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Coming back to riding and need tips to get in shape!

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  • Coming back to riding and need tips to get in shape!

    Hello! I am a 40 year old mom of 4 who is coming back to riding after about 18 years off. I rode my whole childhood and into my teens, saddleseat and then dressage. Since being off, my body has been through a lot of wear and tear. My lower back is pretty messed up and I have alignment issues. I've been riding steadily for about 4 months - I started with lessons every week with an instructor, and now I've recently started shareboarding a wonderful steady horse at a local barn. Its mainly a western barn (mainly trails) but I am riding this horse english. I mainly ride him in the indoor on my own. I've ridden him probably 6 times so far, and I'm discouraged by how out of shape I am. My back is sore, even though I've been keeping up with my PT exercises and stretches (I have to do them every day), and in general my body just feels off. I also get winded easily. Does anyone have any tips for me - I'd love to know how to slowly but surely work myself up to being a fit rider again. Its difficult b/c I'm riding by myself a lot so I'm not sure what to do. The indoor ring is also pretty small so it feels pretty limited. Come spring I will be heading out on trail as well but I'd love some tips on my arena riding. I'm trying not to get discouraged because I used to be a pretty good rider and now I am feeling so inept! Any advice, tips, etc would be appreciated!

  • #2
    Core strength helps your back. Depending on where you are and your cash and time, you can see a sports physiotherapist or a personal trainer or sign up for Pilates. You probably should get a diagnosis on chronic back pain to be sure It's not disc problems.


    • #3
      Feel free to join us on the Re-Rider Support Group thread in the Hunter/Jumper section. Loads of pages, however you can jump in any time. Lots of advice and support.

      I'm a fellow re-rider and trying to increase my strength/stamina as well. I've found working on a strength/cardio program, 3 days strength, 2 days cardio/strength to be great for increasing my ability to ride for longer without taking breaks and keep up when Pony feels like being all kinds of forward.

      It will come back to you, it just takes time. Learning to ride in the body you have now vs then is a hard transition, however it sounds like you are taking positive steps towards your goals.


      • Original Poster

        Thanks LuckyMaverick - can you provide a link to that support group? I"m having trouble finding it. Thank you!


        • #5
          If you have a Nintendo Switch, the Ring Fit is an amazing workout that is spot-on for riding!
          The journey is the destination.


          • #6
            Originally posted by ejoy View Post
            Thanks LuckyMaverick - can you provide a link to that support group? I"m having trouble finding it. Thank you!
            it’s this one I believe
            "He's not even a good pathological liar." Mara

            "You're just a very desperate troll, and not even a good one. You're like middle-school troll at best. Like a goblin, not even a troll." et_fig


            • #7
              What exactly is wrong with your back, and what are your PT exercises?

              PT often tens to put/keep people in a place where they are not hurting, but isn't necessarily what they need to get stronger for new activities. Most people are woefully weak in the core; so add a back injury to it and you're probably just strong enough not to hurt yourself doing every day things.

              You may need to really build your core strength and/or flexibility or fitness - but I wouldn't start doing lots of things without your doctor's ok.

              Are you not working with a riding instructor? I would definitely work with a trainer to make sure you're not doing things that are actually wrong and making your back worse.


              • #8
                more saddle time and I found that if I worked out at the gym, it helped my riding immensely. I didn't have back problems but did bust my ankle. Now that I'm older I found that pilates helps.


                • #9
                  Hard to know if there are limitations on what you can do with the back issues, but I will just tell you the main exercises I've settled on as a riding-fitness focused workout:

                  Air squats and other exercises, or just balancing on a Bosu ball. Standing on a Bosu with your feet at the edges is remarkably similar to riding in 2-point and helps your balance.

                  Overhead squats with a light weight (or even a broom handle to start). Focus on maintaining posture and symmetry throughout the movement. This hits your core and stabilizer muscles; it isn't really a leg exercise.

                  Deadlift correction exercise. Basically holding a barbell in front of me, then tucking my tailbone in and flattening my shoulderblades back. Once mastered, add in a little marching in place or tipping side to side.

                  Single-leg deadlifts with a dumbbell or kettlebell. Again, balance, and it will activate the glutes, which are "dead" on many of us from sitting too much.

                  Stationary rowing (or the real thing, I guess)

                  Kettlebell swings.


                  All the hip stretches. Search for Ido Portal on YouTube.

                  Dumbbell rows.

                  Also, I don't know what it's called, but to hit the psoas muscles, sitting on the end of an incline bench with a dumbbell between my feet and lifting it slightly by engaging the core (not doing a full crunch, which tends to curl the torso forward, which isn't what you want for riding, or anything really).


                  • #10
                    I have found standing in my stirrups is a very good way to work on core strength and balance, as well as keeping my head up and improving my confidence. This is not 2-point. You should keep the straight line from your ear to your ankle. If you need to grab a bit of mane that's okay I was doing it consistently for a while and then got haphazard when nice weather appeared and we spent more time outside hacking with friends. Start at the walk and proceed to the trot when you are ready. I found that it also helps me follow the motion of the horse, particularly at the trot.

                    I first heard this idea at a Julie Goodnight session at Equine Affaire a couple of years ago. She included it in her how to ride until you are 90 presentation. Last fall I did a Susan Harris clinic plus a private lesson and she asked for it quite a bit. That was when I realized I could do it at the trot.

                    I didn't think it was doing much until I stopped for several months. When I started up again I could feel a big difference - not as strong and flexible as when I quit. My horse's back has dropped as he has gotten older. I had my saddle adjusted to raise the cantle and added a rear riser pad. I've had to adjust my (skinnier) body to find the balance point on my saddle and get more on the front of my seat bones. I can work on my posting muscles by lowering my body and landing gently in the right spot.

