Test_Ride_1Once our horses are groomed and tacked up, we walk our horse around the arena – usually twice, and then mount up. We walk our horses around until all the riders are up, then we begin a pattern – at the walk. It seems that we do a lot of walking at the beginning of the lesson but there is a reason for it. We are warming up. That is – both the rider and the horse.

Warm up? Think about baseball, the pitcher warms up his pitching arm in the bullpen for quite a few minutes before being put in the game. Runners may jog before a run, footballs players may do a forward lunge, every sport has its own warm-up routine. And so do equestrians.

Studies have shown that athletes who warm up before playing have fewer injuries. Horses, as well as the riders, are athletes. Keeping them fit is part of the responsibility of riding.

Walking the horse around the arena prepares the horse Serpentine_reand rider mentally for the class. I often ask the rider, “What mood is your horse in today?” Most of the time I get a giggle, but there is a reason I ask. In those few minutes, and in the time that the horse was groomed, the rider should know if the horse is relaxed or tense, listening or distracted. This will affect the lesson so paying attention to the horse give the rider a clue to how the lesson will go. This is also the time to get the horse’s attention. If the horse isn’t listening on the ground, it certainly will not listen once the rider mounts. If the rider isn’t paying attention to the horse, we could have a disaster in the arena.

After mounting we walk the pattern. This is not a walk in the park. This exercise raises the horse’s core and muscle temperature. It also warms the rider’s muscles too. The pattern also helps the horse and rider focus. A good warm up should last about 20 minutes. The first 10 minutes should be at the walk, then 10 minutes at a trot before any cantering or jumping. You want your horse’s joints moving before any hard work.

Jenna trots Buttercup eNow we can start our lesson. Since most of our riders are at different levels of trotting, our warm up is right around 10 minutes. By that time, I can tell what mood everyone is in and how hard we can work that lesson.

Warming up is an essential part of your ride and your horse’s health.

Linda Watson is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.


We had a good turnout for our Preserving Your Back (and Your Horse’s) clinic today, considering the sky was overcast and threatened rain. Threatened? More like a torrential downpour in the middle of Dr. Westcott’s talk!

Dr. Westcott of Wescott Chiropractic Clinic began the presentation by explaining how our body/spine works, where the most weight is carried, why the area that hurts may not be the area that has the problem and where we are most vulnerable.

Then, she demonstrated two very simple exersizes – each takes only 30 seconds to do and will keep our muscles supple and flexible! Yes, in one minute a day. I’m game – you bet I’m going to do them. As Dr. Westcott explained, no one wants to do exercises that take a long time – ones that we need to schedule into our hectic day – but 30 seconds – we have the time. The back exercise can even be done at your desk! Wow! Work and exercise – who would have thought that was possible.

I’m all energized to keep riding until I’m old and gray!

How many calories to you think you burn when you ride a horse?  None, because the horse is doing all the work? 

According to the “Body For Life for Women”, by Dr. Pamela Peeke, general horseback riding accounts for 5 calories per minute for a 150 pound woman. Increase the speed and distance you ride and you’ll increase the intensity of your work out.  So, if you ride for an hour, you burn 300 calories!  And that’s just at a walk!  If you trot, it’s 442 calories an hour!  Saddling and grooming a horse is another 238 calories/hour, but since it only takes about 15 or 20 minutes to groom and saddle, we can add another 75 calories.  That’s 375 calories used for grooming, saddling and general riding.  But wait, we have to unsaddle and groom again, so let’s add another 75 calories.  That brings the total to 450 calories doing something fun for an hour and a half.  But, that’s general riding.  If you like to trot, you are burning 592 calories!

Let’s compare that to other activities using a base of an hour and a half:

  • Watching TV – 102 calories
  • Washing dishes – 234 caloriespam-on-sherlock_e
  • Gardening – 272 calories
  • Fishing – 306 calories
  • Mopping  – 375 calories
  • Horseback riding (general) – 450 calories
  • Dancing (general) – 459 calories
  • Hunting – 510 calories
  • Mowing lawn (power mower) – 559 calories
  • Horseback riding (trot) – 592 calories
  • Bicycling – 816 calories

So, unless you enjoy bicycling, nothing burns more calories than trotting around on a horse.

There’s more to health than just burning calories.

Horseback riding also improves your posture, balance, muscle strength, coordination, respiration,  circulation, eye-hand coordination and reflexes.  Riding a horse at a walk stimulates the internal organs, too. This aids in liver function and digestion.  Horseback riding is a great therapy option for those in wheelchairs.

So, what are you waiting for?  Let’s ride!