What Exercises Are Best For Dressage Riders?

It’s common for most riders to want to get fit for dressage. So what they usually do is join a gym, head to a trainer that has never been on a horse, or get a program which they never use and instead take up running.

There is no doubt that these things may get you fit. But they may not get you fit for riding. Our goal is to make sure that in our spare time we are doing what we can to become better riders.

So if you can get fit and improve your riding at the same time, it makes a lot more sense than just getting fit.
In order to get fit for dressage you need to understand what muscles you want to target and in what way. Dressage is about flexibility, as well as, suppleness and strength. We need to be mobile through our spine and flexible through our hips so sitting on a stationary bike or doing leg extensions aren’t the best thing for riders. Both of these things are going to cause your hip flexors and leg extensor muscles to become tight, tilting your hips forward and putting pressure on your lower back. Then if you add a desk job to that you are heading into a nasty direction.


Functional Movements, Get You Functionally Strong
You do all training because you want to be functional and transferable to actual riding. You want to be gaining fitness and strength that utilizes the same muscles as you ride and that helps you become a better more efficient rider.

Let’s look at the rising trot because that’s the most dynamic movement. This involves us using our leg muscles to rise above the movement of the horse, as well as, a variety of different muscles to produce the result of the rise. A functional exercise is one that is similar to rising trot since it uses a variety of muscles to create result such as a lunge, squat, and press up. With this kind of exercise, our whole body has to stabilize you and a variety of muscles must work together to produce the movement. In the lunge and squat it use the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, adductors, abductors, lower abdominals, rectus abdominus and so many more which is similar to rising trot compared to a leg extension machine which is just targeting your quadriceps.

The key is to find functional movements that are similar to that of riding a horse or that use similar muscles. Our bodies are designed to do seven different movements which include squat, lunge, twist, push, pull, bend and run/walk. No matter what you are training for, you need to make sure you include everyone of these movement patterns into your training. If you don’t include it you are likely to create imbalances. For example if you sit at a computer or drive a lot, this is going to cause tightness through your hips and strain on your lower back. If you do nothing other than riding which uses a bit of squat, bend and pull with some walking back and forth to the paddock, when it comes to you bending over to pick up that hay bale and then twisting to put it down in another place you are very likely to cause an injury because of the twist action your body hasn’t done in a while. This is why you need to make sure you have correct functional exercise in your week with mobility training also to counter act any imbalances that may be present. Our goal is to be riding pain free and injury free until we no longer want to, because I can never see that day coming. I certainly don’t want to have to stop riding because of something I could have prevented.

Whatever training you do make sure you get these movement patterns into your week. There is very much a scale of beginner to advance of each exercise so the key is to start whatever you can do to help with your rider fitness and prevention of injury.

  • Squat
  • Lunge
  • Twist
  • Pull
  • Bend
  • Push
  • Gait – walk/sprint

Dressage rider training program includes everything and takes away all of that hassle. It can be really confusing to know what exercises to do so I have tried to take away the confusion and make it easy for you. Learn more about the program here.





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