I’m thankful to be writing this after enjoying an afternoon trail ride with my mare, Honey. Typically, she won’t go out alone, but we are following social distancing recommendations and decided to give it a try. Much to my surprise, she seemed to enjoy herself and never motioned to turn around or cut our trail short!
I know many people aren’t as lucky, and some barns have been forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, there’s a lot we can do as equestrians to keep our bodies prepped for when we can get back in the saddle again.
Before we get started, I want to review all the muscle groups engaged while riding:
- Hip Flexors, Abductors, and Adductors
- Groin Muscles
- Calf Muscles
- Shoulder Blades
- Back Muscles
Noelle Floyd does a really nice job discussing how we use each of these muscle groups while riding, but for today’s purposes, I want to simply bring awareness to how much our body works while we’re in the saddle.
My biggest recommendations for riders at home are to:
- Stretch daily.
- Keep working your riding muscles.
- Create a plan with your trainer for when you return.
As a lifelong rider, my body talks to me – a lot. My hips are tight, my low back is in [almost] constant pain, and my hamstrings always need time to loosen up. I’ve learned to never underestimate the importance of stretching when it comes to skeletal alignment, posture, balance, and overall comfort. That said, I love this video from Blogilates that walks you through a great daily stretch routine to help relieve stress and increase flexibility in your hips and legs.
If you’re tight and looking for a full-body stretch, this is another video that you may want to cycle into your stretching routine.
Work Your Riding Muscles At Home
You may be worried that all the hard work you put in to prepare for this summer show season is now being wasted in quarantine. Try to push those thoughts out of your mind and focus on what you CAN do.
I am a member of Barre3, and I absolutely LOVE it. It’s a great, low impact way to work and tone my riding muscles. However, if subscribing to a new service isn’t what you’re looking for, there are plenty of exercises we can do at home to stay fit for riding.
In all of my workouts, I incorporate some variation of the following:
- Warm-up (get your heart rate up)
- Circuit 1 (3 exercises, 3 times through)
- Circuit 2 (3 exercises, 3 times through)
- Core Work
- Cool Down & Stretch
When you’re creating your circuits, make sure you include a variety of upper and lower body exercises. Aim to do 8-12 repetitions of each exercise, three times per circuit.
I also recommend finding other types of workouts to keep exercise interesting. Livestream classes are popping up all over Instagram and Facebook feeds as local fitness studios try to keep their customers engaged – take advantage of those!
Barre3FarmingtonValley has live classes throughout the week.
Bandier, a fitness brand, offers live classes every day at 4:00 pm featuring different kinds of workouts led by fitness professionals.
Barry’s Bootcamp also provides interval and cardio workouts that have become popular in many of our major cities.
Yoga from the Heart has a variety of live yoga classes each day. In general, yoga is another great way to combine strength work with stretching and core stability.
Make a Plan with your Trainer
This last one is to help both you and your horse when you can finally get back into a regular training routine. Depending on your quarantine restrictions, you may need to modify your show schedule for the summer and determine what your horse will need to get competition ready.
Some questions you can ask your trainer are:
- How many rides should I do per week once the barn reopens?
- How frequently will my horse and I be able to lesson?
- Will my horse need any training rides?
- When is it feasible to start showing again?
Remember, there are many unknowns about how long this pandemic will last and whether or not competitions will even take place this summer. Understand that your horse may lose some muscle if your barn is forced to close, and you will need to be patient with both your horse and yourself as you work your way back as a team.
Everyone’s circumstances will be different, but together we can support one another and make it through this just fine.