In saddle and on ground exercises for the adult re-rider?

I’m in my early 30s and rode a lot growing up, but after high school, my time in the saddle was inconsistent. The last time I consistently rode (about 1 to 2 times per week) was December 2021.

I am now back to riding twice a week (one lesson and one hack). I’d love to ride even more consistently with a half-lease, but need to get back to my old abilities. I’m not who I used to be! I’ve specifically noticed two areas for growth:

  1. I lose my stirrups a lot, especially when sitting the canter. Some of that might be a hold over from doing a lot of dressage on sensitive horses and draping my legs. I’m riding in jump saddles now. What I’ve been doing: half seat to drive weight into the balls of my feet and then sitting.

  2. Balancing in jump position/half seat (no jumps yet). I’m finding myself arching my back, so I’m trying to engage my core more, and I have to grab mane sometimes. What I’ve been doing: more half seat! At all gaits and trying to drill myself into doing it more while I’m hacking.

What can I do off the horse that will help, and what else can I do when riding?


Wall sits, planks, and different variations of squats will cover most of what you need for strength. I also like Pilates for improving body control in addition to core strength. All of these can be done at home without any equipment, and you don’t have to spend much time on them to get the benefits. Add in whatever cardio you prefer to give yourself a solid baseline of fitness and you should start feeling improvement in the saddle soon.

If you’re looking for something more structured, I like the Peloton app for their strength and cardio classes. It’s pretty cheap and there’s a huge range of material to choose from. There’s also another thread on the Dressage Rider Training program, which is specifically geared towards equestrians. I’ve done it and liked it, but I prefer the variety of the Peloton app and being able to target exactly what I want to work on on any given day.


Any fitness program that strengthens your entire core (not just abs; back muscles too). As I get older (much older than you) I find I have to work on everything - core, flexibility, balance, strength and cardio - so I mix it up a lot. I do yoga, run, lift weights and HIIT, along w/ core work. The list makes it seem maniacal but I only 1 thing a day + yoga. [I have a beachbody subscription that makes it easy to swap it up]. Becoming fitter/working on fitness makes for a noticeable difference in the saddle. (I don’t know if I qualify as fit - a bit fluffy)


There is so much free content on YouTube.

Caroline Girvans has great strength training programs

Yoga with Adriene

Fitness Blender


Mad Fit

I’m sure there are many I’m missing, but above are my favs.

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Spin class with an instructor who doesn’t spend a lot of time on seat was a game changer. Balance, cardio, and core engagement all in one activity.

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When you are riding, if your horse is pretty steady at the trot, you can do the exercise where you post up for two steps, down for one, up two, down one. When I came back to riding as a re-rider, that exercise helped me a lot both with balance and strength. Out of the saddle, I agree that a spin bike with a lot of intervals where you are up off the seat helps, and anything that strengthens your core (both back and abs). And I second whoever said the Peloton app – it has both the spin classes and the strength classes - you can use the app on a tablet with any bike, not just Pelotons, and its not very expensive per month for what you get.

As women mature we begin losing 1-2% of our muscle mass a year. That’s a lot!! You keep your muscle mass by picking up and putting down heavy things. (And eating enough protein to support it.) Over the years I have done every fitness craze to come along–pillates, yoga, biking, spinning, aerobics, step aerobics, lap swimming, jazzercise… Nothing has helped my riding or done more to increase my security and stability in the saddle than lifting weights.

Squats and deadlifts primarily. Work with someone, even for a short time, to learn how to squat correctly and hinge correctly–flat back, tucked pelvis, neutral shoulder, knees not sliding beyond your toes, leading with your butt moving back.

While people will tell you “core strength,” I’m going to tell you “posterior chain” strength. Core is made up of a bunch a smaller muscles that contribute to nuanced stability. The posterior chain is centered around your glutes (and hamstrings)–which are designed to be the strongest muscle group in the human body. Unfortunately many of us that sit much of the day have stronger quads (front of thigh) than glutes leading to a problematic imbalance that also exposes us to back pain–and makes you less effective in the saddle.

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