                    If my back gets cranky I check my posture. It isn't a problem when I concentrate to stand up straight.

                    This is way more fun than machines in a gym, and it helps me with my New Year's resolutions (posted elsewhere) to Ride My Horse!
                    "With hardly any other living being can a human connect as closely over so many years as a rider can with her horse." Isabell Werth, Four Legs Move My Soul. 2019


                    • #11
                      If you can possibly get out on those trails, that will help both you and the horse. Walter Zettl wrote "The walk is the most neglected gait", and a good marching walk, with you using your abs to keep yourself in tune with the horse, is a good workout. We get so obsessed with trotting and cantering endless circles. A nice marching walk on natural (not level) ground is really gold for both horse and rider. Plus it refreshes the horse's mind to see something different.


                      • #12
                        I have had back issues off and on and I find that daily walking ( 2 miles briskly) helps 100% . It does wonders for getting in shape. I also suggest working with weights to build your upper body ( 3 days a week) if you can.


                        • #13
                          Yoga yoga yoga! 15 to 20 minutes of yoga three or four times a week will literally change your life!
                          Wai Lana is my favorite! Her bright outfits are awesome and she is the real deal. I have some of the DVDs but mostly I just DVR her program which is on public television and do it in the comfort of my own living room. I had a car accident and no doctor or therapy made my neck better. Yoga is the best thing ever.I’m not making any reference to yoga as a religion, just the exercises.


                          • Original Poster

                            Wow, these are all such great, helpful ideas. Thank you so much everyone! I'm excited to explore all of these! : )


                            • #15
                              Can you ride him Western? You might feel a bit more secure, and some of the trail saddles are really designed for comfort while trail riding.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by candyappy View Post
                                I have had back issues off and on and I find that daily walking ( 2 miles briskly) helps 100% . It does wonders for getting in shape. I also suggest working with weights to build your upper body ( 3 days a week) if you can.
                                Walking! Lord, I hope the three miles I put in, near daily, helps.

                                Hi ejoy, I'm glad you started this thread. I've been talking about riding again for years and even dove into the Re-Rider group (wonderful, enthusiastic, supportive people) a few years back and then.. it didn't happen. NOW, I finally have a lesson scheduled for next Friday. I thought through the math last night and I haven't been on a horse in 17 years and haven't lessoned or jumped since '94 or '95 probably. I rode seriously as a junior and had been a working student so I hope somewhere, at least a little muscle memory awakens from its slumbers.

                                I also have a weak lower back, some days I feel it more than others. I'm terrible with organized exercise and despite the good advice given the last time I checked in with the re-riders, I didn't follow it. I'm trying to do better, though. I bought an exercise ball last week and have been reading up on home exercise -- there are a lot of great COTH threads going back years. I hear wall sits are really good for you and have been doing those; it's ugly, lol. Especially when I'm lying on the hallway floor after with the cats milling around, all concerned.

                                I watch videos as much as I can, whether they're relevant to where I'm at or not. The Stacia Madden Rutledge Farm sessions on the USEF Network were packed with stuff that would've been helpful back in the day!

                                My biggest challenge is only being able to ride and lesson every other week. It's not optimal but it is the reality of my situation. It's not like I'm expecting to jump around 3' or even an 18" course any time soon. My feeling was, I don't want to get another year older without touching or getting on a horse again and if I don't do it now, it's not going to happen. And if I kept waiting for *all* the stars to align, it would really never even happen so I finally bought that new helmet.

                                Good luck and I'm following all this!


                                • #17
                                  I've always been told there aren't good exercises for riding other than riding.

                                  When I got back to riding, I relied on two point. Started with 15 steps of 2 point, then post, then 15 steps, then post. Grew that to 2 circuits of the arena, in small bits. Then lessons, then 2 lessons, then 4 lessons, per week. Even so, when my front/back stabilizers were OK for the holiday ride, my side-to-side stabilizers weren't.

                                  My current instructor suggests the plank exercise for core building. Plank position on your elbows, and you try to hold it (working up to) 60 seconds at a time, 2X a day. Also, Plank position on your side (that's even harder). I'm doing zoomba 3X a week right now, riding 2X and doing a boot camp at the gym 1X a week, and still can't plank for 60 seconds 2X a day.

                                  Just keep at it. Set a goal you can make (15 steps of 2 point for example) and make it. Then make sure next time you do 18. Just keep at it.


                                  • #18
                                    Depending on what's wrong with your back...

                                    I have a bad back as well and what helps me the most is Pilates and Ashtanga Yoga - dynamic yoga that flows with the breath. Both work wonders for core strength and balance. Yoga also helps opening your upper torso to improve your overall riding position.

                                    For cardio,I ride in 2-point at trot and canter, and I try pushing myself a bit more every time I ride. I know when I ride on my own I very rarely push myself beyond what's comfortable, then I pay for my laziness when I take a lesson
                                    So now I force myself to canter just a bit longer every ride, to keep my horse together and uphill just a bit longer every ride at trot and canter using my core muscles. It's a lot of work and I sweat a lot more than she does!!

                                    If I liked running that is what I would do for cardio, but I don't so I just try to walk briskly every day for at least 30 minutes. I also go xc skiiing whenever I can (on hilly terrain and as fast as I can go) and I have done a few low-impact cardio workouts on YouTube that left me winded!

                                    Lots of opportunities out there even without paying for a gym. When I did go to a gym,I loved my Pilates (for core) and Zumba (for cardio and just plain fun) classes.
                                    Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!


                                    • #19
                                      HipNo34 good luck with your lesson.
                                      "He's not even a good pathological liar." Mara

                                      "You're just a very desperate troll, and not even a good one. You're like middle-school troll at best. Like a goblin, not even a troll." et_fig


                                      • #20
                                        KBC thank you!