Horseback riding is not the first thing you think of when you think of physical fitness regimes. People run or swim or do spin classes to get fit. Seldom do we think about what it takes-physically- to ride a horse. In fact, I cannot tell you the number of times that Lauren and I have argued with people in this town about horseback riding being a sport. It started with her physical education department at her high school.
Other school districts in the Houston area, acknowledged that horseback riding was a form of physical fitness and allowed students to do horseback riding as an offsite PE credit for their high school program. Not in El Campo, Texas was that acceptable. In fact, at the time Lauren had qualified for the USEF Emerging Athlete Program (EAP)- a national program led by former Olympic medalists and she was hoping to attend a college and qualify to ride on a NCAA Equestrian Team. But the answer in El Campo was still no. It may be a sport at colleges throughout the US but horseback riding was not a sport in little town Texas. I would challenge anyone who feels horseback riding is not something that requires athleticism and physical fitness to try to ride Mickey through a three-foot course. Good luck with that!
One of my favorite examples of riding requiring physical fitness was when one of Dianne’s riders that had ridden successfully as a youth decided to return to the show ring as an adult. John was a good and competent rider as a youth. He was riding a strong thoroughbred named Dolan donated for Dianne’s use by Dr. Lynn Criner. I remember John heading into the ring for his first round over fences. His jacket didn’t quite button anymore (and whose idea was it to ride horses in a jacket and tie?). Several years of smoking had reduced his lung power more than a little bit. Dolan took off at a quick pace, galloping to each jump and clearing them easily. After eight jumps, John headed out of the ring gasping for breath. He had stayed with Dolan but he was breathing hard and his color was not so good.
By the time John completed his third round over fences, he said he wanted to die. The jacket was completely unbuttoned, the tie was askew and John could have used oxygen. Really. It took a physically fit man to ride the big thoroughbred through his paces and John was not it. He was not physically conditioned to go along for the ride he had taken. I was vastly amused by John’s problems that day-but I could not have done any better.
Ally, four months post-baby delivery came out tonight to start her version of get fit while riding at Granny’s farm. Granny was watching Kendyll and Ally was back in the saddle. It was a windy and cool day but Ally still got in about 45 minutes of serious riding. It is said that riding improves the core muscles (those often slack after baby delivery), it helps tone the inner and outer thighs, improves posture and cardio-vascular fitness. It was fun to have all the girls (Lauren, Ally and Jo) saddled up and in the ring. It has been too long.
Still, there is little doubt that Ally will be walking carefully tomorrow. Those muscles that have not been engaged in some time will be yelling out about how they feel. Ask Ally if horseback riding requires physical fitness tomorrow, but stand back because she may come at you, swinging!
I may be on to something though and could start post-baby “recover your old body through horseback riding class”. I will let you know if I can get any takers. In the meantime, Ally will be back next week for another go with Feather.