Mid-South Eventing & Dressage Association

The Fit Rider

07/12/2017 11:55 AM | Anonymous

Many riders look at their riding time as their “gym time”—and for many of us, this is the time during the week that we raise our heart rates and really work up a sweat. However, if you ride only a few days a week or don’t really work hard enough to burn calories, there is still some calories to burn in order to stay fit to ride your horse well. 

By Sarah E. Coleman

MSEDA interviewed Megan Arszman, freelance writer and Communications Coordinator for the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, about rider health and fitness. Arszman believes that the main reason riders are reluctant to go to the gym is lack of time. Many horse people, even if they don’t ride every day, still make time to go to the farm and check on their horse if he isn’t kept at home. Additionally, Arszman also feels that riders believe the exercise they get at the farm is enough to keep them fit and healthy. While there’s no doubt that they burn calories while performing farm chores, it is not always enough to keep riders fit and healthy.

Many riders are not aware of how much being unfit affects their mount. “You have to have core strength in order to be an effective rider, no matter the discipline,” Arszman explains. “I've talked with many trainers in different disciplines and that is a very important part of the rider's body position. If you don’t have the strength and conditioning to hold yourself correctly in the saddle, you can put uneven weight on your horse or you might find yourself relying on the reins to keep your balance, which means pulling on his mouth.” 

“While farm work is a good workout, there are some things you need to work on at the gym or separately to help you stay healthy and ride better,” Arszman says. Addressing the time issue, Arszman notes that “You don't necessarily have to make the drive to the gym; you can build your own home gym with a few essential pieces.”

Gym Time Time Out

Arszman, a horsewoman herself, knows innately that there is simply not enough time in the day, especially to get to the gym. So what does she recommend for an overall body workout?  Body weight circuit training. “You can do a circuit of body weight exercises: air squats, push-ups and planks.”

If you’re really in a time crunch, Arszman loves the HIIT {High Intensity Interval Training) workouts. “You basically do a series of exercises, rotating between something high-intensity [e.g., sprints, mountain climbers, jump squats, jumping jacks, etc.] and other workouts.”

Arszman provides an example: 

Do each exercise at a high intensity for 45 seconds, rest for 15 seconds

  1. Mountain Climbers
  2. Push-ups
  3. Squats
  4. Crunches
  5. Burpees
  6. Plank
  7. Jump Squats
  8. Tricep Dips
  9. High Knees
  10. Lunges


You Are What You....Eat?

Specific eating plans can be difficult for riders to follow, especially if they’re running between home, work and the farm, or if they spend multiple days at horse shows. Arszman suggests that, rather than following a specific diet plan, riders watch what they eating--increasing veggie consumption, and decreasing the carbs and sugar. Arszman aims to eat no later than 7 p.m., which she admits is hard in the summer for horse people.

She tries to eat lean meats (fish, turkey and chicken) and increase water intake. “I've really been focused a lot on watching what I eat lately after some weight gain and it's helped. My brother-in-law has lost almost 200 pounds since last year and tracks everything he eats on his MyFitnessPal app--that's a great tool that I recommend!” 

So what are some of Arzman’s go-to meals and snacks? I love my green smoothies! I make one every morning after my work out before I wake up my daughter so I can drink it on my way to work. I'll throw in fresh spinach, frozen cauliflower, frozen fruit, plain Greek yogurt, some milk and some protein powder. Sure the spinach and cauliflower sounds gross,” she says, “but trust me, you don't taste it and it's the easiest way to jumpstart your goal for eating veggies!”

 “I also love snacking on string cheese, hard boiled eggs, apples and peanut butter, and Lenny & Larry's Complete Cookies.”

Prioritizing Fitness Goals

So, how can riders make fitness a priority? “Set small goals with deadlines and know that you have to work toward them,” Arszman says. “It has to be important to you in order for you to be dedicated. Even if you only have 20 minutes, that's 20 minutes to a healthier life. Wake up 30 minutes early with your workout clothes already set out so you literally roll out of bed and into your clothes and to the gym [or garage gym] before your mind is fully awake to know what you're doing.

Also, don't feel like you need to work out for 2 hours a day, every day--start off with 30 minutes three times a week and build up. Include your family in your goals and invite them to workout with you, or pick a buddy to help you stay accountable,” she says. 

Midsouth Eventing & Dressage Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

MSEDA’s mission is to promote and preserve the sports of Eventing and Dressage in the Mid-South area, by providing leadership and education to its members and the community at large. To further these goals, MSEDA will provide educational opportunities, fair and safe competitions, promote the welfare of the horse and rider and reward the pursuit of excellence from the grass roots to the FEI level.

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