Tamara over at The Barb Wire (http://inthenightfarm.wordpress.com/) has some interesting things to say on rider fitness. I can’t cover the topic as thoroughly as she does (and her thoughts on nutrition are REALLY interesting!), but I have to say I agree with her.
When I started back into riding, I had just had our second child and I weighed 81 kilos (182 lbs). Then I bought a horse who looked like he was going to struggle to break 15hh, and I read this article:
http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=3276&S=0&SourceID=69 looked at my horse and decided that he was going to battle to be more than 450 kilos, and decided I had better lose some weight! 81 kilos plus saddle was definitely more than the 20% guideline.
Of course, Joe proceeded to grow to 15.2, fill out significantly, and probably tops out now somewhere North of 500 kilos.
However, I still work hard to keep my weight around 72 kilos (162 lbs). My saddle is about 8 kilos with pad, so I am well under the 100 kilos he could in theory carry without issue.
So why do I still count calories, restrict the iced coffee and chocolate intake, and flog my sorry bum around a few kilos of running three times a week? 3 main reasons:
1. That study didn’t look at long term impacts. 50 miles is a LONG way… Every extra kilo I carry is directly influencing the level of concussion my horse’s legs get (we’ll discuss barefooting and booting another day!!), and the downward force on their tendons.
2. When I am at a lower weight and that bit fitter, I cope better with 50 miles. I am less tired at the end, and I have the muscle strength to continue to post and stay centred.
3. If I have to, I can get off and walk/run with my boys for a bit. There are some good reasons for doing this: hopping off while going downhill means you can make a bit more speed on the downhill, which is easier than going quickly uphill or on the flat, whilst reducing the concussion (that word again). I don’t mean we career down crazy hills, but if it a slope my horse can safely trot down, he’s better off doing it with me alongside, not on top. In addition, running with your horse takes the pressure off their back for a while, improving the blood flow through all those important back muscles. Sure, you can get off at checkpoints, but that’s using time…
And lastly, don’t underestimate the psychological effect of having the boss say “OK, I’m gonna get off you, get out in front, and be the leader fora while”. To your horse (I believe) it sends them the message “I’ve got this. Go to auto pilot mode for a bit, I’ll keep an eye out for danger”. When you are in the saddle, the horse’s eyes and ears are effectively out in front and they see it as their job to watch for scary monsters…
OK – enough pontificating. I’m going to go and eat some salad…