How to Get Saddle Fit for a Riding Holiday

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horse riding holiday in Tasmania, Australia

If you’ve signed up for a horse riding holiday, you’re going to want to make sure that your body is saddle fit. Let’s face it: there is nothing worse than being saddle sore from day one of your much-anticipated trip. Of course, there is always a glass of wine and some ibuprofen that will soothe the aches and pains of an evening, BUT it’s not ideal. You don’t want to be gasping with pain whenever you’re in the saddle, or limping around when you’re not.

On the majority of the rides that we offer, you’re expected to be in the saddle for at least four hours a day. And if you’ve signed up for our rides in Namibia, Kenya, Botswana, Mongolia, Catalonia, Iceland, Big Horn USA, Patagonia, Chile or Morocco, you can spend up to seven hours in the saddle, especially on days when you’re moving from one camp to the next. If you’re not riding fit it’s going to affect your enjoyment level. Just think: every trot and canter, you’ll be wincing in pain rather than appreciating your surroundings and your surefooted steed.

So do yourself a favour and put some time into preparing your body for long hours in the saddle.

Clock up as many hours in the saddle as you can

If you’re fortunate enough to have your own horse and are riding two to three times a week in the lead up to your riding holiday, you’re more than prepped. If you have access to a horse, but haven’t ridden for a while, make sure you block out some time on the weekend and mid-week to ride. You’ll need to start a month out from beginning your horse riding adventure.

When in the saddle, make sure you post to the trot for at least seven minutes at a time. And also spend seven minutes or more at a slow canter. If you normally sit in the saddle at a canter, start practising cantering out of the saddle, where you balance on your stirrups with light hands (don’t hang off your horse’s mouth). This helps take the weight off your horse’s back,, which will be a welcome relief for your mount.

I’m very aware that you may have signed up for a Globetrotting holiday despite not having ridden for many years. You love horses and have ridden in the past, but whether it’s your career, money, a young family or your living circumstances, you haven’t had the chance to sit behind two pricked ears for a long time.

I totally get it, and that’s why you’ve booked on a horseback holiday, as you’re desperate to feel the freedom of riding again. Regardless of which ride you’ve signed up for, I strongly urge you to do some riding before your holiday begins. Even if it’s just for a confidence boost, to confirm that yes you can ride, and you love it!

If you’re stuck in a city, there are plenty of riding stables where you can hire a horse or pay for a lesson. I recommend ringing them first and asking what type of riding they offer for intermediate to advanced riders. Ideally, the best training for a riding holiday is trail riding rather than a lesson in an arena.

Off the horse training

I’m a huge advocate of pilates and I’m super fortunate to have a brilliant teacher and studio a ten minute drive from me. Whether it’s a reformer or mat class, both work on your core strength, which is imperative for posting to the trot and cantering. While riding, you engage your upper and lower legs and your biceps to control the horse, and pilates is brilliant for honing in on specific muscle groups while still being low-impact. If you can’t notch up enough hours in the saddle before your riding holiday, I wholeheartedly recommend signing up for a pilates class at least once a week.

Yoga and pilates work in very similar ways to get you fit for horse riding. One of the major benefits unique to yoga is the focus on your ability to maintain deep, steady breathing while your body is working hard. Since horses are SO receptive to our state of mind and body language, being able to keep your breathing and heart rate low and remain physically relaxed and ‘soft’ rather than stiff really does set you up for success. Physically, yoga is especially great for strengthening and opening your hips, promoting correct core posture and working those specific muscle groups (such as your inner thighs!) that are hard to focus on in most other forms of training. This 30-minute yoga practice is a great place to start, whether you’re new to yoga or an old hat.

Do you have any more tips to add? Share them with us in the comments!

For more equestrian workouts you can do at home, check out our other article here.

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