Key Exercises for Equestrians: A Simple Guide

Horse riding is a demanding sport. Explore these essential exercises for equestrians to help improve performance and prevent injuries.

Written By:

David C
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Horse riding is one of the most complete and demanding sports. As well as consuming plenty of energy, it puts the entire body to work. While it’s a great sport for developing physical coordination and connection with horses, it’s important to remember that it can put a lot of stress on the body. Back and joint pain is common in equestrian sports and, left untreated, can lead to more severe and permanent problems. In order to avoid these irks and injuries, it’s just as important to incorporate complimentary workouts for yourself as it is ensuring your horse is thoroughly warmed up. However, often as riders, we tend to focus on our horses. So, in this article, we’ll be taking a look at the best exercises for equestrians.

Stretch it out

We all know the importance of stretching our horses to encourage their suppleness. We should apply the same thought process to ourselves as riders: stretching is essential for our own suppleness.

In addition to helping prevent muscular strains stretching improves flexibility, and can also be an excellent remedy for pain relief. Making sure you’re fully loosened-up before and after riding will also allow you to follow your horse’s movement better, and therefore ride more relaxed. 

Some exercises of choice for riders are yoga or pilates lessons, which are great for folks of all levels. Yoga and Pilates in particular are useful as they focus on those (as per the FEI) key equestrian problem areas: the hips, thighs, back, ankles, hamstrings, and shoulders.

If you don’t have time to attend yoga, pilates, or stretching classes, you can do some exercises right at home or even in your club. Let’s take a look at a few.

Ideal stretching exercises for pre-ride:

Neck rotation:

  1. Stand or sit tall with your shoulders relaxed.
  2. Tilt your head slowly to the right, bringing your right ear towards your right shoulder.
  3. Roll your head forward and then to the left, bringing your left ear towards your left shoulder.
  4. Continue this circular motion, gently stretching and releasing tension in your neck.

Repeat steps 1 to 4 in each direction from 5 to 10 times.

Shoulder rolls:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms relaxed at your sides.
  2. Roll your shoulders forward in a circular motion. Start from the top and move towards the back.
  3. Continue the rolling motion, bringing your shoulders up towards your ears.
  4. Keep going and start bringing your shoulders up towards your ears, then back and down.

Repeat steps 1 to 4 in each direction 5 times.

Leg swings:

  1. Stand next to a wall or a handlebar you can use as support for balance.
  2. Swing one leg forward and backward, keeping it straight and engaging your core.
  3. Swing the same leg side to side, crossing it over your body and out to the other side.

Repeat these steps 10 times.

Best stretching exercises for post-ride

Quad stretch:

  1. Stand tall and near somewhere you can grip or use for support or balance.
  2. Bend one knee and bring your heel towards your glutes, grabbing your foot or ankle.
  3. Keep your knees close and gently push your hip forward to deepen the stretch in the front of your thigh.

Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds on each leg. Repeat up to 3 times.

Calf stretch:

(Pro tip: this is also a great move to help you lower your heels when riding.)

  1. Stand facing a wall and place your hands on the wall for support.
  2. Step one foot back, keeping it straight with the heel on the ground.
  3. Lean forward, bend your front knee, and press your back heel towards the floor, feeling a stretch in your calf.

Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds on each leg and repeat as many times as you want.

Resting or Child’s Pose:

  1. Get yourself on your hands and knees, with your hands straight under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Slowly shift your weight back, sitting on your heels.
  3. Extend your arms forward and lower your chest towards the ground, allowing your forehead to rest on a mat or cushion.
  4. Relax your shoulders and take deep breaths, feeling a gentle stretch in your lower back and hips.

Keep the pose for 30-60 seconds, and focus on relaxation and deep breathing.

As my own Yoga teacher once said: “Stretch gently and listen to your body. Your body is not your enemy, so don’t push yourself too hard”. Always seek professional help if you feel pain or severe discomfort while doing these exercises.

Take care of your back

Riding puts a lot of stress on the back, and it’s vital to prevent painful and severe conditions like disc herniation and/or disc impingement. Besides, it’s important to be strong to be able to keep an independent, steady, and effective seat. Working your abs and spinal muscles not only helps to prevent hurting your spine, but they also are one of your best tools to follow your horse’s movement and improve your balance. 

Some exercises that would be suitable include:


  1. Lie on the floor with your face down on the ground.
  2. Place your forearms on the floor, and align your elbows straight under your shoulders.
  3. Lift your body up, resting on your forearms and toes, forming a straight line from your head to your heels.
  4. Engage your core muscles and hold the position for about 30 to 60 seconds.

Repeat steps 1 to 4, gradually increasing the duration as you build strength.


  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward.
  2. Lower your body by bending your knees and hips as if you were sitting in an imaginary chair.
  3. Keep your chest lifted, back straight, and heels on the ground.
  4. Lower your chest with your back straight, and keep your heels on the ground.
  5. Lower down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, and then push through your heels to return to the starting position.

Start with 10 or 15 repetitions, and gradually increase them as you gain strength.


  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Take a big step forward with your right foot, lowering your body until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Take a big step forward with your right foot, lowering your body until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  4. Keep your front knee right above your ankle and your back knee slightly off the ground.
  5. Push through your front heel to return to the starting point.

Alternate legs and repeat for 10-12 lunges on each side. Increase the number of repetitions as you feel stronger.

As a rider, you’re likely already doing some form of exercise before getting in the saddle. But if you aren’t, we hope this article gives you that push you need to start. We treat and train our horses as athletes, so we shouldn’t forget that we are too!

These exercises for equestrians that we’ve brought to you today don’t cost anything; just an investment of your time. Besides preventing injuries and providing rehabilitation, they’re 100% guaranteed to help you improve your riding. Happy exercising!