Horseback riding is a strenuous workout. As your horse moves, you work along with it by engaging muscles in your upper and lower body as well as your core. But to achieve the ride, you first have to get in the saddle -- a challenge in and of itself. Before you step into the stirrup, prepare your body by building strong muscles that will help you step up and pull yourself onto your beast’s back. Then let the real workout begin.
Getting into a saddle involves putting your foot into a stirrup and using your leg strength to essentially step up onto the horse. To prepare your lower body for action, do strength training exercises that mimic the motion. Squats, step-ups, leg presses and walking lunges work the essential muscles of your quads, glutes and hamstrings that allow you to boost your body up and into position.
A strong upper body helps you pull yourself up as you mount the horse. Grabbing the saddle horn and the cantle, you recruit the muscles of your back, shoulders and chest as you lift your body. Pushups, lat pulls, dumbbell rows, dips and bench presses work these essential muscles, and you can get additional power by working your biceps and triceps with curls and extensions.
You may not realize it, but your abs play a role in the hoisting movement, too. They help your upper and lower body work together while supplying power for the lift. Work your abs with planks and side planks for both strength and stability and add stability ball crunches, hanging leg curls and double crunches to build strong muscles that enable you to pop off the ground and into the saddle.
Tips and Considerations
Building strong muscles will not only help you get into the saddle, but also help you become a better equestrian. Handling a horse and riding properly involves maintaining proper posture, controlling the reins and using your legs to keep from bouncing around, which is painful and distracting for both you and the animal. If you are a novice at riding, take lessons from a seasoned veteran who can show you how to ride correctly and treat your horse with respect and care.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.