Completing a cross-country course is not only hard work for your horse, but for you too. It is therefore vital that you think about your own fitness level, as well as the horse.

If you are tired and unfit you will find it harder to present your horse correctly to a fence and ask what you want of him, therefore risking faults. You should aim to work on your cross-country position at home and ride at hunter trial speed, ensuring that you keep a controlled, consistent rhythm and balance over different terrain.

These tips should help get you on your way to peak fitness:

Fitness tips

  • To improve your fitness and rapport with your horse try putting your stirrups up two or more holes than usual and practice stopping, starting and turning in open spaces. You should be able to retain a controlled canter for over five minutes and your horse should stop blowing within 10 minutes… you shouldn’t be exhausted either. This can be built up over time
  • Riding with your stirrups shorter than your usual jumping length will help to improve your lower leg position and encourage a deeper, more secure position
  • Try and adopt your cross-country position as often as you can. It will help improve your balance and co-ordination and strengthen your leg and lower back muscles
  • Always wear a body protector, even if you’re just schooling or hacking. If you wear it at home over the summer you’ll get used to the excess heat it creates, ready for when you compete
  • If you only ride a few times each week, you should also partake in another form of aerobic activity. This should raise your heart rate and ensure that you are fit enough for competition riding
  • Try to exercise at least three times a week, for 20 minutes at a time. This is especially important if you have an office job, or aren’t very active at work. You could join a gym, cycle to work, go swimming or go for regular walks
  • If you want some extra advice you could ask a Personal Trainer at a local gym to draw you up a fitness plan – these inductions are usually free when you join the gym so you don’t have to follow them up with PT sessions if time/funds don’t allow
  • Pilates for riders is also proving popular. Joining a Pilates class will help improve your core strength
  • Eat well – we spend a lot of time deliberating over what to feed our horses, but it is just as important that we eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Cut down on the drink. Yes, we all love a bottle of wine, but this might not be the best idea before, or when training for an event
  • If you’re a smoker, quit! Smoking is detrimental to your health and fitness
  • Generally speaking, the fitter and stronger you are, the easier it will be to get the best out of your horse, so keep it up!

Feeling fit? Search Equo’s upcoming events and enter them quickly and easily at www.equoevents.com