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Should I be doing more cardio around my riding?

A question I am often asked is should I be doing more cardio? Firstly this depends on your goals & aims for both your riding and your own fitness but I would suggest that most of us could be doing more cardio and by doing so this would have a positive impact on our riding performance & sports.

Riding has been shown in studies to put the heart through varying effort rates as we move through the horses gaits. The more intense the activity such as galloping, playing polo, jumping our heart rate is of a much higher effort to cope with the aerobic demand of the activity. Recovery is also an essential part of our aerobic fitness as you must be able to recover quickly to then answer the next question, such as when you are going cross country. You've jumped the two skinny arrowheads and now have a 30 second break before moving on to a triple of corners combination. Here you need to let your heart rate recover otherwise by the time you've got to the next question you will be exhausted & struggling for air!

One question I would ask yourself when you are wondering if you should be doing more cardio off your horses is this;

"How do you feel at the end of a cross country course/gallop/showjumping course/polo game?" Really take a moment and think about it. For most of us you will have a really high heart rate at the end and it takes a couple of minutes for your heart rate to start to decrease. If this is the case or you feel tired then 100% do some more cardio! The fitter you are, the better you will ride and the more help you will be to your horse rather than a tired hindrance.

What cardio should you be doing is the next step to establish your plan. You don't need to be running for hours to improve your aerobic fitness!


Walking is one of the best ways to improve your fitness, I hear you thinking uh what? Many people don't even hit the recommended 10,000 steps a day and if this is you then your first step would be to increase the amount of walking you are doing. A brisk 30 minute walk will elevate your heart rate, get your blood flowing & will also help to keep you mobile. If you feel stiff or sore a brisk walk can really help to get your body moving & increase your aerobic capacity.


This depends on your preference, personally I would always run but cycling is a fantastic aerobic workout which keeps the impact off your legs. Sometimes we all need less impact. If you struggle with knee problems I would suggest cycling otherwise its whatever you prefer! Starting with a 20- 30 minute steady state pace, you should feel it is an easy to moderate effort. Endurance activities allow your body to become fitter and will help to improve speed overtime as well as strengthening your lower body. Your respiratory & muscular systems will become more efficent. As you become fitter and find the runs or cycles easier then you can increase the length of time you are exercising for.


High intensity interval training is a great way to get your cardio in & keep it fun! If you're someone who is time limited & prefers setting a watch and getting it done then HIIT would be for you! I love HIIT as you work really hard for a short period of time and really feel a burn. This is also a great way to train if your goal is fat loss as this will give you a high calorie burn. Combining 4-6 exercises starting with 30 seconds of effort and 30 rest is a good place to start. Complete 3-4 rounds depending on time available and your fitness. Then overtime you can increase the demand by increasing the work time and reducing the rest. As you're performing bodyweight movements HIIT will also increase your muscular endurance & strength, perfect to take back into your movement when riding!

These are just a few ideas of how to get your cardio done in a time efficient manner & things you can do from home whilst we can't access the gyms or leave home. Make time to fit some extra cardio into your routine and the benefits will show in your riding performance.

Check out my Instagram page for some workout ideas if your stuck on what to do!

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