Top 15 Exercises for horseback Riding(And the Problems They Solve)

Horseback riding is a challenging and rewarding sport that can provide a lifetime of enjoyment. However, in order to be successful, you need to be aware of the most common problems riders face and how to solve them. We will cover everything from how to sit in the saddle to exercises you can do on and off the horse! Many people think that horseback riding is simply sitting in the saddle and going for a ride.

However, to be a better rider, you must focus on exercises that help improve your balance and strength. In this article, we will discuss the most common problems riders face and provide solutions for each one! The most common problems riders face can be summarized as follows:

– Poor balance

– Weak muscles

– Difficulty staying in the saddle

– Inability to control the horse

You can further break these problems into specific sections: the hands, legs, and seat riding problems.

Hands

When people start horseback riding, they tend to control the horse with their hands, and while it may feel natural, the opposite is much more effective. The less hand movement you use, the smoother the ride will be. Learn to use your seat and legs to communicate cues, such as “go” and “slow down,” to avoid sophisticated hand movements, such as bending, which could send the wrong signal to the horse.

Here are several hand errors riders make and their solutions:

Problem

Stiff arms or hands. Without elastic and relaxed wrists, elbows, and shoulders, riders fail to follow the horse’s mouth well enough to maintain consistent contact. As a horse walks, it gestures with its head and neck (forward and back motion). If your hand isn’t in rhythm, the horse will pull on the bit when they extend forward, creating loops when the head comes back.

Solution

Separate your hands to around 1.5 feet apart at the walk. Focus on the head and neck movement of the horse (two forward and back motions for every stride at a walk). Keep a steady but light pressure, and be keen to open and close your elbows to follow the horse’s movement. Don’t let the reins snap or droop; keep your legs on either side of the horse to prevent him from stopping or slowing down.

While walking the horse around the ring, make circles and turns, always avoiding any contact between the reign and the horse’s neck. Repeat the same exercise at the canter and the trot. Follow the neck-head gesture with your hands, keeping your elbows and shoulders relaxed.

Ask the ground person or a fellow rider to watch the reins while you ride and tell you if they snap or sag. Once you return to the normal hand position (4 to 5 inches apart), continue following your horse’s motion with your arms.

Problem

Too-strong hands. Too-strong hands can be a problem in horseback riding because they can make it difficult for the horse to move. Too much pressure on the reins sends a signal to the horse that you are trying to control them. This can cause the horse to become resistant and unwilling to move.

Don’t try to enter a pulling match with the horse because the 1200-pound animals always win.

In addition, too much pressure on the reins can also make it difficult for the horse to move naturally, which can affect their performance. In order to be a successful rider, you need to learn how to use your hands effectively without applying too much pressure. You should only use enough pressure on the reins to communicate your desired cue (e.g., “go,” “slow down,” etc.).

Solution

Train yourself to use more sympathetic hands. To start off, hold the reins backward like when people hold reins on driving horses. You’ll have less grip strength making it harder to get in a pulling match with the horse. Ride all gaits apart from a gallop like this to get a good feel of the soft grip you need when riding.

Problem

Bouncy hands. Avoid unnecessary hand movements since they could confuse, distract, or injure the horse.

Solution

Ride while holding a bat (whip) horizontally so that your hands hold each end. This will help you keep a steady line to the horse’s neck.

Problem

Too long reins. When your reins are too long, they prevent you from consistently being in contact with the horse, creating communication gaps.

Solution

Wrap some tape on either rein, marking the ideal section for your hand placement. This technique will help you to quickly locate the area each time to ensure your reins aren’t too long or too short.

Problem

Hands are too wide. Ensure that there’s always a straight line from your elbow to your forearm and the horse reins. If you place your hands wider than 4 or 5 inches apart, you risk breaking the line, reducing the effect you have on the reins.

Solution

To fix this problem, practice riding with a bit in your hand-preferably something with rings but no shanks- for instance, place an eggbutt snaffle or a dee-ring between your hands, with your fingers around the rings. You can use all fingers or just your middle and pointer fingers.

Common Horseback Riding Problems Caused by Legs

Having an educated leg is vital in horseback riding. Fine-tuning the timing and placement of the leg cues helps the horse respond better and makes it so that you don’t have to apply them as hard. Good leg cues also help achieve a more accurate and polished performance.

Problem

Incorrect leg placement. Ideally, you should always put your leg underneath your body to avoid unnecessary stress on the horse. If your legs swing back, your upper body falls forward. If you lean hard enough, you could fall off your horse. Applying a leg cue behind the girth has a specific meaning, such as moving the horse’s hindquarters or the canter.

