As part of my job as assistant editor, I help to manage the Horse&Rider Facebook page.
Recently, I asked our fans what other sports/activities they do (other than riding) and how those activities affect their riding.
Here were a few of their answers:
Jessica Hughes: Ballet. It strengthens the whole body, gives you total body control and awareness, and provides you with stellar posture in the saddle.
Tanya Ilene BuBrul: I like to run and stretch. It's just as important for the rider to stay in shape as the horse. It helps the horses' backs when they're not carrying as much weight. I also do yoga, which helps with my balance in the saddle.
Nicole Whitehose: I go running and hiking with my crazy dog. Keeps my overall fitness up and my legs strong.
April Fingerlos: Dog obedience and rally. The dogs are handled on the left, whereas my showmanship horse is handled on the right. This builds attention and posture on both sides of my body, and tells me when I'm dipping shoulders or leaning one way or the other. I come out more balanced for either event.
Carl Gardener: I played rugby all through college. It helps me fly through the air and land on my feet, as well as shoulder-tackle small horses into trailers.
A couple of months ago, I started taking kickboxing and mixed martial arts classes, and I hadn't given too much thought to their affect on my riding.
Two weeks ago, I met some local horse people, and they were nice enough to let me ride.
Looking back, I'm surprised at how easy it was for me stay balanced and in complete synch with the mare's rhythm---particularly because it's been a few months since I've been on a horse. Riding in synch with a horse's lope is something I struggled with while living in Texas. My reining trainer used to say I was riding too proper, too uptight, and that I just need to relax.
Also, I've never been a particularly limber or flexible person (not even in high school when I was involved in sports and dance). It's a bit embarrassing to admit, but mounting without a mounting block has always been a challenge for me. (Cut me a little slack though, I am quite short!)
However, two weeks ago, I stepped up on that mare as though I'd been mounting up effortlessly all my life. I was in the saddle before I realized, "Wow, that was a lot easier than usual."
I can't help but credit these effects to my taking the classes and newfound desire for fitness. I feel better. I look better. I ride better.
And I can't help but think that my new friends' horses are very appreciative of me dropping a few pounds, too!
Have you noticed any changes in your riding abilities because you were more fit?