Are you fit enough?
I know I’m not!
At 54, I really feel I need to work at it–much more so than when I was 30, though I should have worked at it more then too.
Can you get fit by riding? Yes and no.
An aside: My main instructor in Aikido said that you should not depend on Aikido practice for your fitness. He maintained that one must do something else–run, lift weights, bike–whatever.
Here is what Aikido looks like–(my partner Rick throwing me)
(Some say that Aikido itself is not that hard–it is the getting up off the floor a thousand times that takes the work. There is something to that.)
This might not be for everyone, but there really ARE things you can do off the horse to help your riding. Most of us who ride do not have unlimited horses to ride, and importantly, unless you have HAD to ride six or eight of them a day, you do not understand that the properly trained horse is not your gym. They are supposed to be fairly easy to ride, because they give you a place to sit.
Green horses are a different story–the proper analogy would be the schooled horse is like walking on the earth and a green horse is like walking on an airplane. But, on all horses your goal is to improve your own self-carriage. And you are certainly not supposed to grow biceps of steel by pulling. Core strength matters. It gives the horse a place to be connected to you. It is also a challenge to develop.
When I was in Germany we would sometimes go join a fitness group for riders that met at the Olympic Training center there in Warendorf. There were a variety of stretches, some rather similar to Yoga or Pilates–please see Melynnda’s post on core strength work, based on Pilates, with which she is more familiar than I. And then in Germany they made us play basketball–because they said riders were notoriously bad at team participation.
Who knew? Riders not team players? Hmmmmmm. Ever witnessed that? Not us, surely not US!
But, never mind group participation, very rarely do coaches talk about fitness issues when it comes to riding.
Here are some things they do talk about–things that have a lot more to do with body image than fitness:
From the old George Morris influence–BE THIN!!!! BE THIN!!!! BE THIN!!!! BE THINNER!!!!
(Wrong for a dressage rider–Rudolf, to my utter delight, once told a very thin (and rich) rival of mine that she needed to go eat noodles. HA! Revenge was sweet.)
From the Southern group: along with your tanning time, go lift weights to look nice in the tank top.
(This is not a problem for us bordering Canada–we hide in layers of down nine months of the year.)
(Okay, maybe go to the gym, but give a man a hammer and every problem is a nail. Given power, one tends to use it.)
And then there is always liposuction. Honestly, before the Atlanta Games that was actual advice from a well-known US trainer to his female student.
What Rudolf said about large body size was, on occasion: “She could lose a pound or two.” But never more severe than that. I actually heard him say one time to a very short rider: “There are tall riders and there are short riders, but as long as they ARE riders it is not a problem.” And that is the point.
If body image is preventing you from getting on the horse, get on anyway. Also get on your bike, mow the lawn, buck some hay bales, sweep, walk. Do whatever to stay active. That said, dressage riding takes a great deal of endurance to do properly. From there I will hand the ball to Melynnda. She has a good set of exercises.