Once you give an incorrect signal with your dangling feet, you could send conflicting messages. On the other hand, if you swing your legs forward, your upper body will move backward. This will force your legs to come off the side of your horse, making him worry about when they suddenly return. Horses perform better with consistent leg contact and don’t like surprise aids.

Your backward-tipped upper body could also be sending conflicting signals to your horse. You’ll pull the rein, signaling the horse to “slow down” or “stop.” Your seat will also be sending a different message. Your upper body may push the saddle forward, signaling the horse to “go.”

Solution 1

Check the stirrup length. As a rule of thumb, when your legs are out of the stirrups and resting on your horse’s side, the stirrups should be the same height as your ankle. Of course, the ideal stirrup length will vary from person to person.

If your legs keep slipping backward, the stirrups may be too short, and if they tend to slip forward, the stirrups may be too long for you.

If you’re still a junior, regularly check the length and adjust it appropriately as you grow.

Solution 2

Try a counting exercise. Start at a halt in the two-point position, out of the saddle, and with your weight well-balanced over your heels and legs. This exercise is excellent for improving balance and getting you in the proper riding position while strengthening your back and hamstrings.

Grab your horse’s mane to help with balance, then slowly count to four while standing from the saddle.

Press the balls of your feet on the stirrup bars while straightening your ankle, knee, and hip angles. Rhythmically count to four as you slowly lower your weight onto your heels and return to the two-point position. After this:

  1. Count to four while lowering your chest to the horse’s neck.
  2. Extend your forearms forward, parallel to the crest, towards the horse’s ears.
  3. Ensure you maintain secure footing underneath your hips to avoid falling on the horse.
  4. Ensure you bend your hips instead of your spine to avoid injury or fatigue.
  5. Count to four again, raising your body back into the two-point riding position.
  6. Throughout the exercise, aim to be smooth and not yank the horse’s mouth since it could cause a change in position.

Repeat this exercise severally and then adopt it at the walk, canter, and trot if you feel comfortable. Once you’re confident, play with the counting speed, sometimes counting faster or slower. Some advanced riders can finish the exercise at the canter, counting in rhythm with the horse’s strides.

Solution 3

Try different posting exercises to effectively test body control to help you improve while also learning proper leg positions. At the trot, constantly alter the posting sequence to change diagonals each stride. Start by sitting for two strides and rising for one. Try this multiple times until you get the hang of it.

This will help train your body not to be ahead of the horse’s movement. Next, try rising from the saddle for two strides and sitting for one. This teaches you not to fall behind the horse’s motion.

Problem

The horse fails to be responsive to leg cues. This issue can arise from the horse’s laziness or general lack of respect for its rider. A horse might fail to respect the rider if they use nagging leg aids or overuse the spurs. The most significant sign of spur abuse is a mark on the horse’s side where the rider rubs hair off with the spur.

Solution

Once you overuse a particular cue, especially when it’s not necessary or used wrongly, you could desensitize the horse. The horse might get a conflicting signal from the cue or generally fail to listen to the command. You might have to change tactics and use a different method to resensitize them. You can ride using a whip if your horse is desensitized to spurs.

Ensure that the horse is comfortable with the whip before starting this exercise. Start kicking or gently pressing your legs on either side when you want him to move forward. If he does not respond, use the whip behind the leg while clucking your tongue. There must be a relation between the whip and your cluck; otherwise, you may have difficulty riding once you do away with the whip.

If the horse responds, return to using the milder leg cue when you ask him to move forward. This will provide an opportunity to gauge whether he has learned the command. However, be prepared to cluck and use the whip if he fails to move promptly.

Remember that training isn’t an overnight feat. You may have to repeat this exercise for a few days or weeks before he can consistently listen to a normal cue.

Common Problems You May Encounter From Poor Seating Habits

Problem

Too much rein and insufficient seat cues. Making downward transitions should always be a combination of hand and seat cues. However, the seat should ways be the primary driver. If you can’t effectively make the trot-to-walk transition without heavy rein use, you need some work on your seat.

Solution

Start at a posting trot, sit a bit higher, and try slowing your post slightly. With each horse’s stride, sit a bit longer in the saddle and maintain consistent contact with the horse’s sides. After multiple strides, if he shows no signs of slowing down, add some rein pressure to bring him to a walking gait.

