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Best Whole Body Exercises for Horseback Riding (Improve your balance and more!)

Riding horses is a huge passion of mine, but I quickly realized when I started back riding at 40 years old I needed to improve my fitness. Exercises for horseback riding was as much of a priority then as it is 8 years later.

Truth be told, all of my workouts fit into exercises for horseback riding because it was my reason for losing weight over 8 years ago. I’m a strong believer in having a WHY for everything we do, especially when it requires self-motivation.

Balance, strength and endurance are a key component to riding and being equestrian fit is a bit different than overall fitness. Exercises for horseback riding target muscles to improve core as well as cardiovascular for an overall good exercise program.

lady riding horse in ring for exercises for horseback riders

Why it’s a good idea to be equestrian fit

Like any sport, the more prepared you are, the better the outcome. Riding is no different than any other sport. Focusing on increasing strength in upper body as well as lower body will benefit your riding position.

How to get into shape for Horseback Riding

Finding a comprehensive whole body workout program to increase body strength will be an important first step to getting into shape.

Step two would be not to give up, stay consistent. Training and toning muscles takes time and a vision of what you’re working towards.

Step three is nutrition. Make sure to follow a healthy nutritional plan with balanced macros that will give your muscles the nutrients needed.

How does horseback riding change your body?

Horseback riding is a great exercise and be a great part of being physically fit.

Horse riding possibly induces various physiological (muscle strength, balance, oxidative capability, flexibility, and metabolic control) changes within body and is thus highly recommended as combined exercise for women, children, and aged as therapeutic and leisure sport activity.

Source: NCBI

Can you get abs from horse riding?

Horseback riding is very beneficial to core muscles, including abs. Abdominal muscles are a key muscle group for exercises for horseback riding improvement since core muscles are largely responsible for maintaining balance in two point, or balancing weight on the balls of your feet.

Can you lose weight while horseback riding?

No doubt, a lot of calories can and will be burned while riding. However, just like any other form of exercise, proper nutrition must be practiced such as tracking macros.

How to build leg strength for riding a horse

Leg strength for riding a horse is important to riders fitness for obvious reason since a large part of riding is leg pressure and balance.

There are many ways to increase leg strength.

  • Walking exercises – adding a 30-45 min walk daily either with treadmill workouts or having a walking plan can increase endurance, burn extra calories and increase cardiovascular fitness.
  • Leg challenges – regular leg workouts will tone and strengthen leg muscles. Give a 30 day leg challenge or make sure your workout program includes a variety of leg exercises.
  • Biking – cycling or spinning is a great way to strength leg muscles as well as improving cardio.
lady walking outside for exercise

Exercises for Rider Leg Strength

Hamstrings, quads and calves are used for riding, so exercises targeted each leg muscles are important. Some of my favorites are:

  • Standing calf raises – Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, push up to the balls of your feet and back down. Beginner calf raises can be done while holding on to a chair for balance. Advanced calf raises can be done while holding weights. Variations can be toes forward, toes outward and toes inward.
  • Squats – All varieties with and without weights can be helpful.
  • Sumo squat heel lifts – With legs spread and knees bent, raise heels while keeping the rest of your body still. Beginners while holding onto something sturdy for balance. Advanced would be holding weights.
squats with weights for leg strength

Does horseback riding make your bum bigger?

Riding does make your bum bigger in terms of muscle mass through glutes being more defined and toned. If you are eating well, meaning watching or tracking your macros and calories, you will burn fat while increasing muscle tone to actually look thinner and more lean.

Between the workouts you will be doing away from the horse and muscle use during riding, if you’re a woman over 40 you will be able to get rid of the mom butt!

horse jumping

Does horseback riding make your thighs bigger?

Legs, thighs especially, work hard while riding. Anytime muscles are exhausted and exercised, it causes micro tears which heal and cause the muscle to grow stronger and larger. So, yes, riding does make your thighs bigger.

If you are eating a healthy diet, your thighs may actually look more lean, thinner due to having less fat.

Good Exercises for Horseback Riders (Exercises without a horse)

There are specific exercises you can do to improve fitness for riding. It’s a combination of exercises done regularly that make a difference. One key thing to realize is that any workout you chose will require a long-term commitment. It takes time and consistency to transform body composition and then to maintain fitness.

Lifting weight to help get Equestrian Fit

Weight training is a good idea for anyone looking to get fit, but especially for equestrians. Horses are strong and while our strength can never compare to theirs, it does require a baseline of strength to manage them.

My favorite workout right now is the Beachbody Lift4 workout. I’ve been doing Beachbody workouts so long that I am actually a Beachbody coach and help others to get strong and fit. (Find out how to join my Beachbody team.)

Lift4 has 4 days of weight training workouts to improve upper and lower body strength. Many women shy away from lifting weights for fear they will look too muscular. I completely understand and once had the same misconception.

Circuit Workouts for whole-body engagement

Lift4 also incorporates circuit workouts regularly that increases reaction time, balance and agility – all which are important to horseback riding.

Crunches can be a good way to strengthen and tighten your core, however there are many different exercises for core strength. Again, Lift4 combines a core segment to every workout and thus is a great option for core fitness.

Additional exercises for a tight core:

  • Planks – Using a variety of plank exercises can tone and strengthen your core. This 30 day plank challenge would help a lot.
  • Flutter kick – Lie on your back, with your legs straight, raise them both off the ground a few inches and flutter, or kick in small movements for 30 seconds – 60 seconds. Rest, repeat a few times.
  • Heel touches, side to side – Laying on floor in a sit-up position, extend your arms to your side, raise your shoulders off the floor while reaching to touch the side of each foot.
plank exercises for horseback riding

The best horse riding exercises for Beginners

While the exercises without riding should be part of your fitness, exercises while riding are just as beneficial if not more. There’s really nothing that matches riding as precisely as riding does and it’s important to practice proper posture from the beginning.

Riding Exercises to Improve Position at the Walk

If it’s your first time riding in an English saddle, chances are you are feeling unbalanced even at the walk without anything to hold on to such as a western horn. In time, these exercises for horseback riding in this article will help your core, back and legs to support your body.

Riding Exercises to Improve Position at the Walk

While on a lunge line or on a trusting horse, drop the reins and hold your arms out straight to the side or place your hands on your hips.

Keep your back straight and shoulders back. Drop your heels down and gently hug the horse with your legs.

Riding Exercises to Improve Position at the Trot

These exercises will also improve position while riding and can be done at the walk as a beginner, as you feel more balanced and stronger, do the exercises at the trot.

  • Posting at the trot – strengthens legs (thighs and calves), core and back
  • Holding two point at trot – strengthens legs and core

Exercising while the horse trots is a great way to practice your form while increasing endurance and strength.

Practical Horseman has some great detailed exercises to improve riding as well as strengthening and correcting common leg, hand and seat problems often due to weak muscles.

Try both of the following posting exercises to test your body control and work to improve it while also strengthening your leg position: At the trot, alter your posting sequence so that you change diagonals every stride. First do it by sitting for two beats and rising for one, over and over. This will teach your body not to get ahead of your horse’s motion. Then practice staying out of the saddle for two beats and sitting for one. This will teach your body to avoid falling behind the motion.

Practical Horseman

Get Started Improving Your Strength for Horseback Riding

There’s no better time to work on your strength and balance than now using these exercises for horse riders.

It will be a combination of healthy nutrition, home workouts and horse riding exercises that will be you success in the ring. Consistent practice and implementation is key.

Great riders utilize core, leg and back strength with good posture and balance.

So tell me, what type of horseback riding are you doing or interested in doing?

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