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How to Get Fit for a Riding Holiday

Riding in the Okavango Delta

Horse riding is a sport that can be enjoyed at any level, from complete beginner to experienced rider. Unless you spend a considerable amount of time in the saddle, either on your own horses or as a professional rider, it is sensible to do a little pre-holiday preparation, in order to get the maximum pleasure out of your riding holiday experience, with the minimum level of discomfort.

1) Select an Suitable Holiday
If you only ride a couple of times a year and have limited time to prepare, an endurance trek across Namibia or the Gobi Desert, may not be for you. If you are uncomfortable in the saddle, your level of enjoyment and appreciation of your surroundings will be diminished. If you aren’t a regular rider or this is your first riding holiday, it may be sensible to choose a Centre-Based Holiday, where it is possible to have a non-riding day if necessary.

2) Spend Time in the Saddle
A couple of months before your departure, try to increase the time you spend riding. If you are a weekend leisure rider, simply adding a mid-week or longer weekend hack, can make a great difference to your level of fitness. Increase the length of time you trot or canter for, gradually each session, ideally until you can comfortably trot for 7 – 10 minutes, whilst maintaining a good position in the saddle and a light contact on the reins. An experienced instructor should be able to suggest a suitable riding plan

3) Exercise
Vary your exercise regime with sessions in the gym, as well as additional cardio-work, such as hill-walking, cycling, swimming or running. Your aim is to increase both your overall stamina and flexibility. Pilates is fantastic for building and strengthening those core muscles, which are so integral to horse-riding.

4) Anti-Inflammatories
Even regular experienced riders can get sore muscles after spending 4 – 6 hours in the saddle daily. It is advisable to pack a suitable over-the counter pain-relief medication such as Ibuprofen, or perhaps a herbal supplement or muscle rub such as comfrey. Always seek medical advice if you are unsure of which medication to take.