Tag Archives: Rider Fitness Tips

Have you fallen in love? Top tips for the small rider with a big horse


Horse Scout blogger was pondering this question.  I am tall and quite strong , I run and do a fair amount of core training.  I also have very long legs! I was thinking how this affected what sort of horse I would search for if I was looking for horses for sale. More importantly what happens when a petite person falls in love with a horse which, on the face of it, looks as if he is going to be “just too big”

Having a horse which is large doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be ridden by a large or strong person. They do, however, take much longer to become strong in themselves, so training will take proportionately longer. As your horse becomes stronger he will be able to carry himself better and become easier to ride. A fit, fully trained large horse should not, in practice, be any more effort to ride than a smaller one.

BUT: it would pay a smaller rider in dividends to be as physically stable and strong as they can be, not to force the horse in any way but to hold the movements, contain the power of the horse through a matched core strength. If you are strong you will ride the very best your ability allows….but better!

Being able to hold yourself athletically and cardially fit will allow you to sit big movements without tension. With fitness comes suppleness and being supple will allow you to absorb the movement through your own agility.

If you are looking to the long term future of this large horse you cannot rush his developmental or re-training and you definitely cannot force him into an outline. You need to focus entirely on steady progress towards self carriage.

On a large horse, as with any other, it is the quality of the movement that you are looking for. Really concentrate on setting up a movement, that means every corner, every transition with correctly executed half halts, and correct aids. Use every opportunity to encourage the horse to carry himself correctly and you will be on the road to building in the vital strength he needs to carry himself. Initially he will tire pretty quickly (and so may you) make sure you build in a good warm up and warm down routine and let him stretch and ride him long and low between exercises.

Keep all movements big to start with, start with 20 meter circles and only gradually reduce the size. Give him every chance to keep himself in balance. Do half circles loops back to the long side, two loop 20 then 15 meter circles will help shorten him and so will inward spirals on a circle using shallow lateral movements and changes of directions. Use corners as 15 meter circle quarters and work down to 10 meter circle quarters. On the long sides use gentle lateral movements and use these to move into a circle. Look for quality not quantity.

Simple pole work exercises will help strengthen and elevate paces and add variety. Keeping a horse interested (not confused) is key to progress. Follow routines i.e. warm up, train, warm down, but add variety within that program.

If you find the quality of the movements is degrading as your session goes on, stop, let him relax, rest and stretch. Start again and ask for something which he can perform well even when he is tired then call it a day and go for a stroll if he has not been out for long.

Grooming will help sooth tired muscles and help build your relationship with him. Work to a scheduled schooling program and build in time to allow him to let his hair down.

I think that if you are petite it does not preclude you from buying a larger horse, but it does mean you need to take account of your own fitness and that of the horse. Take your time. Seek professional help to make sure progress is on target and that you are being consistent. Horse Scout has a wonderful list of trainers in every sector: Showing, Endurance, Eventing, Showjumping and Dressage so take a look and find someone fantastic to help you with your lovely big horse. Click here to find your perfect trainer





How many easter eggs affect your riding? ….. far fewer than horse scout blogger ate!


Well I suspect that Easter Eggs have featured strongly in all our diets over this holiday weekend. Something Horse Scout Blogger has to confess to…..yes a whole pack of Cabury’s Cream Eggs; even that last one which I really really knew I didn’t need. So its back on the training regime from today.

When it comes to nutrition, riders’ equine partners get the better deal, than their professional trainers. Equestrians view food as fuel for their horses’ well-being and performance, a view they don’t always extend to themselves. Look at how we treat our horses, they get the best feed and supplements. We need to take as good care of ourselves as we do our horses … In general our number one value of food is based on calories and we need to view food as fuel for our bodies.

Here are six top tips for staying fit, getting strong and performing well:

1. Mix it up: It takes a combination of carbohydrates, protein and fats to feed a body well. But concerns over calories often overshadow good common food sense. It’s important to ask the right questions, then choose the right foods. “Don’t ask, ‘How many calories?’ Ask, ‘Is it good for me?’” McAllister advises.

2. Be balanced: Carbs found in whole grains; proteins found in low-fat cheeses, egg whites and lean meats; and fats found in fish such as salmon and sardines all work in concert to create a healthy diet — but only if their intake is balanced.”The brain requires fuel in the form of glucose, and carbohydrates provide an easily accessible supply of glucose,” McAllister says, but the right type of carbs are important. “Instead of carb-loading with sugary foods, have a piece of whole grain bread with an egg white omelet or with a piece of low-fat ham or turkey and cheese,” she suggests. “If you add protein with carbs, you’ll stay fuller longer.”

