Getting Back In Riding Shape

Dutch makes a good selfie partner.

Last weekend I had riding lesson number two, and Olivia kicked my butt. After my first lesson, I was incredibly sore for more than a week, especially in my hip flexors. Even with excessive stretching and yoga every day, it took so long to loosen up and get back to normal that I realized how out of shape I’ve gotten and how out of *riding* shape I’ve gotten. Thankfully, scheduling conflicts gave me a two-week or so break before I did my second lesson, so I had time to re-evaluate.

In June one of my big personal goals is to get in better shape. Since moving to Midland, I’ve been in maintenance mode with my fitness, focusing on just getting to the gym over lunch breaks and not stressing too much about progress. However, getting back in the saddle really made me realize how much my cardio and strength fitness has deteriorated.

Although riding might be the big motivator, I also want to be more fit just to get back to a place where I feel really confident, strong and capable.

To get that going, I started a June challenge through BodyRock, which has been incredibly fun and motivating. This week I’ve slacked a little, but I just remind myself that each day is new, and as long as I push a little harder each day, I will make progress toward my goals.

My first riding lesson also brought to sharp relief specific areas of my body that I need to make sure stay strong to be a productive rider: ankle stability, hip flexors, inner thighs, butt and shoulders really stuck out, so I’m trying hard to increase strength in those areas.

My second riding lesson focused a lot on getting my fitness back with a lot of work on the longe line. Olivia had me posting without stirrups, stretching forward and back, holding my arms out to my sides and then in front of me (killed my shoulders to hold them up so long!), and so much more. It was the perfect way to improve my fitness and ease into this whole riding thing.

Sadly, cantering seemed to be a foreign concept to me, and I barely stayed on when Dutch decided he didn’t want to pick up the correct lead. He might seem like an inherently lazy horse, but he did not want to stop cantering!

That aside, he was such a good, patient boy while I slowly found my seat back. I don’t consider myself a beginner rider by any means, so it’s strange to go back to such rudimentary basics. And yet, building this foundation is going to help me so much down the road.

A few days ago, my third lesson focused more on independence in the saddle while continuing to build strength and coordination. If you think sitting and standing for various beats at the trot is easy, think again! Up two, down one; up one, down two; up four, down four… I was worn out! With each ride, I’m learning more and more about Dutch. He’s incredibly responsive–if I’m riding correctly.

Being me, it’s easy to skip ahead 10 months and think about things I want to be doing then, but I’m also just trying to focus on the short term–getting comfortable riding again, building those muscles, being a good partner to Dutch, riding consistently.

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