Posted in Nutrition and Fitness

The other equestrian athlete

As I watched Nonie fall asleep under the therapytic touch of our incredible equine body worker Penny, I couldn’t help but giggle. While my horse gets fairly regular tune ups to keep her supple and fit, I have never had a massage.

You’ll often here equestrians joke that their horses diet has been analysed and balanced through the latest high tech computer program, while they grab McDonald’s on the way home from the barn. 

Photo Credit Emily Cole – to be clear there is nothing wrong with cupcakes or McDonalds

Nonie works through a range of exercises five to six days per week aimed at optimising her suppleness, physical fitness and building strength. I other the other hand participate in non horse related exercise on a sporadic basis.

Our horses are athletes and we care for them accordingly. Us as riders? Historically we have forgotten that we are the other equestrian athlete. But there is a rising awareness in the broader equine community about the importance of rider fitness and nutrition. As a dietitian this fills me with equal parts excitement and dread. Optimising fitness and nutrition can offer advantages in the competition arena. Although I dare say that the nutrition side of things looks very different than many would expect. That is to say that for a sport such a horse riding extreme measures do not need to be taken and the results may not be visible.

My fear is that this message has been contorted into something that it was never meant to be. We live in a society where our cultural obsession with thinness has seeped into our understanding of health and our perception of what an athlete should look like. But you cannot possibly determine a persons health, fitness or athletic ability by looking at them. I fear that for some riders their pursuit of becoming the best athlete they can be is a facade for their desire to meet society’s ridiculous beauty ideals, and all to often they themselves may not realise this.

I want to open up the conversation about body image within the equestrian community, I want to talk about the myth that you have to look a certain way to be a good rider and I do want to share some no nonsense nutrition information with the aim of improving performance NOT manipulating and controlling your body. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Getting the most out of your riding lesson

This weekend I was lucky enough to ride at the Kim Weston clinic hosted by PVS Training & Equine Services in Bowen, North Queensland. This meant a three hour drive, but it was definitely worth it, as Kim is a incredibly experienced coach and this comes across in the way she communicates and approaches dressage in general.

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Because I often have to travel to lessons and they are not as regular as I would like (I am lucky to get lessons once every six weeks) I have figured out a few strategies to ensure that I make the most of this valuable lesson time.

Be warmed up and ready to start on time.

Allow plenty of time to get to your lessons so that you don’t start off flustered. It sounds simple, but nothing will throw you out more than arriving without enough time to settle in, saddle up and warm up. If you are traveling any distance it is worth considering your horses fitness level and factoring in some recovery time. Being warmed up means that you can maximize lesson time spent on new exercises or working on more challenging areas of your training.

Of course, there may be times when you want guidance and input on this aspect of your training, however you will still likely want to have a walk and trot on a loose rein to get their blood (and yours!) pumping.

Know what you want to get out of your lesson.

Coaches will often ask at the beginning of the lesson what you would like to work on, so it is worth reflecting on what areas of your training have been challenging you or where you are loosing marks in your tests. This will help to guide the direction of your lesson as well as enabling you to articulate to your coach exactly what is happening.

Be open to learning and making changes.

This one probably seems pretty obvious, after all we are having lessons in order to improve our riding and our horses way of going and we understand that change is required to facilitate improvements. However, sometimes a coach will ask you to do something which initially seems strange and almost any time we need to make big changes these will initially feel awkward. Some of the best outcomes I have had have been from lessons where a coach has made a big change to my position. In other situations my coach will push me further or make me do something I wouldn’t normally try . Again this is a good thing it means that I am leaving my comfort zone and after all our greatest growth occurs outside our comfort zone.


Ask questions.

I cannot emphasise this point enough. As someone who likes to know how and why things work I ask lots of questions especially  when working on something new. This helps to cement this new idea in my brain. Equally, you may feel that you should already know the aids for canter or leg yield, but if it is not 100% clear in your mind ask! Many coaches and riders will use a slight variation on aids and one may suit you more than the other. Furthermore, your coach would prefer you know, than to just bluff your way through.

Write notes as soon as possible after your lesson.

I am a visual learner and also slightly type A, so writing down the points I have learnt from my lessons is something which comes fairly naturally to me. I find that the process of thinking back over my lesson and identifying new exercises, key points and changes really helps to solidify this learning in my mind. I have also had times when I have been having difficulty with a particular movement of area of my training and have looked back over my lesson notes to help me trouble shoot.

Wear comfortable clothes and tack.

No! A lesson is not the right time to wear your new Celeris top boots no matter how excited you are to christen them. Equally, clothing which rubs or pulls is likely to distract you from your horse and your position.

I personally, also feel that it is important that both you and your horse be clean, tidy and well presented out of respect for your coach and to put your best hoof forward.


I hope these tips will help you to maximise precious lesson time.