3. Pick fruits and veggies: Salads, fresh vegetables and fruit all play a part in a balanced diet. The trick is having them on hand as an alternative to salty or sugary snacks. McAllister recommends keeping a pre-mixed salad in the fridge, and a bowl of fresh fruit in plain sight.

4. Think small: Three meals a day might be the traditional standard, but over-indulging at any one of them, or staving off between-meal hunger with quick-fix snacks packs on pounds. Instead, McAllister recommends eating several small meals throughout the day to prevent hunger and out-of-control snacking.

5. Be prepared: Snacking isn’t a bad thing, especially after a workout or a ride. The trick is choosing healthy snacks and having them handy when hunger strikes. “Always keep nuts or fruit in your car or your bag to munch on when you get hungry,” McAllister says. “And always stay hydrated, preferably with water.”

6. Drink smart: Water really is the best way to stay hydrated. It will quench thirst without adding calories. Sports drinks are also an option, but only under specific circumstances. “Save sports drinks for occasions when you’ve had strenuous activity, or if you’re working out or riding in very hot weather,”

Hot Tips For Hat Heads


Do you suffer from hat head? Is your Skin rough or bumpy and your hair decidedly straw like are you utterly shattered at the end of your horse filled hours? You could take the sweat out of looking after your horse and put it at livery (pass these tips on to his keeper!) or your trainer could ride your horse more often (in which case they could read these tips too)…. or you could look make sure you look after yourself and keep doing the thing you love.

Rough and Bumpy skin is formed by dead skins cells and bacteria in the hair follicles. Wearing your riding hat is definitely a big part of your problem, but is unavoidable so make sure you make a point of rejuvenating and cleaning hat heads

It sounds pretty obvious … but hitting the shower at the end of the day to rejuvenate your skin and avoiding wearing makeup whilst you’re working up a sweat as this can clog your pores. To reduce the bumps try using a scrub or body brush (not one from the tack room) to get rid of any build up.

The frequent amount of time spent outdoors, exposing your skin to the harsh elements like wind and sun can play a part in wrinkles, age sports, or the feeling of thick skin giving it a leathery look.

It has also been suggested that the world of horses and all that involves damages the elasticity of the skin, causing a droopy face and neck, giving the face a ‘sunken’ look (although we’re still unconvinced). Use a sunblock with a high SPF, sweat-resistant sun cream to prevent skin damage, use a moisturising lotion. I can’t recommend a specific brand but a unisex cheap and effective one is E45. (always check on a small area of skin first)

Straw like hair

Although jumping in the shower after a workout is better for your skin, ensure it’s not at the downfall to your hair. Try just rinsing your hair instead of shampooing especially in the cold weather which has a nasty habit of drying skin.

Washing your hair too much will remove natural, protective oils that your skin and hair naturally produce, once your hair gets used to not being shampooed every day it slowly allows longer between shampooing without that lank greasy look. Take it slowly don’t frighten yourself. Try a one day break for a couple of weeks then stretch this to two etc. It’s hard when your hair is under a hat all day but give it time and your hair will thank you.

Tired and haggard

Too much exercise can leave your body exhausted and without a chance to catch up weaken your immune system leaving you more prone to colds and viruses and looking and feeling exhausted.

Here are five ways to boost your immune system from “The running Bug” …. They know a thing or two about getting hot and sweaty! (Just change “training” for working on yard, riding, running after loose horses, grooming etc etc!!!!!)

1. Eat Sufficient Calories for for the amount of work you are doing

Eating enough calories for training and day-to-day living is probably the single most important factor for an optimally functioning immune system. Excluding the calories needed for training and racing, the body needs a specific number of calories (known as the basal metabolic rate, BMR) just to function. If there is an energy deficiency, immune function is compromised and can often result in illness. Runners with low energy availability are particularly susceptible to upper respiratory-tract infections (URTI’s i.e. coughs and colds). To avoid this, maintain a calorie intake that supports training, daily activity and biological processes. One way to find out if you’re eating enough is to speak to a qualified performance nutritionist; alternatively to put you on the right track, adhere to point 2…

2. Don’t Avoid Fat

Athletes and active individuals should be aiming to consume approximately 25 per cent or more of their total calories from fat for optimal immune function, especially during heavy training periods. As well as contributing to overall energy intake, research shows that long-chain polyunsaturated n-3 fatty acids may specifically change the defences which fight infectious pathogens. In addition, having insufficient saturated fatty acids in the white blood cells inhibit their ability to recognise and destroy foreign bodies such as viruses and bacteria. To ensure you’re getting sufficient fat in the diet, aim to include foods such as eggs, red meat, oily fish, nuts, avocados, olives and olive oils, butter, full fat dairy and coconut.

