Cardio Fitness for Horse Riding

People often ask if horse riding counts as cardio exercise, and the answer is dependant on the amount of riding you do, and crucially it's intensity. A cardio workout is when your heart rate is elevated a you are using cardiovascular fitness.

This does occur on horseback, and so for many horseback riding could be considered cardio. But, if you're hoping to replace normal exercise with just horseback riding we'd always recommend fitting in some convention non horse cardio into your program.

And so, here's our guide to...

Cardio for Horse Riders

Depending on the discipline you take part in determines the level of cardio fitness you need to have.

 For example if you compete in Showjumping you need to condition your body to perform under short bursts of anaerobic exercise, whereas if you compete in dressage your body needs to be conditioned to work aerobically but will require more strength conditioning. And if you event/hunt or take part in endurance riding you need a combination of both anaerobic and aerobic fitness, plus stamina. 

The best way to condition our bodies to withstand the anaerobic demands of horse riding and to increase stamina is through interval training, in the form of High Intensity Workouts - often known as HIIT.

This type of training involves working the body at a high intensity, raising the heart rate and body temperature rapidly, but only for short periods of time. Followed by regular short breaks to allow the body to partially recover, you don’t want the heart rate to return to resting rate throughout thesession. 

So to achieve this we would perform a circuit of 3-5 high intensity exercises for approximately 45 secs, with short rests of around 15 secs in between each exercise and a longer rest of 1 min after each circuit. Then depending on your current fitness levels you would repeat it at least 3 times- if more experienced or looking to increase stamina for eventing/ hunting and endurance riding, you would look gradually increasing the amount of circuits you can complete and work up to completing the circuits around 7 times.

Including a short HIT workout into your fitness/riding regime 2-3 times a week will drastically improve your bodies tsanima and capabilities to perform under anaerobic conditions.

A example of a HIIT workout would be:

  • 45 secs of Burpees 
  • 15 secs rest
  • 45 secs Squat Jumps
  • 15 sec rest
  • 45 sec Leg raises
  • 15 sec rest
  • 45 Sec Sprints
  • 1 min rest and then repeat 3 times.

If you suffer with joint pain/ injuries and can't stand high impact exercises such as the HIIT workout the same training can be applied on a bike.

Cycling is a great form of exercise without the impact on joints. However going for a leisurely cycle around the park isn’t going to achieve anything! You need to raise the heart rate to condition your body properly. So duplicate the HIIT training principles - 45sec high intensity followed by 15 sec rest.

So for 45 sec increase the resistance on the bike by either pedalling up a hill/ lowering the gears or simply pedaling as fast as you can.

Then for 15 sec go back to pedaling at a comfortable speed to allow your body to partially recover and then repeat.

Steady State Cardio for Horse Riding

Alongside HIIT, which is often the preferred form of cardio for equestrians, you could also look at steady state cardio. You'll know this as jogging, cycling and even power walking.

Steady state cardio can help build up a good level of aerobic exercise that can still have many benefits for horse riders. 

Pilot Equine App - A fitness app for horse riders

Our app covers both basic and advanced workouts for horse riders. Helping you stay in shape and stay stronger. Each workout is for equestrians, keeping you healthier and in the saddle for longer. Read more here.