Dear Jessica, I am worried about something that I might have misunderstood and I hope you can clarify. I met you two years ago at a clinic where you were giving a session right after a friend of yours, Richard Shrake. I saw you two hug and chat so I know you are friends! It is nice to see clinicians who get along and do not say bad things about each other. My question is that as I am sure you know Richard Shrake teaches resistance free training, and I just talked to another rider I know who has ridden with you, and she says that you advocate resistance training for the rider. I asked "Don't you mean resistance FREE training," and she said no, that you had very clearly said you were in favor of resistance training. Isn't this completely against what your friend Richard teaches, and how can you be friends if you teach opposing ideas?
Worried in Wisconsin Olivia
Yes, I did and do advocate resistance training for the rider. This has nothing to do with horses or horse-training or riding, it's a term that means working out with weights, either with free weights or on the kind of weight machines (Nautilus, Universal, et alia) that you'll find at your local gym or health club. Some people have smaller, at-home versions of these machines. The idea is to work your muscles against resistance so that you can become stronger. And before you ask, the reason for becoming stronger is not so that you can overpower your horse. It's so that you will have strong muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones, your joints will be flexible, and you will have good control over your muscles and movements.
We expect our horses to be athletes, and the more we ask of them, the more athletic we should be too. A strong, flexible, coordinated rider can make life much easier for the horse. Riding usually isn't enough to make a rider fit - unless the rider has seven or eight horses to work every day. Most riders need another form of exercise to stay sufficiently fit to get the maximum enjoyment from their riding - and, as I said, to make life easier for their horses. Weightlifting (or "resistance training") is very good for riders. Strong legs will enable you to balance yourself and avoid banging on your horse's back, a strong back and strong abdominals will help protect your spine, and a strong upper body will help you lift your saddle on and off the horse with ease - even if you have a tall horse and a heavy Western saddle.
There's much more to horse ownership and riding than time you spend on the horse. Tack trunks, full water buckets, bales of hay.... if you have horses, you frequently find yourself lifting and carrying heavy objects. The stronger and more flexible you are, the less likely is is that you'll hurt yourself in the process. That's where resistance training can be very helpful, especially for women who need to develop more strength in their upper bodies.
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