I'd rather be at the barn than the gym

I’d rather be at the barn than the gym

My daughter announced her engagement a few weeks ago, and the first thing that walked across my little mind was: OMG I’m fat!!! Actually, my husband had the same reaction.

Scales were attacked, yielding a complete cleaning of the fridge and pantry. My husband leaped in gear, and joined the local gym. I thought about it, but really could not see a time slot I could go. I spend 9 hours a day at work sitting at a desk, then 3-5 more hours every night at the barn… there is NO time for a gym membership.

Got to love the Husband as he pointed out riding should be my work out. Yeah…well… if that was the case, why am I still FAT??!!! I ride 5 nights a week, and I don’t just sit there looking pretty when I ride. I ride for the condition of my horses and development of skills… I tell myself that, daily.

I have never really look at/or focused on the conditioning of my own body, while I ride.

A typical night at the barn: The horses I am going to ride, are in by the time I get there. So I just walk in, and pull them out of the stall. Since they have sheets or coats on and they are groomed daily, all they need is a quick brush, then a 5 to 10 minute lunge. I hop on. I do the same routine every ride, walk three laps in each direction, we trot, we work on lateral moves, we trot some more, so on…

 As I approached this possibility of getting “wedding fit through horses”, I decided it’s time to change things, time to turn this into a real workout for me.

Here we go:

No more horses inside ready to go, unless the weather is bad.

Catching the horse.

  • Briskly walk to paddock, get arms swing with the rhythm of walk, every ten steps lunge, left leg, right leg. Back to walk. I just discovered it’s 200 steps from the barn to the pasture gate, and my horses are NEVER at the gate.  If you’re like me, I call and click to the horse out in the pasture trying to get them to come. SO why just stand there? Let’s stretch.

Thanks to DJ, my lovely model showing us the lunge

Did you realize you can use the gate like a ballet bar? Start with hamstring stretches, place your left foot on the lower rung of the gate and lean into the knee until you feel the stretch.

I also use the lead line, a part in each hand, with about two feet in the middle. Raise your arms over your head, form a “Y” with the line  over your head and now, do side stretches.

Bend to your left back to center now to the right back to center. Do 5 each side, and build up to more. Bring your arm straight down and out in front of your chest, twist and stretch side to side. Again start with 5 in each direction and move on to more each day. Now a series of toe touches, bend at the waist.

Since the horses most likely did not come to the gate, and neighbors are all looking at you like you’re crazy… let’s go get the monster.

Again brisk, firm walking out to the horse and back, don’t look at the neighbors. Next spring, when you‘ve shed the winter clothes and you look marvelous, then smile.

Lift your legs good and high, march out to that horse that should have ran to the gate as soon as your car pulled up. Wait until there is a foot or two of snow out here, that will add to the burn.

DJ rocking the side bends


You’re nice and warmed up now. NO more quick flicks with the brush, let’s really groom.

Grab a brush in both hands, the old “wax on wax off” circles all over the horse’s body. Remember to bend at the waist, and stretch as you work up and down the legs.

Using slight pressure to get deep under the thickening winter coat, is also classified as a weight bearing exercise. We are not only working the arms and pecs, but warding off osteoporosis.

Using the Ride

We all have things we like our horses to work on in our rides, and I’m not saying that the entire or every ride should be about me getting trimmed down. I mix it up. I’ve been focusing on legs, arms and overall body position. I’ve been doing all the old pony camp stretches we teach the kids, in my warm up.

At the walk, I reach up and touch my horse between the ears, reach down to try to touch my foot, I stretch arms over my head, arch my back and try to touch my horse butt, twist side to side. I challenge one of the kids at the barn, to see which one of us can ride the longest in two-point or without stirrups.

Since most of my riding is sitting trot, I’ve been forcing myself to start my ride with rising trot. I found I begin to sweat and feel muscles burn, after 15 minutes of nonstop rising trot.  I was surprised to see how much my horse seemed to enjoy all this fun and games. I’ve been at this just under three weeks, and although the scale says I’ve only lost a few pounds, my body has changed enough that I am now wearing an entire size smaller jeans. One more size down and I’ll upload a video.