Exercise for Horseback Riding

Strengthen, Stretch and Burn Calories For Better Riding

Woman Running
Any type of aerobic and strength training will benefit your riding. biffspandex/E+/Getty Images

While riding is a great exercise in itself, it also helps to supplement that exercise. You'll feel better, and you will make your horse's job easier.

Why is a fit rider better for a horse? Compare holding a small child who's asleep to when it is awake and sitting up in your arms. Chances are the child asleep will feel like a sack of potatoes, and while awake will feel like it weighs less because it is holding itself up. A rider who is fit and toned will feel lighter on the horse's back compared to a rider of the same weight who is more sloppy in the saddle.

Poor posture, muscle imbalances, and general lack of fitness can make riding less enjoyable, and may lead to less time in the saddle. Not being able to use certain muscles properly will make cuing and controlling your horse more difficult. You can also affect your horse's way of going and the soundness of his back by being unfit and unbalanced.

If you only get out to ride occasionally or do major barn cleaning on weekends, staying fit can help you avoid the weekend warrior syndrome-aches and pains from using muscles not accustomed to the job you suddenly ask them to do.

Remember to start slow when beginning any exercise, including riding, and if you've had any injuries or health issues to talk to your doctor first.


Whether you're out on trail, in the show ring or power cleaning the barn you can increase your stamina by strengthening your heart muscle.

Even a 13-minute program three times per week can help increase your cardio fitness.

It's good to know if you are working hard enough to be a benefit. Long distance riders and eventers keep careful track of their horse's heart rate, so they know they aren't over-working them. We can do the same for ourselves. Here's how to Find your Target Heart Rate.

Jumping rope is a really great way to get a cardio workout even if you can't get to the gym, plus it may make you feel like a kid again: Cardiovascular Exercise - Jump Your Way To A Great Cardiovascular Workout From Hugo Rivera, your guide to Bodybuilding.

Learn What Makes a Workout Cardio, From Marguerite Ogle, guide to Pilates.

Cardio on treadmill
Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Getty Images


We've long thought that stretching before any exercise was a good idea to warm up our muscles and prevent strains. Apparently, this is not so, as outlined in Stretching - What the Research Shows From Elizabeth Quinn, guide to Sports Medicine.

But that doesn't mean stretching shouldn't be a part of your overall exercise plan. You just have to learn How To Stretch Out Properly from Jonathan Cluett, M.D., guide to Orthopedics.

Lower back pain affects a lot of us and a supple back is essential for cuing your horse and staying with the motion. Stretching Exercises for your Back from Laura Inverarity, D.O., guide to Physical Therapy offers safe effective stretches.

Walking or riding, who wouldn't want to look thinner? Loosen Up - Look Thinner - Walk Better from Wendy Bumgardner, guide to Walking identifies some common posture problems and offers solutions to help you stand or sit correctly and loosen stiff muscles.


In addition to stretching and strengthening muscles, exercise balls can help refine your sense of balance - an important aspect of riding. You can buy exercise balls inexpensively, but you may be happier with one bought through a sports therapist, that is sized for your length of leg.

Strength training is very important, especially as we get older. Spend some time lifting weights, and you'll notice the benefits - lifting saddles and grain bags, and cleaning hooves becomes easier.

Here is a program that simple and doesn't require a lot of equipment.
The Only Program You May Ever Need from Paul Rogers,Your Guide to Weight Training.

Lifting weight
The Spruce

Other Exercise Options

Here are exercise options you might not have thought of that could benefit your riding. 

  • Pilates: Marguerite Ogle's Pilates Blog discusses programs specfically for equestrians.
  • Yoga: Yoga can be as strenuous or gentle as you require. You may be able to find yoga on horseback clinics in your area.
  • Tai Chi: Not only does Tai Chi benefit body strength and suppleness but mind too, as the focus required to do the sets becomes a moving mediation. If you plan to compete learning to focus is essential.
  • Martial Arts : Martial Arts develop balance, focus, strength, body awareness and agility. All of these things are essential for riding.