You can choose to add a verbal cue such as “whoa” or “walk.” Repeat this severally, always starting with the seat and then your reins until he learns to respond to the seat only.

Problem

Too much two-point position riding. Two-point is always great for improving balance and strengthening your legs, but it doesn’t help you develop your seat skills.

Solution

Learn to ride without stirrups. You will force your body to adapt without them to press against and balance. You’ll learn to shift your weight effectively, influencing your horse.

Problem

Too much driving seat. The driving seat is where the rider leans forward, often with their elbows out and heels down, to cue the horse to move forward. It’s a good tool on a spooky horse or when your horse is approaching a slightly difficult jump. However, the driving seat is penalized in the jumper/hunter ring because it shows you don’t trust your horse.

Solution

Use leg exercises geared at helping your horse respond to cluck and leg aids.

Can Rider Exercises Help Horse Performance?

Simply put, yes, you can solve each of these problems by practicing specific rider exercises as well. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Squats

Poor balance is one of the biggest problems riders face. This can be due to a lack of strength or coordination. One way to improve your balance is to practice squats. The squat is an essential exercise that works your entire body, including your core and legs. To do a squat

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Slowly lower your body towards the ground while keeping your back straight and your chest and head up.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then slowly raise yourself back to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times.

Pilates Cadillac

Pilates Cadillac is another great exercise for improving balance. This piece of equipment is designed to help you build strength and flexibility. It looks like a large X, with straps hanging down from the top bar. To use the Cadillac,

  • Lie on your back with your head hanging off the edge.
  • Place your hands on the straps and pull yourself up until your shoulders are off the ground.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then lower yourself back down. Repeat 10-15 times.

Crunches

You need to strengthen your core muscles if you are having trouble staying in the saddle. The best way to do this is by doing crunches on an exercise ball. To do a crunch on an exercise ball,

  • Lie on your back with the ball positioned under your midsection.
  • Place your hands behind your head and curl up until your shoulder blades are off the ground.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then lower yourself back down. Repeat 10-15 times.

Lateral Bridging

To control a horse, you need to be able to stay in the saddle and move with the horse’s movements. One way to improve your stability is by practicing lateral bridging exercises on an exercise ball. To do this exercise,

  • Lie on your side with the ball positioned under your waistline.
  • Brace your abs and hips and lift your body off the ball until only your forearm and feet touch it.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then lower yourself back down. Repeat 10-15 times per side.

Albatross

To stay in the saddle, you can also try albatross physical therapy. Albatross physical therapy is a technique that helps you stay in the saddle. It involves

  • Lying flat on your back
  • Raising your legs and hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then lower yourself back down. Repeat 10-15 times.

Albatross physical therapy can help horseback riders stay in the saddle by strengthening their hips and abdominal muscles. It can also help improve their balance and coordination.

You could also try the horse stance to enhance your balance and coordination.

Horse Stance

The horse stance is an essential stretching exercise by placing your knees and palms on the ground. You should

  • Align the forearms to your shoulders and knees to the hips.
  • While maintaining a straight back, lift the right arm and left leg simultaneously and stretch
  • Redo the step with the opposite arm and leg.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute or as long as you are comfortable.

The horse stance can help riders stay in the saddle and improve their balance and coordination. It is also a good exercise for strengthening your abdominal muscles.

Lat Pulldown

If you are having difficulty controlling the horse, you may need to practice exercises that improve strength and flexibility in your upper body. One such exercise is the lat pulldown. To do a lat pulldown

  • Sit on a lat pulldown machine with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Grasp the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and pull it down to your chest.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then slowly return the bar to the starting position. Repeat 12-15 times.

Superman Extensions

Superman extensions are a great way to improve strength and flexibility in your lower back. The exercise is popular because it targets many more areas, including the glutes, abs, and obliques. To do a superman extension:

  • Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs stretched out in front of you.
  • Slowly lift your head, arms, and legs off the ground.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then lower them back down. Repeat 10-15 times.

Push-ups

Push-ups are a fundamental bodyweight exercise that works the chest, shoulders, and triceps. They are a great exercise because they are simple to learn and can be done anywhere. Riders should do push-ups to improve their strength and stability in the saddle. Push-ups can be done in various ways to target different areas of the rider’s body.

  • Standard push-ups work the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
  • Diamond push-ups work the triceps and inner chest.
  • Wide grip push-ups work the chest and shoulders.
  • Clapping push-ups work the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
  • Spiderman push-ups work the chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs.
  • Renegade row push-ups work the chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs.

