The physical demands of a sport often dictate the dimensions of the athletes who are most successful at it. Olympic swimmers have long arms. Marathon runners are smaller than 800m runners. Rowers are tall and strong. But top riders rarely come from the same mould.
We asked riders from across the disciplines to tell us what body shape challenges they face.
Eventer Izzy Taylor, 5ft 4in
Challenge: long thighs from hip to knee.
“Compared with the rest of my short body, my thigh is quite long, but it enables me to ride both ponies and horses.”
The solution: “Rather than it being a problem, having a short body and longer legs enable me to be more secure in the saddle.”
Whose body (part) would she rather have? “I always looked up to Ginny Elliot because she is little, too, but I also admire Andrew Nicholson’s position and physique.”
Dressage rider Steph Croxford, 5ft 4½in (it’s very important we mention the ½!)
Challenge: short arms and legs.
“I was designed for rugby, not dressage, but like [her top ride] Mr President, I am a freak of nature and get by.”
The solution: “It’s life and what you live with. I sit as deep as I can in the saddle when we’re doing extended trot, hang on and pray that I get to the end in some sort of shape.”
Whose body (part) would she rather have? “Pretty much any dressage rider, because they all have long legs and slim bodies.”
Showjumper Laura Renwick, 5ft 8in
Challenge: long torso and weak back.
“I tend to tip forward and find it hard sitting up quickly enough after a fence. I feel like my back is quite weak, too.”
The solution: “I did a lot of Pilates after I broke my collarbone and it really helped to strengthen my back and my core. It’s always on my mind to keep my body upright.”
Whose body (part) would she rather have? “French rider Penelope Leprovost has the perfect physique and position and always looks like she is part of the horse when she is riding.”
Eventer Louise Skelton, 5ft 1in — and a bit
Challenge: short torso.
“I am quite petite, which makes me slightly less strong than other riders when riding bigger horses. It’s difficult for me to look tidy when I am jumping bigger horses, too, because they throw me around.”
The solution: “I train my horses so that they are responsive and don’t pull me about or get too strong.”
Whose body (part) would she rather have? “Lucy Miller is taller than me and looks tidy on a horse.”
Eventer Laura Collett, 5ft 2in
Challenge: short legs.
“I have to work with it because you can’t do anything about it. I suppose longer legs help with you stickability in the saddle because you can wrap your legs around the horse and cling on.”
The solution: “I ride with my stirrups at a length that makes me feel secure.”
Whose body (part) would she rather have? “William Fox-Pitt has VERY long legs!”
To read the full feature about how body shape affects your riding see the current issue of H&H (24 January 2013)
Read about rider fitness