Can resistance in the horse be caused by lack of fitness in the rider?

Have you ever seen resistance in a horse…that you suspected was caused by an unbalanced rider?
This week’s theme on my podcast and blogs has been rider fitness. A fit and balanced rider is much easier for the horse to carry. As riders aim to advance inevitable they will experience one of two things regarding fitness: the horse is lacking in strength and balance or the rider is lacking in strength and balance.

Think about it. I’m a fairly fit and advanced rider but when I get on a young horse for the first rides…I am limited by the horses lack of strength and balance under saddle.

The same is true the other way around. If I let someone ride Willow and they are not strong in their core or struggle with independent control of their hands and legs (hint: this requires strength) then Willow cannot lope as smooth as effortlessly as she does with me.

What would change if you considered lack of fitness the next time you felt resistance when riding?
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  1. Susan Dennison on October 3, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    This sounds like me. Ugh. And I keep saying to the person I’m share boarding with – the problem is not the horse, it’s me. Psoriatic arthritis and carpal tunnel have kept me from doing the level of exercise I was doing before riding and although my health issues have improved, I’m a lumpy sack of dough. The thought of working back to my previous level of fitness feels overwhelming. I’m also a newish rider, and have been working on groundwork with the horses and we doing well and bonding, but in the saddle, it’s like I’ve never been in the saddle before. Can anyone recommend a good set of “horse” exercises to help get me back in shape?

  2. Darlene Dorff on January 25, 2021 at 4:54 pm

    All I can say is ITS’s ME ITS’s ME!!!! my poor horse! I am a work in progress, never backwards always forward 🙂 Thanks for all you give us Stacy!

  3. Christine Eck on January 25, 2021 at 9:56 am

    I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree! And “fitness,” in my book, encompasses far more than just one’s muscle and cardiovascular “fitness” – for me, it also includes structural things such as skeletal/spinal alignment. Due to a past injury (thank you, horses!), I regularly see a chiropractor. I know I am due for another visit when I not only feel myself struggle to maintain equality between both sides of my body in the saddle, but maneuvers in certain directions start to head south for my horse. He and I are both quite fit in terms of cardiovascular and musculature health, but something like an issue in my spinal column can throw our whole operation on the fritz! 🙂
    That said, for me, one of the muscle-related fitness things I find most beneficial to our under-saddle work is my concentration on core strength. When I have been really working my core in particular away from the horse, I am far better able to discern how much (or how little!) I am activating it while in the saddle – and can easily see how much the dance between my horse and I improves when I am adequately – and properly – engaging my core – aka that deeeeeep set of muscles behind my bellybutton.

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