As equestrians, we expect our horses to perform at their best. We typically help them perform to their full potential by exercising them, catering workouts to meet their particular needs. Obviously, some horses are more talented in certain areas than others, but learning what your horse's strengths and weaknesses are will help you determine what kind of workout they need.
While this is a necessary part of "training" in your chosen discipline, we tend to forget ourselves! I am particularly guilty of this because I really don't like "working out". I brushed it off by thinking things like "why bother working out besides doing my riding exercises? I'm only ever going to be riding I'm not running any marathons". I could not have been more wrong. Once I realized how much my own fitness affects my riding ability, and thus my horse's performance, my perspective of how to train shifted. I had been working on balancing Moxie at the canter, without even considering that perhaps my own lack of balance was affecting her. So, I started working on my own balance.
Yoga had always been something I wanted to try, and it seemed to me a good way to start since many poses require a great amount of balance. I found some flows (yoga sequences) on YouTube and started practicing at home. With starting yoga, I was forced to become more connected to my body and how certain things felt "off". I noticed that my hips and chest were very tight, so I did hip and chest opening flows and, let me tell you, I was SO stiff I could hardly do the poses. I had no idea how limited I was until I pushed myself to try these new poses! But every time I did the flows I got a little bit of a deeper stretch, and slowly but surely I was able to do all the poses.
Not only was I feeling better about myself, but my rides were suddenly becoming much more pleasant. Instead of fighting with Moxie for balance, she was carrying herself (and me) better. We weren't at risk of skidding out as we cantered around corners!
Just like our horses, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I know I have weak shoulders and back, and very tight hips, chest, and calves, so I do strengthening and stretching of those areas and I've seen big improvements even with my minimal effort. Yoga inversions (poses where you are upside down) have been an absolutely perfect fit for me, as they work on core and upper body strength, as well as balance.
So, when you're trying to figure out the best regimen for your horse partner, don't forget to consider yourself as having a stake in your fitness as a team. Consider things that might be hindering your riding ability, and brainstorm ways to address them. Lastly, find something that you enjoy doing and that you will stick to; we're looking for progress, not perfection. If you don't like running, then don't run! There are so many other ways to get your workout in. Besides yoga, I like to dance to the Pandora cardio radio station while I clean/get ready for bed/just because 😉
Exercising for just the health benefits wasn't enough motivation for me to do it, but adding horses to the equation was more than enough to keep me on track. It's not about losing weight, though sometimes that can help with balance and overall exercise tolerance. It's not even about being able to run so many miles in so many minutes or being able to lift so many pounds. It's about being healthy and being the best that we can be to help our horse friends be the best that they can be!