Most sports require their athletes to cross train in their off time. Horseback riders have hardly any free time to incorporate extra fitness after all the barn chores are done. Between grooming the horse, mucking the stalls, cleaning tack and the time in the saddle, most riders are in need of a drink rather than more physical exercise. Cross training is a priority often overlooked by the riding athlete.
Finding the time to train off the horse is needed to keep the body physically sound. Without conditioning ourselves for riding a horse, the body breaks down. This is why after a long day, resting is more appealing than a workout. Regardless of how your day goes, the most important thing for everyone to remember is our body needs strength as well as rest. Riding does not strengthen the body how you imagine it would. Instead the act of riding a horse challenges a persons entire eternal core. Muscles get used rather than built up!
Take 20-30 minutes a couple days a week and just workout natural muscle recruitment. If you wait until the end of the day, more than likely you will be too tired to get anything great accomplished. Instead find time in the morning before you get on the horse and go through a bunch of body weight exercises. Open up your full range of motion and allow your body to start warming up prior to getting on the horse. After a couple of weeks, you should find this becomes as routine as drinking that cup of coffee in the morning.
When your mornings are all booked up, try to do a little workout after you ride. Taking the time to do an active recovery workout helps the body stay elastic. After you ride, muscles are shorter. Doing a little extra when you get done riding, trains the muscles to work longer. Cross train your body for better performance in the saddle.