3. Consider supplementing with Vitamin D

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, has had a surge in research interest in recent years. Compromised vitamin D status can affect a runner’s overall health and ability to train by negatively affecting bone health, innate immunity and exercise-related immunity and yet it is thought more than half of the UK population have insufficient vitamin D levels. Those who spend a lot of time indoors and/or are darker skinned are particularly at risk from deficiency, however chances are without supplementation over the winter in the UK, we are all at risk of developing insufficient or even deficient levels. Your GP should be able to test your vitamin D levels; however, if testing is unavailable, taking a baseline dose (2500IU/day) will help correct any insufficiency and improve immune function. Vitamin D supplements are available in most health shops.

4. Eat More Offal

Offal (heart, kidneys, liver) is one of the most nutritionally complete foods around. It contains fat, has a high protein content, and provides more variety of vitamins and minerals (including zinc which plays a central role in immune function) than any other individual food making it a great immune boosting choice! If taste or texture is a struggle, chop it up and hide in dishes such as casseroles, chilli’s and bolognese.

5. Take a Probiotic

Taking a daily probiotic (micro-organisms found in yoghurt or dietary supplements) has been shown to reduce frequency, duration and severity of immunity illnesses, and improve gut health among athletes during heavy training periods. One study in particular by Gleeson et al. (2011) looked at the effects of taking a daily probiotic (Lactobacillus casei Shirota) over the winter period on the incidence of URTI’s (upper respiratory tract infection) in endurance athletes. They found over 4 months, the number of athletes experiencing coughs and colds lasting 7 days or more was 36 per cent lower in those taking a daily probiotic. Yogurt is also quite useful for its effect of free radicals especially when taken with red/purple berries.

My favourite is yoghurt with summer fruits and some honey. You can buy summer fruits frozen in tubs. Quite handy because it means you can just use what you want…..just remember to take a spoonful out when you make your first cup of tea and by the time you’ve done the morning work rides it will be thawed and ready to stir into your yogourt.

Be Zen – put a different hat on to do the mucking out!


Zen for Grooms –

Are all grooms Zen…..Perhaps we should add a Zen check button to our Professionals page!

“Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” – Wu Li…. Or in horse terms “ Before enlightenment muck out, turn out, ride and groom, after enlightenment smile as you muck out, turn out, ride and groom” Being Zen wont change how much you have to fit into your day but it will help you achieve far more, be more effective, and more content. No one can question that a grooms day is long, tough, wet and cold in the winter (and the summertime too sometimes!)  but it has its rewards and just when you think you are going to jack it in, the sun comes out and its your day on the rota to hack out.

The Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh simplified the rules of Zen into one sentence

“Smile, Breath and Go Slowly” 

We should all try this approach and I have taken the liberty of translating the Zen Rules into “A Grooms Zen Outlook on Life”

  1. Do one thing at a time  This mean each job is started and finished and your focus is on ensuring that it is done property
  1. Do it slowly and deliberately  Slowly and deliberately does not mean with a lazy approach but with total focus
  2. Do it completely Don’t get distracted and move on to the next thing before finishing what you are already doing
  3. Do less  Priorities: If the work load is particularly heavy do the most important jobs first
  4. Develop rituals  Find a way to make the most of your time, keep your job list circular so each one assists the next
  5. Designate time for certain things There is always a list of things which get put to the bottom of the list, try and tick one of those off in the mid afternoon lull.
  6. Devote time to sitting During your breaks, take the time to sit and relax.
  7. Smile and serve others Smiling is the best approach, always find the up side and share it with others to make their day a happier one.
  8. Make cleaning and cooking become meditation Horse wise – there is something entirely satisfying about that newly mucked out bed and a horse you could pat in white gloves.
  9. Think about what is necessary Focus on the job in hand, give it your whole attention, that way you wont leave the hoof pick behind and then have to sift through the whole bed to find it!.
  10. Live simply Well, that’s an easy one,being a groom leaves little time for a complicated life!