Three Reasons Why Fat Loss Can Improve Your Riding
Whilst rider performance is the most important aspect of training to improve your riding another important element is weight & body composition. To be the best rider you can you want to be as balanced as possible, be able to move freely & be light on your horses back. Carrying surplus bodyweight can really affect both your riding & your horses performance. The topic of rider weight can be a sensitive issue & can often be misinterpreted but it is a really important aspect to be aware of when you are trying to improve your riding results.
A 2018 study conducted by Dr Sue Dyson (Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust Centre) at the National Equine forum found the following;
"That high rider: horse bodyweight ratios can induce temporary lameness and discomfort. In simple terms, if the rider is excessively heavy for the horse in question it can have a negative impact on the performance of the horse. Ultimately the study should help with the development of guidelines to help all riders assess if they are the right weight for the horse or pony they intend to ride, to enhance both equine welfare and rider comfort and enjoyment."
As the study showed being overweight for your horse can have a really negative effect on your horse's performance & overall health as well as your own. Making sure you are the right weight for your horse is really important and should be personalised to each person depending on the weight & size of your horse & you. As the study showed it does not mean that a heavier rider should not ride they just need to be aware of the size & fitness of their horse.
1- Being overweight can make you unbalanced in the seat as well as having poor posture when riding & can cause you to sit out of alignment, which can all lead to loading your horses back inappropriately as well as your own.
If you are eventing and going cross country being overweight will mean a lower level of cardiovascular fitness, so when you are at the end of a cross country course you will be knackered due to your aerobic capacity. Carrying surplus weight causes an increase in heart rate, body temperature & oxygen consumption as well as increased pressure on the joints & bones when force is exerted. Think how much force is exerted when your horse jumps through your own body; carrying extra load will not help. Reducing your fat mass reduces the demand on your aerobic system & reduces your energy expended therefore you will be able to ride for longer & faster, allowing you to have better aerobic fitness levels across the country & ride better.
2- Surplus weight as we mentioned earlier can overload your back as well as your horses. The riders spine can become tilted & out of alignment as it is unevenly stressed due to the surplus weight & can lead to the ligaments & muscles in your back being strained and overworked. Reducing your body fat will reduce the load on your spine, when you lose weight you effectively reduce the strain on your spine & back muscles which in turn will reduce the pain your muscles & joints.
3- Your horse will thank you. As mentioned above if you are carrying surplus weight you cause your horses back as well as your own to be loaded inappropriately as well as making your horse work physically harder than he needs to. This will hugely impede his ability to perform movements & your weight can cause him to be unbalanced in his movement. Cross country will be much easier for his aerobic system; the reduction of weight will mean his heart rate is lower & therefore his oxygen consumption is also lower so he will find cross country easier & not as hard work for him. Which long term you want as your horse will be finding his work easier, meaning less stress on his joints and the ability to overtime continue competing for longer.
Focusing on fat loss can be an important aspect of rider fitness to make sure you are riding at your best to get the results you want. If your goal is fat loss focus on eating a balanced nutritious diet in a sustainable calorie deficit, training 3-5 times per week off your horse for at least 30 minutes a day & hitting 10,000 steps every day. Over time these small changes will give you big results & your fat loss will hugely improve your riding.
If you have any questions or need any help on any of the topics I have covered then feel free to message me for clarity or help!