Monday, March 27, 2023

Getting it right off the horse: 2023 update


I wanted to log the updates I've made to my workout plan since May of 2022. I now keep weekly workouts, logged on a whiteboard before being transferred into my phone. I find it pretty motivating to be able to cross things off as I do them. And if I'm not keeping up then there is the semi-public shame of my husband also seeing it. He is the world's most dedicated human being, so it's pretty easy for me to feel like a slacker if I make a plan and then fail to execute. And this whiteboard is on the door to a room I go into multiple times daily meaning the workouts also stare me in the face if they're not crossed off. 

So what has changed in the past 10 months? 

The biggest one is the addition of workouts from Ultimate Exercise Routines for Riders and dropping the BBG workouts. There was SO much jumping in the BBG workouts that my knees were starting to ache sometimes the day after.

There are 6 different workouts in this book that are quick to work through (roughly 20-30 minutes) and not so painful that I dread doing them. The author is a certified personal trainer and a rider herself. The workouts are total body and focused on muscles that tend to be weakest in riders. I credit the abduction exercises here with my new found ability to acknowledge and use my right leg. Even though using the leg should be an adduction movement, somehow strengthening abductors has led to a new found mid-body connection to my right leg. I've realized over the past 6 months that my tendency to pull with my right hand probably stems from an inability to use my right leg. Left leg makes a stellar inside leg and is active and creating bend. Right leg? Nah. Would prefer to just sit there. But now I can FEEL the difference between the two and start to fix it. 

So those have been added in two days a week. I also added back in my long run. It's mostly there for my mental health, theoretically as riders we do not need more "zone 2 cardio" or "long-duration endurance exercise" than riding gives us. But the long run is almost always Sunday (or Monday if I work Sunday) and it sets the tone for my week and gives me some time to mentally ruminate on things. My tempo workout is either a 1 mile run as fast as I can then a 1/4 to 1 mile repeat of that (most weeks it is 1/4 - 1/2 but sometimes everything lines up and I do a full mile again) or 30 second bursts with 30 seconds of recovery 6 times. This is to add in anaerobic work that hopefully fits somewhat with galloping cross country. 

I played around with a few upper body workouts after my post last year, but ended up coming back to simple and straight forward. Push is actual push-ups. According to a PhD professor of kinesiology on the Huberman Lab podcast, women should be able to do 15 push-ups. Yeah... I'm not there yet. I was much closer until my husband critiqued my form and my number halved. So each week I try to add one to my max number and then do 2-3 eccentric loading push-ups and two more sets of lesser reps. 

Pull was T's, Y's, and W's with light weights for about 4-5 months. For the next 6 weeks though, I'm focusing on actual pull-ups though with the same idea as push-ups. Add one each week, finish each set with eccentric loading. Eventually I'll rotate back to the T's, Y's, and W's and try to increase weight there. 

Abs are still the Athlean-X routines, although my husband paid for his app so now I can login and then select "6 pack shuffle" (I certainly do not have a 6 pack and never will, but y'know) and it pulls up a new combination of exercises each time. We use a bag of chocolates as motivation to complete our daily ab workouts. The only time you can touch the bag, that sits on the table, is after doing your abs. Then you get your chocolate reward. Works great and has actually brought my weekly number up to 5-7 times most weeks. 

How is this all working? Pretty well, I think, although my goal of "feel strong while galloping an entire XC course" is not objectively measurable. And it is especially not measurable given the skill and comfort level increases, although our crash set me back a bit on the second one. The closest I might be able to get to an objective measure of fitness would be heart rate recovery times, which I could do because my XC watch is my Garmin that I use for running. I might play with that soon, just for my own edification, although I have no baseline from last April. Also, the heat and humidity that is COMING SOON with the FL spring is sure to play into that as well. 

A lot of the finer details of the workouts have come from the Huberman Lab podcast, in particular his recent series with a guest, Dr. Andy Galpin, on many aspects of exercise science. The podcast is really great to listen to on the drives to work; I often listen to episodes multiple times because they are so information dense. 


Ben has a bit more of a solidified routine these days. I aim to start and end each ride with 15 minutes of walking. He is also out with the herd during the day every day now and so does a lot more walking around than he did when he was solo. 

He stands on balance pads with his hind feet 2-3 times weekly, after our ride, for at least a minute. I don't know in any objective way that they have made a huge difference to hind leg stabilization. He still slips, mostly in the right hind, anywhere from 0 to 4+ times each ride. His ability/willingness to spend time on them DOES directly reflect how he is feeling in his hind end though. The days where he has slipped more, he is less willing to spend time on them. 

After the balance pads, or if he's feeling really steady and willing on them then while he's still got a hind foot on one, we do hind leg stretches. First straight out behind for 30 seconds, then out laterally for 30 seconds. We do belly lifts, scratching at the girth, for at least 60 seconds after 80% of rides. These are in 10 second bouts with a treat in between each. Most days we also follow up with some carrot stretches. 

Roughly every 4-6 weeks he gets chiropractic, which he looooooves. He also gets a full Adequan series every 6 months. I do some at home acupuncture once a month or so and his trips to the Chi institute for official acupuncture have been documented here. 

Goals for the next year:
  • Once a month ground pole exercise in hand or under saddle - something interesting like serpentine over it, straddling the pole, etc. 
  • At least start monitoring HR recovery after cross country rides. I think a trend will be measurable even if there is show to show variability due to environmental conditions, stress level, etc. Whether or not the trend is due to fitness or skill won't be discernable, but still. 
  • Work through the 9 tests of fitness that are on the Huberman lab podcast so I at least have a baseline. 
  • Keep Ben sound and happy! 


  1. Such a good topic - I've been working on physical fitness since getting D. In case you (or your joints) don't like the jumping, I know Haybales and Barbells does non-impact exercises, which I really appreciate!

    1. That is good to know! Part of what I got out of the Huberman podcasts is that there ought to be changes to any fitness routine. Seemed like unless you were dedicating hours each day, which who has time to do that with horses, work, life, etc, then there were going to be missing components, so rotating through some exercises every 6-8 weeks was definitely a good thing!

  2. I love these kind of posts - so interesting to see what other riders are doing and finding useful outside of riding.

    1. I am very glad to hear this! I've definitely gotten useful exercises and ideas from others, both on and off the horse.

  3. i've tinkered with when and how to add more walking to my routine with charlie, and have actually seen a ton of benefit when we front load the walking to the rides, vs adding it at the end. esp in the summer when our horses shift to night time turn out, it's really easy during the days to slip out into the big pastures for 15-20-30min of walking and *then* go to the ring for some focused flat work, at least for charlie it's seemed to really help with getting him more instantly in front of my leg for the work

    1. It seems to help Ben with relaxing through his back the most. And it helps me feel like I'm getting him adequate fitness in that regard too. He's got it better than most with his 8 acre pasture with friends for 12 hours a day, but he still doesn't have Charlie's hilly massive pastures.