Quarters 04-06-2011 09:25 AM

Great question! I think there is a huge difference between gym fit and riding fit. I think for riders it's important to develop long & lean muscles vs short weight training type muscles. (I might be wrong....) The thing that comes to mind with that for me is my hubby, he has massive heavily toned calf muscles. When he gets on any of my horses they tend to move off his leg without him realizing he is giving them leg simply due to the size of his calves. He doesn't ride often but has spent enough time on one mare that she now is tougher for me to ride and I have to be overly leggy with her constantly because of the difference in our leg size.

For me finding time to truly workout is tough. Between being a mom and toting a kid to all of her sports & activities (at 5 she already plays soccer, softball & does competitive gymnastics) on top of running the farm by myself, my hubby works a lot so I do the lion's share of the physical labor involved with the farm. I clean all of the stalls, do all of the feeding and daily stuff and I also help when it's time to bale hay.

My background - I am the last rider in my family (besides my daughter, but at her age she isn't a major influence in the work part of things HAHAHA) I own 10 quarter horses, 3 being breeding stallions. I keep all of my own fit as well as taking 2-3 training horses at a time & I have 11 riding students that come on a weekly basis for lessons. I myself ride working ranch type horses, reining, cutting, working cow horse but do ride hunt seat on occasion to keep myself refreshed and use different muscles.

I make time at night to put an hour in on the elliptical trainer and I do yoga in the am before I head out to the barn for the day. I try to get to Curves for circuit training 3 days a week. I don't do any strength training other than the resistance training at curves - I don't know if you have them in the UK? All of their machines work on hydraulic resistance instead of free weight. This seems to work for me as it's hard to find time for more than that. Do you think this is a good exercise plan for a 30 something soccer mom/horse trainer?

Ali M 04-06-2011 01:10 PM

It seems like gym fit and riding fit are two totally different things. I could lift 50 lb hay bales no problem but give me a 15 lb free weight and I feel like a weakling! :D

mls 04-06-2011 01:16 PM


Originally Posted by TheEquestrianAthleteCoach (Post 988226)
How do you feel about the differences between being ‘gym fit’ and riding fit? I know where I stand but how do you feel about this subject?

There is no way to be 'completely clear' on this subject.

A person that truly works out at the gym - not just a step class or weight training - should be very fit.

At the same token a person who trail rides on weekends isn't at the same level of fitness as someone who lopes out horses.

Apples and oranges.

Mocha26 04-12-2011 04:05 PM

Mls I think that the op is referring more to people who show & do this as sport. More than just trail riding with friends..

As for my point of view, I believe that riding fit is more about using the muscles where as gym fit is more about either a:losing weight or b: getting bulky & muscular to show off. Lol

Riding fit means having strong legs, strong core, & strong arms I think we also need to have strong back muscles as well. In any sort of riding you posture & body position tells the horse alot. Plus, lifting that heavy saddle is tough on your back! Lol :D
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shmurmer4 04-12-2011 08:18 PM

Riding fit is no where near gym fit... That's sorta like comparing using an elliptical vs a treadmill... Huge stretch.

Shasta1981 04-12-2011 08:23 PM

Gym fit helps me become riding fit. Gym fit helps builds my stamina and helps to keep my immune system strong, giving me more time in the saddle. I consider gym fit to be a very important component in my equestrian development.

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