Horses, Health, & a Happy New Year
by Lisa Kiley
The New Year is here and it usually comes with the big decision on what resolution to pick and how long you can keep it going. Popular resolutions usually include getting in shape or losing a few of those pounds that may have added up from all the holiday festivities.
As a horse person, you might have slightly different goals than the mainstream band wagon fitness fan. If you are worried about fitting back into those chaps, pulling on the breeches, or just want to avoid the bulging buttons on your horsemanship shirt or hunt coat, it’s time to get to work!
While hitting the gym is often the popular solution, it’s going to be busy this time of year and even if you aren’t afraid of hard work, maybe the gym just isn’t your scene. So why not do something you really do love? Spend more time at the barn! There are a lot of things you can do in the barn that will help you melt that winter weight right off. And what better motivation than spending more time around your horse, getting projects done, and getting in shape?
Here are the top 5 Calorie Burning Activities for Horse People:
5–Clean-up & Cutout Calories:
Grooming your horse, cleaning tack and the process of saddling up can all be ways to kick start a calorie burn before you ever get in the saddle. If you give your horse or saddle a little more elbow grease you will have more to show for it than just sparkle and shine. Don’t forget to sweep the aisleway, not only can it raise your heart rate, whoever is coming into the barn after you’ve been there will love the way it looks.
Calories Burned: ~185/ hour
4–Walk with a Purpose:
Moving horses from the barn to the pasture, getting your horse from the field to go for a ride, and checking the fences to make sure they are securecan become part of your fitness routine. Walking at a moderate pace with good posture can provide results while being low impact. In the arena, consider hand walking your horse to cool him out rather than riding him, move more when longing or doing round pen work, and help out with setting up or putting away groundpoles, jumps and/or trail obstacles.
Calories Burned: ~200/ hour
Cleaning stalls, depending the number of horses and how far you have to move the muck, can be great cardio. While not every chore is equal, dumping water buckets, moving hay for feeding time and unloading bedding and grain can be good opportunities to burn a few extra calories. Keeping up a good pace makes a big difference. Bonus: if you are thinking about the chores as an opportunity to work out rather than just work, it can be motivating to get the job done.
Calories Burned: ~365/ hour
We already know better than to think of riding as a passenger sport. In a typical session, the walk trot, & canter are all used to work your horse. As the pace increases, so does the potential to burn calories. The balance, core strength, and muscles it takes to hold a proper position is one of the reasons it counts as a workout. Keep in mind, that the more experienced of a rider you are, the less benefit you will receive because your body becomes accustomed to the exercise. In order to counter this, add more activities at an increased pace and make sure that you focus on supporting your weight while you ride. Challenge yourself by trying some exercises, like dropping your stirrups or riding in two-point, which will have the added benefit of strengthening your position.
Calories Burned: ~400/hour
1–Pick up the Pace:
The #1 calorie burning exercise is galloping your horse and any activity that is associated with moving the horses at a good clip (i.e. jumping fences, practicing gymkhana, reining or cutting). Take the level of your horses’ fitness into consideration when asking for them to do these more challenging activities.If you push them too hard or fast, it could lead to injury or health issue. Like us, they will need to gradually increase their level of fitness over time, it is something to work up to.
Calorie Burn: ~500/ hour
Just remember, when changing up your routine, it’s important that don’t overdo it and listen to the advice of your health care professional. While the barn can be a great place to get exercise, you may still need to supplement with other exercises to reach your individual goals. Calories burnt will vary based on your height, weight, level of fitness and intensity.There are also other factors that can affect how many calories you burn. The above caloric calculations are based on an average 160lb person.