Who needs a gym membership when you have a horse? You can improve your cardio and strength without even leaving the yard. Elements of this little routine* might sound familiar…
We know we have to warm up our horses before asking them to do any strenuous work, and the same applies to ourselves. Exercising with cold muscles can result in paralysis, or death, or something. So go out to the field and attempt to catch your horse. By the time he’s run round their field several times, with you chasing after him yelling: ‘I’ve got treats! I’m just bringing you in for a feed, not for riding’, you’ll be nicely warmed-up and ready for the next stage of the workout. Hopefully at some point you will have also managed to catch your horse.
It’s time to get that heart rate up and the blood pumping round your body! (This sounds awful, but it’s a good thing, apparently. It produces feel-good hormones and we could all do with those, especially at 5am on a show day). Some people say that riding doesn’t count as a cardio-vascular workout, as the horse does all the work. Those people have never sat on a horse.
Mount and take your horse into the arena or field. Proceed as follows: trot a figure of eight, kicking frantically with your inside leg as your horse falls in through the shoulder and your outside leg as he swings his quarters towards the gate. Repeat on the opposite rein. Move into canter; depending on your horse, you will either work your calves and glutes trying to get him forward, or your triceps, quadriceps and abs trying to slow him down.
Put up a course of jumps. Point horse at jumps. Get off horse and demonstrate to him how to jump the course of jumps, on foot. Get back on horse, ride horse over jumps. Repeat a few times. Get off, try to regain breath. Drink some water. You’ve burnt 6,429 calories during your cardio session. Have a Twix to celebrate, you deserve it.
Strength and conditioning
Squats: Fill your horse’s two 20-litre water buckets, bend your knees and – lifting from the legs and not the waist – carry them to his stable without stopping. If this proves a challenge too far, tip some water out and try again. If it’s too easy, add some more water back in. Come on, this is a hardcore workout, not a relaxing day at the seaside. Get on with it!
Tricep and bicep lifts: The fight against arm flab is an ongoing battle for many of us, but your horse can help tone up those bingo wings. Well, your horse stuff can, anyway. Make sure you keep all your rugs, head collars, lead ropes and numnahs on a high shelf in the tack room. Now, raise your arms above your head, reach up to remove them and carefully lift them down. If you stand on tip toe to reach, you’ll experience a calf stretch at the same time. But don’t ever try this with heavy stuff, folks. Leave your grooming box on the ground. Concussion is a serious set-back for any exercise routine and best avoided.
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Finally, it’s time to cool down. Sit down and tuck into a chocolate bar. Crunchies are nice, but you really can’t go wrong with a packet of Maltesers.
* NB: This routine is definitely not approved by any trainer, physio, or sports-related person what so ever.