Riders can also do plyometric push-ups to improve their explosiveness and power. Plyometric push-ups involve:

  • Doing a standard push-up.
  • Jumping off the ground.
  • Landing with your hands in the air.
  • Repeat as many times as possible in 20 seconds.

Push-ups are an excellent horse rider exercise because they improve strength and stability in the saddle. They can be done in a variety of ways to target different areas of the body, making them an ideal exercise for riders. Many other exercises can help improve your horseback riding skills.

These are just a few of riders’ most common problems, and some exercises can help solve them. By practicing these exercises regularly, you will see a significant improvement in your riding skills.

Calf raises

Calf raises are an excellent exercise for horseback riders because they improve strength and stability in the saddle. They are popular because they help improve ankle strength. They can be done in a variety of ways to target different areas of the body, making them an ideal exercise for riders. They simulate standing on the balls of the feet on the stirrups, which directly impacts the rider’s progress. There are many different variations of calf raises that riders can do to improve their strength and stability.

The basic calf raise is done by standing with your feet hip-width apart and raising your heels off the ground. You should focus on raising your heels as high as possible before lowering them back down. Repeat 10-15 times.

To increase the difficulty of this exercise, you can do single-leg calf raises. To do a single-leg calf raise, stand on one foot and raise your heel off the ground. Hold for a few seconds, then lower it back down. Repeat 10-15 times before switching legs.

Another variation of the calf raise is the seated calf raise. To do a seated calf raise, sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Raise your heels off the ground, then lower them back down. Repeat 10-15 times.

The seated calf raise is a good exercise for riders because it strengthens the muscles around the ankle, which can help keep you in the saddle longer. Riders can also do standing calf raises on top of a step or box to increase the difficulty of the exercise. By doing a variety of calf raises, riders can target all areas of their calves which will help improve their strength and stability while riding.

Glute Kickbacks

Glute kickbacks are an outstanding horse rider exercise because they improve strength and stability in the saddle. They are popular because they help improve glute strength. They can be done in a variety of ways to target different areas of the body, making them an ideal exercise for riders. There are many different variations of glute kickbacks that riders can do to improve their strength and stability.

The basic glute kickback is done by lying on your stomach on the ground with your feet together.

Raise your legs into the air, then lower them back down. Repeat 10-15 times.

To increase the difficulty of this exercise, you can do single-leg glute kickbacks. Stand on one foot and raise your leg to do a single-leg glute kickback. Hold for a few seconds, then lower it back down. Repeat 10-15 times before switching legs.

Another variation of the glute kickback is the kneeling glute kickback. To do a kneeling glute kickback, kneel on the ground with your feet together. Raise your legs into the air, then lower them back down. Repeat 10-15 times.

The kneeling glute kickback is a good exercise for riders because it strengthens the muscles around the hip which can help keep you in the saddle longer. Riders can also do standing glute kickbacks to increase the difficulty of the exercise. By doing a variety of glute kickbacks, riders can target all areas of their glutes to help improve their strength.

Bicycle Crunches

Bicycle crunches are also an excellent exercise for horseback riders because they improve strength and stability in the saddle. They are popular because they help improve abdominal strength. They can be done in a variety of ways to target different areas of the body, making them an ideal exercise for riders. Riders can do many different variations of bicycle crunches to improve their strength and stability.

The basic bicycle crunch is done by lying on your back on the ground with your hands behind your head. Raise your legs off the ground, then bring your left elbow and right knee together. Switch legs and bring your right elbow and left knee together. Repeat 10-15 times.

To increase the difficulty of this exercise, you can do single-leg bicycle crunches. To do a single-leg bicycle crunch, lie on one side with your legs bent and raise your top leg into the air.

Bring your bottom elbow and top knee together, then switch sides. Repeat 10-15 times.

Another variation of the bicycle crunch is the seated bicycle crunch. To do a seated bicycle crunch, sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Lean back slightly and raise your legs off the ground. Bring your left elbow and right knee together, switch legs and bring your right elbow and left knee together. Repeat 10-15 times.

The seated bicycle crunch is a good exercise for riders because it strengthens the muscles around the abdominal area, which can help keep you in the saddle longer. Riders can also do standing bicycle crunches to increase the difficulty of the exercise. By doing various bicycle crunches, riders can target all areas of their abdominals to help improve their strength.

Bridge Glute Lifts

Bridge glute lifts are also great for horseback riders because they help improve their strength and stability. They are popular because they help improve glute strength. They can be done in a variety of ways to target different areas of the body, making them an ideal exercise for riders.

