Are You Fit to Ride?


By Julie Luther

Have you ever wished you could ride longer with more confidence?  Do you ever experience aches and pains during or after your ride?  Chances are one of these questions pertains to you.  Most riders have busy lives, and let’s face it, we do a lot of activity when we go to the barn, from cleaning stalls and grooming, to the ride itself. We are getting plenty of exercise, right?  However; all this activity is not specialized to help you ride longer, stronger, and without pain.  Let’s learn some exercises you can to do in just 5 – 10 minutes a day to become stronger in what I call your “collateral muscles” that will keep you riding longer and finish with a comfortable body, little or no equipment required.

Let’s start with your riding posture. Most of us could use some work on strengthening our back and lengthening our chest.  Here are two simple exercises to do just that.

Wall Angel Stand against a wall with your feet a few inches from the wall. Depress scapula down towards your waist, keep your shoulders down and against the wall. Hold this position for the entire exercise, with palms up. Bring arms up wall as to form the letter T without shoulders raising or as far as you can. Keep back of hand against the wall. Once this gets easy you can bend your elbow 90 degrees, then continue moving your arms up the wall in a letter V
Chest StretchIn a doorway, place elbows and lower arm on frame. Lean forward, hold for 30 seconds.
Wall Angel

Next, let’s look at opening your thoracic spine with these two simple exercises that will get rid of rider back and neck pain.

Telescoping Arms Lie on side with hips and knees bent 90 degrees, arms together out in front of your chest. Bring top arm straight up towards the ceiling and across to the other side of your body, keeping your knees together. Hold for 10 seconds, then return to starting position. Perform 5 repetitions (reps).
Pinwheel Arms Lie on side with hips and knees bent 90 degrees, arms together out in front of your chest. Begin moving your top arm over your head and all the way across to the other side, keeping your fingertips on the floor. Only go as far as you can with your fingers on the floor. Return to starting position. Perform 5 reps.
Telescoping Arms

We all know that a strong core equals a strong rider so here are some rider specific core exercises you can add to your program.

Exercise Procedure
Birddog Get on all 4’s with a neutral spin, keeping back level. Fully extend opposite arm and leg. Repeat on other side. Perform 20 reps.
Dead Bug Lie supine with a fit ball between hands and legs. Press your legs towards your hands and your hands towards your legs to keep ball in position (notice that your abs automatically contract). Move the opposite arm and leg towards floor-  spine stays neutral and abs compressed. Repeat on the other side. Start with 5 reps or so and build to 10. This is a tough exercise when done properly
Bird Dog
Dead Bug
Fit Ball Walk Place head and shoulders on the ball with feet on the floor, hips in the air. March your feet for 1 minute. Lift head as you march keep abs tight.
Fit Ball Airplane Place head and shoulders on the ball with feet on the floor, hips in the air. Transfer weight from one side to the other, keeping arms parallel to the floor. Lift head as you shift from side to side.
Fit Ball Walk

Finally let’s look at some strengthening exercises to give you a bit more stamina.

Exercise Procedure Tip
Ball Squat   Place ball against the wall, with your lower back area against the ball. Place your feet out in front of you, hips distance apart. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Return to starting position. Begin 20 – 50 reps with no weight, then add weight as your body adapts. Place feet far enough out that your heels stay on the floor and knees stay over shoelaces. Push fanny back towards wall as you squat down.
Ball Leg Curls Lie on floor with ball under ankles and lower calf.  Lift fanny off the floor and pull the ball towards your fanny. Return to start position. Begin with 3 sets of 10. Progress to 20 reps, then to only using one leg at a time Always keep hips off floor, and lift your hips a bit higher as you pull the ball towards your fanny
Hip Thrusters Lie on your back and place feet flat on the floor close to your butt. Raise hips off floor and return to start position – squeeze butt muscles at the top of the move. Perform 20 – 50 reps. Place your heels up on a fit ball instead of the floor to make this harder.
Leg Curls

Select just a few of the exercises above to get your started then add more as you become proficient with each exercise. I recommend 5 – 10 minutes in the morning and again in the evening.  I hope you find these helpful in your quest for better and more comfortable riding.

Julie Luther is an Exercise Physiologist, corrective exercise specialist, and dynamic flexibility certified personal trainer, as well as an equestrian.  She owns PurEnergy fitness Center is Greensboro, NC, and has been helping folks reach their fitness goals since 1985. You can reach her at and check out her website at


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