Training like the pros
So, with badminton having just been and gone a lot of us are feeling super motivated and excited for the rest of our own seasons! Watching the professionals at their best on top-class horses is always awesome and seeing how they handle the mental and physical pressures of the competition, especially when the day caused so much trouble on Saturday is absolutely awesome.
It's easy to sit here and think, "oh well all they do is ride all day so of course they're going to be fitter or stronger than you are" and yes you're right ,as an amateur rider you do have a disadvantage to the professional rider who say rides 10 more horses than you a day. But at the end of the day, the real pros still work on their own fitness to be the best they can be to support their horses & take their peformance to the next top class level.
And if it's good enough for them then surely it should be good enough for you? Especially when you're lacking those extra hours in the saddle across the week, anything you can do to boost your performance should be prioritised!
So I wanted to share with you a little dive into some of the equestrian professionals' own training regimes outside of what they do on top of their horses.
Back in 2015 Oliver was very vocal about the fact he rides 12 -14 horses every day so he didn't need to do any extra conditioning or fitness work. Fast forward 4 years and ahead of 2019 Kentucky 5* his fitness regime had totally changed.
He was now going to the gym on a regular basis to ensure that he was as light as possible & maintained his weight & phsyqiue for the horses. He also found that weekly physio sessions improved his core strength, kept him on the road as well as helping to improve his own recovery!
He also said a big focus was getting plenty of sleep and eating well wherever possible. Reading autobiographies and quotes from some of his sporting heroes were methods he used to get himself inspired & in the right mindset ahead of competing!
Laura has been extremely vocal about her own training & gym routine following her bad fall a few years back and really elevating her senior career to the next level. Ahead of Tokyo 2022, she was spending a lot of time in the gym, training with a personal trainer and working on her core strength and stability as well as her cardio fitness.
During a hairy moment at the hollow early on at Badminton she credited all of the work that she had been doing in the gym to being able to sit up when her horse left leg and keeping her balance in the seat. That is what you call functional training and it's great to see what she does in her own training transferring into her stability in the saddle!
She trains twice per week in the gym with her personal trainer during the season to keep her feeling fit and in her own words so she's not letting the horses down! You can see her doing a range of strength-based exercises from deadlifts, overhead presses as well as lots of core & single-leg stability work thrown in too!
Jumper Kent Farrington has shared his own training through social media to show what he is doing to give him the upper hand over his other fellow top showjumpers. Focusing on a lot of calisthenic & core training his workouts do look pretty hard-core and intense but he mainly focuses on high intensity interval training, strength work & core stability exercises.
A new piece of kit he uses daily is his cable & banded machine! Some of his movements & training sessions are pretty out there but at the end of the day the principles are the same, he is training to be the best, as strong as he can be and as balanced as he can be so that he supports his horses around the toughest tracks in the world.
He is a big fan of mobility and you can often find on his Instagram him showing off his flows and workouts. He is incredibly mobile and has got an insane amount of core strength!
Being very open through the years about sticking to his strict regime & at the end of the day his goal is to be the best in the world and therefore his commitment to his training is next level. He typically trains 5 days per week as well as riding full-time and has shared before that he is extremely conscious of his diet. He wants to lessen the stress the horses carry when he is on top so he follows a diet of mainly unprocessed foods, low sugar and plenty of fish and chicken to keep his protein high!
Through lockdown we've all seen Piggy's fitness program and having previously back in 2019 used a personal trainer once a week she is now really invested in her own off horse training. She still trains alongside a personal trainer a few times a week now & focuses on strength work alongside plenty of core stability training and cardio work.
Together Piggy and her trainer have opened up online courses to show other riders that this is 100% possible and what a difference working on your own performance can really make to your horse.
I often hear riders use the excuse of, "I ride plenty I don't need to work on myself" but even Piggy has realised the importance & necessity to spend time working on yourself out of the saddle.
She's mentioned how much it's helped her physical & mental performance being that bit fitter and why she trains to give her horses her very best. In an interview once where she picked up 9-time faults one year with Jakarta she was very open that the time faults were due to her not being fit enough & tiring and now she puts that extra effort in to make herself as fit as possible so that does not happen again & she can support the horses home! She is now a firm believer in the importance of her sessions with her personal trainer and how what they are doing in her training correlates to the horses & boosts the partnership!
Even dressage pros like Anky and Laura Bechtolsheimer have been very open about adding in extra work to their riding regimes. Anky has shared that on top of her dressage and reining riding she makes extra time to do her own fitness sessions including working on a stability ball, focusing on core strength, running & cross training! Laura is a big lover of pilates & has worked previously with strength coach Jon Pitts to help her take her strength to the next level & get those results in the ring!
The tides are changing in modern Equestrian sports and riders and also coaches are now realising how much of an effect the rider's fitness and movement has on the overall performance when it comes down to crunch time at a competition & now riders are being trained like athletes!
Sadly the old excuse of oh I ride 10 horses a day just isn't enough anymore and at the end of the day your body becomes conditioned to exercise that you repeatedly do on a daily basis. In order to continue getting stronger, fitter, and faster you need to be challenging your body in other ways to get these adaptations.
Hopefully, this helps you to see the importance of your own training and also maybe gives you some ideas on what you could incorporate into your own fitness plan. Making sure you include a little bit of everything in your programme is really important, focusing on stability, strength and aerobic work will make sure you're the strongest rider you can be. Remember just because we ride a horse we don't only want to focus on core stability work so make sure you have the balance and the training you do is something you enjoy and then you can stick to it in the long run and see progression both in & off the saddle.
If it's good enough for the pros then surely it's good enough for you? Time to get to work!