Are Equestrians Athletes?

Ask that question to the majority of equestrians and they will give you the evil eye like you just asked a democrat if they like Donald Trump.  We can’t deny that the horse itself is an athlete.  It works out 4, 5, 6, sometimes even 7 times a week.  Some horses even do two a days.  Their nutrition is on par with Lance Armstrong.  Not to mention therapy, massages, acupuncture, proper shoeing and regular visits with a veterinarian just to make sure they don’t need a ‘tune up.’

So let me ask you this, equestrians:  When was the last time you went to the doctor?  The dentist?  Do you have your own therapy program to ensure your muscles don’t get too tight, causing you to overcompensate with other parts of your body?  More importantly, what do you eat?  When was the last time you set foot in a gym?

We ask so much of our horses then turn around and neglect ourselves, ignoring the pain in our backs or hips, eating processed foods caked in sugar, binge drinking, not getting enough sleep and telling ourselves we don’t have time to work out, or we are too tired.   (I would love to be there when someone tells George Morris they don’t work out because they don’t have time.) How can you ask an animal, who’s origin is a field of grass without a fence in sight and the freedom to eat, sleep and play at will, to stick to a strict regimen of work and little turnout when you can’t even do it yourself?  Better yet, how are you supposed to know how your horse feels when you ask it to do pirouette after pirouette, or jump after jump?  Do you know the effect taking just one week off from exercise has on your body?  Do you know how it feels to start working a part of your body that has just come back from an injury? Do you know how awkward it feels to learn a new exercise? Do you know the feeling of not being able to sit down on the toilet after leg day?  Well your horse does.  And he can’t always tell you he’s sore.  He can’t whine about how much it hurts.  He can’t always just give up. Because what happens when he does??

Now I know that this does not apply to every equestrian out there.  When I was working in a gym I saw many equestrians regularly.  George Morris, Anne Kursinski, Endel Ots.  They are some of the busiest equestrians out there and they manage to make exercise a priority.  They are taking care of their bodies because they want to perform at their best.  THIS is what real athletes do.  Just like you make your horse’s health a priority, so should you look after yourself.  Not only for performance reasons, but for discipline.  Because if you can’t discipline yourself enough to take care of your own body, how are you supposed to compete with those who do?


So let me ask you again.  Are YOU an athlete?
I wrote this blog over a year ago on another site I no longer maintain. I love the content and wanted to share it again. 

14 thoughts on “Are Equestrians Athletes?

  1. I go to the gym three or four times a week. I have to. It is the only way I can be fit enough to ride. I’m a senior citizen and I have to work at it to keep fit. I think that if I get tired while riding then I will be making mistakes and my horse will be confused and he will make mistakes and whose fault is that? Mine. So fitness and keeping the joints supple and body fit enough is a priority. Thanks for this post and your good question.

  2. To be honest, I haven’t visited the gym in some years now! But I have started to jog to the stable(takes a 15 minute walk). It’s not much, but it is a start! I am definitely not an athlete, but my horse is!

  3. I regularly jog, take the dogs for a LONG walk or then ‘work out’ at home and every 2 months I go to the chiropractor who sorts out my upper body. I also consider mucking out and all the other stable jobs for 4 horses every morning to count as exercise!

  4. I definitely do not consider myself an athlete and will often chastise myself for not exercising outside the barn. This is something I plan on changing when school starts up again. I’m not just saying it this time. I really want to be in better shape so I can be a better rider.

      1. It took me a while to get myself to start working out. I had a trainer when I was younger who always told me I needed to go to the gym. Not because I was fat, but because I was out of shape and it was holding me back. I really wasn’t that out of shape. I could handle 30 minutes of cardio easy. But to be the best me? I needed to work harder. When I finally started working out, I became an addict. I even became a certified personal trainer so I could help others become their best. You never know what is possible until you try!

  5. I’m so glad you shared this. I just started doing exercise in the gym this past year and had NO idea how weak I was, how it feels to have your stamina pushed, and how much exercise improves coordination. On-point.

  6. I definitely agree with all of the above- I myself do not exercise enough away from the horses so I’ve had to start up a strengthening program for myself to get stronger so I can ride better!

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