Riding is Sport: Muscle Training from Head to Toe

Islandpferd im Tölt

"Riding is not a sport, you just sit on the horse. "There is probably not a single rider who has not heard this sentence. If you feel the same way and can't think of a quick-witted answer at such times, here are some great arguments why riding is a real sport and why we can all call ourselves sports enthusiasts.

Autorin: Karolina Kardel, 360 Grad Pferd

Ok, we admit: Horse riding does not burn as many calories as jogging. Riding is therefore rather unsuitable for losing weight. But anyone who sits on a horse for the first time, rides a new lesson in a riding lesson or gets back on horseback after a long break will certainly have sore muscles all over their body the next day.

Muscle training from head to toe

Riding uses a lot of muscles, from the legs to the buttocks, abdomen, back and chest to the shoulders and arms. Even muscles that we hardly use or don't use at all in normal everyday life are used when riding.

Why does riding train the whole body?

It's simple: when riding, we have to constantly adapt to the horse's movements and balance ourselves to keep our equilibrium - from head to toe. In each gait, the muscles are challenged differently; after all, walk and tölt are a four-beat gait, trot is a two-beat gait and canter is a three-beat gait. Our muscles are rhythmically tensed and relaxed. And that in turn has two positive aspects: the muscles are strengthened and deepseated tensions are released. Let's take a closer look at the muscle groups that are most used when riding:

Back muscles

It is no secret that riding is good for the back. The upright seat and the constant going along with the threedimensional movement of the horse strengthens and loosens our back muscles in equal measure, as they are tensed and relaxed, stretched and loosened at regular intervals. In this way, the spine is strengthened and stabilised. The intervertebral discs are also relieved if the posture is correct, because the pelvis takes over the work of the intervertebral discs. However, if a back disease is present, it should first be clarified with the responsible doctor whether riding is allowed.

Abdominal muscles

Riding is great for the abdominal muscles! By sitting upright and absorbing the horse's movement, not only our back muscles are strengthened, but also their counterparts, our abdominal muscles. We use the abdominal muscles, for example, for collection and parades as well as for the weight aids.

Pelvic floor

The pelvic floor muscles are also properly strengthened when riding, because the many different movements that we riders make on our horse with the pelvis activate the pelvic floor muscles. The stability and flexibility that make up a good rider's seat are only possible with a strong centre.

Shoulder and arm muscles

Many riders have strong shoulders and strong arm muscles. But if you think that this is because these riders pull on the reins a lot, you are wrong! Just holding the arms and hands independently is good for the muscles. In addition, there is always a slight tensing and relaxing of the muscles, for example to give parades. The whole business - cleaning the horse, carrying the saddle, mucking out the stable, lunging - is also a great workout for the arms and shoulders.

Leg muscles and buttocks

The classic thigh aids effectively train our leg muscles, especially our rear thigh muscles, by regularly tensing and relaxing them. Correct leg posture also requires muscle strength. Riding in a light seat, for example, as is often practised by show jumpers, also strengthens the thigh muscles and trains the buttocks.

Riding is aerobic endurance training

By the way, Hjörvar wears our wool saddle pad.

In addition to the many different muscle groups, riding also trains our endurance (we have reported on condition and endurance training for horses here). If we end our first riding lesson perhaps still sweating and with a red head, our endurance increases with time and we can also master a cross-country ride lasting several hours.

Aerobic endurance, i.e. good general performance, is important when riding. But what does that mean? Aerobic endurance means that the body has enough oxygen available for oxidative combustion. In concrete terms, this means that oxygen intake and oxygen consumption are balanced. If the load intensity is too high and the oxygen supply is not sufficient, then we speak of anaerobic endurance. An oxygen deficit occurs.

Aerobic endurance is promoted when the load intensity is below anaerobic endurance and at least 1/7 of all muscles are involved. During long-term aerobic exercise, fat metabolism and glucose metabolism interact. The more the load duration increases, the more the fat metabolism takes effect and the lower the glucose metabolism becomes. Aerobic endurance has a positive influence on muscles, cardiovascular system, respiration, blood, skeleton, nervous system and energy metabolism.

Riding promotes coordination skills

Riding has another advantage: it promotes our coordination skills. Coordination plays an important role in riding, because each part of the body must be able to be used independently of the others. Sometimes the left hand gives a parry, sometimes the right hand. Then the left pelvis should be pushed forward and the right shoulder taken back. In addition, riding is based on diagonal aids: The left hand correlates with the right leg and the left leg with the right hand. This requires pure coordination and many a football player is envious of our coordination skills.

In summary: Riding is muscle training from head to toe

In summary, it can be said that riding not only strengthens a lot of muscles, but also promotes endurance and coordination. This makes riding pure sport! In one of our next blog articles, we will tell you can ride even better and finer with targeted recreational sports.If you want to read more, go to our author's blog.

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Sportsfreund Studios

The Sportsfreund Studios blog contains numerous tips on dealing with horses. From fitness training to the learning behaviour of horses - you can read it all here. The blog is written by Karolina Kardel from 360 Grad Pferd.

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