Being fit to event doesn’t necessarily mean that you can go run 5 miles at 10 minute mile pace although if you can it will help you nicely along the way. Also what you weigh is not as important as you may think, well not on it’s own. A slim unbalanced rider who sits and bounces in the saddle and pulls on the reins is going to be harder for a horse to carry than a heavier balanced rider who can maintain their position and balance without interfering with their horse. Obviously there is a limit to this and the heavier you are the harder you will naturally find to balance.
As riders it is our responsibility to be fit enough to event in order to help our horses achieve their peak performance. We wouldn’t normally enter a horse into an event who wasn’t fit enough to complete the course but yet too many riders forget about their own fitness.
Professional riders who are riding multiple horses a day and those riders with manual jobs will automatically have a better base level of fitness to an office worker but to be properly eventing fit for their relevant level all riders will need to add in additional exercise in one form or another above riding alone.
Firstly you do need to have a good foundation of cardio fitness (especially for xc) which can be built in a number of ways. Within the e-Venting team there is a whole variety of cardio acitivities which we participate in;
Running – possibly the easiest and cheapest way of keeping cardio fit with the only necessary equipment being a decent pair of trainers. You really should buy trainers that fit and support your foot shape as otherwise you put yourself at increased risk of injuries. A treadmill is easier than road running and road running is in turn easier than off road/cross country running which should be kept in mind.
Cycling – a great lower impact way to get fit than running but you need a bike be that an exercise bike in your home or at a gym or a road/moutain bike. As per running exercise bikes are generally easier (although be warned a spinning class for the uninitiated is torture 😉 ) than road, and road easier than off road/mountain biking.
Swimming – Great for most people as it works your whole body for fitness
Triathalon – swimming, running and cycling all combined into one. Fantastic all round fitness and super sprint distances (400m swim, 20k bike, 5k run) are accessible to pretty much everyone.
Roller Derby – A minority sport but great for all round fitness although Rollar Derby does involve some contact so you may also get a few bruises!
In addition to cardio to be a truely effective rider for all three phases you need a strong core. A strong core will allow you to hold your horse together in the dressage, create ‘that’ canter in the showjumping and keep yourself balanced when galloping along xc. Any exercise you do will contribute to strenghtening your core but exercise like yoga or pilates will be particulary effective. If you are riding regularly and also muck out etc you will have a reasonable core muscles but you can always do more!
Essentially there is no one correct answer on how to get fit for eventing it is just more important that you are fit. As mentioned in our recent tip of the day regarding 2 point seat maintaining a 2 point position for a minimum of 5 minutes in trot but more preferably 10 minutes is a great test of your fitness. Due to the movement of the trot it asks for much more of you cardio wise than doing the same at a canter, it will also test your core strength (and improve it if lacking). If you can survive 10 minutes in a 2 point seat at trot without dying congratulations you should be fit enough to event, well at entry levels anyway. The higher up the levels you compete and the more horses you compete the fitter you need to be.