Riders can do many different variations of bridge glute lifts to improve their strength and stability.

The basic bridge glute lift is done by lying on your back with your feet flat on the ground and your legs bent. Raise your hips into the air, then lower them back down. Repeat 10-15 times.

To increase the difficulty of this exercise, you can do single-leg bridge glute lifts. To do a single-leg bridge lift, raise one leg into the air while keeping your other leg bent.

Hold for a few seconds, then lower it back down. Repeat 10-15 times before switching legs.

Another variation of the bridge glute lift is the reverse bridge glute lift. To do a reverse bridge glute lift, lie on your stomach on the ground with your feet together. Raise your legs into the air, then lower them back down. Repeat 10-15 times.

The reverse bridge glute lift is a good exercise for riders because it strengthens the muscles around the hip, which can help keep you in the saddle longer. Riders can also do elevated bridge glute lifts to increase the difficulty of the exercise.

Skipping

Skipping rope is also an alternative to strengthening the legs of horseback riders. Skipping improves the coordination between the legs and the arms, which can benefit riders.

It also helps improve the rider’s sense of balance. Skipping rope is a good exercise for horseback riders because it helps them become more coordinated and balanced.

To skip rope, start by standing on one foot and holding the rope in both hands. Swing the rope over your head, then jump as the rope swings under your feet. Land on the balls of your feet and repeat. Do this for 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.

Riders can also do double-leg skips to increase the difficulty of the exercise. Horseback riders can also do side-to-side skips to improve their coordination. To do a side-to-side skip, start by standing on one foot and holding the rope in both hands. Swing the rope over your head, then jump to the side as the rope swings under your feet. Land on the balls of your feet and repeat. Do this for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.

Rope Climbing

Rope climbing is another excellent exercise for horseback riders because it helps improve their balance and coordination. It is also an excellent upper-body workout. To rope climb, start by standing on one foot and holding the rope in both hands. Swing the rope over your head, then jump up and grab the rope with your hands.

Climb up the rope until your feet are off the ground. Hold for a few seconds, then lower yourself back down. Repeat this for 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.

Frequently Asked Questions Horseback Riding

What are the best exercises for horseback riding?

The best horseback riding exercises improve strength and flexibility in your upper body, core muscles, and hips. Exercises such as the lat pulldown, plank, crunch on an exercise ball, and lateral bridging are great options. These exercises will help you stay in the saddle and control the horse.

How can I improve my balance on a horse?

There are a few things you can do to improve your balance on a horse. One is to practice lateral bridging exercises on an exercise ball. These exercises will help strengthen your hips and abdominal muscles, improving your balance and coordination.

You can also try the horse stance, an essential stretching routine done by placing your knees and palms on the ground. By practicing these exercises regularly, you will see a significant improvement in your balance while riding.

What are some good stretches for horseback riders?

There are many good stretches for horseback riders. One such stretch is the lat pulldown. To do a lat pulldown:

  1. Sit on a lat pulldown machine with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Grasp the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and pull it down to your chest.
  3. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly return the bar to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 12-15 times.

The lat pulldown is a great stretch for horseback riders because it strengthens the muscles in their upper body. Additionally, horseback riders can try shoulder shrugs, which help to loosen up their neck and shoulder muscles. To do shoulder shrugs:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and let your arms hang at your sides.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your shoulders as high as possible.
  3. Hold for a few seconds, then release.
  4. Repeat 10-15 times.

Shoulder shrugs are a great way to loosen up the muscles in the neck and shoulders, which can often get tight from riding. They also help improve strength and flexibility in these areas.

Quad stretches and yoga poses such as the spinal twist and warrior pose are also excellent choices for stretching.

What are the horse stance benefits?

Consistent training will help develop internal energy. The horse stance benefits also include offering mental clarity and helps improve the overall rider posture. As the posture improves, the rider can quickly transfer their weight effectively for an easier time on the horse.

Is albatross physical therapy good?

Consistent albatross physical therapy can help improve the rider’s posture. However, this technique should not be used as a standalone exercise to allow the rider to progress. Instead, it should be used as a support exercise for the rider’s well-being.

Should I Start Exercises Before Consulting a Professional?

If you are having difficulty with any aspect of horseback riding, don’t hesitate to seek out help from a qualified instructor. They can assess your skills and give you specific exercises to improve the areas you are struggling with. With a bit of practice, you will be an accomplished rider in no time!