Out of shape

Hey, so I’m working on getting back in the saddle after a long break. I’m 38 and a bit overweight. I’m working on that. I just started kickboxing and am hoping to shed some pounds.

Anyway, when I ride, I can barely trot one lap around the arena before I’m winded and have to walk. Has anyone else had this experience? It’s really embarrassing. Any good exercises to build stamina?


I can sympathize. I was there a couple of years ago. I just kept plugging away. One lap of trot then became two and so on. Gotta start somewhere right!


Omg yes. I can’t even run 1/4 of a mile without coughing up a storm. For this, I tried to break it up by running for a certain distance and then walking. Slowly built up my stamina that way.


Heck yeah.

When I started back after 8 years away, I couldn’t do two point for even half the arena. So that was the goal. 2 point, both ways, 6 times for half the arena each time. Then 8 times, then 10 times. Then 2 point, both ways, for a full arena, 4 times. Build up, baby.

I did my conditioning on horseback because I simply didn’t have time to do it elsewhere and then ride as well.

I am (and was at the time) older than you.


When you think about it posting is actually really hard work. Lifting yourself up and down constantly with just your leg muscles is not as easy as we think it is. Many of us started riding as kids so we have muscle memory and we’ve always had these muscles developed, posting for 20 minutes straight is just what we did because we were physically conditioned to do so. Once you’ve stopped riding for a while, gained a few pounds, maybe work a desk job and the muscles you took for granted are gone. Take it slow and you’ll get there!


We’ve all been there! Don’t think in terms of specific exercises. Instead, cross train for functional fitness. Weight lifting, walking or other cardio you enjoy, good yoga program focused on balance, strength, & proprioseption.

Not only will you become a stronger rider, you’ll also build valuable bone density & all the other great stuff that benefits us as we age. Good luck!


I had a trainer that I rode with who spoke to a student that was a bit overweight/out of shape and wanted to improve… and suggested that they run on a treadmill for 10 mins. They could walk in between, but had to keep running/jogging for 2 mins before walking and for each minute they walked, they had to run for another min.
I just suggested they get a Peloton or the Peloton app and start using their workouts for a baseline.


I’m your age and have been there. I wasn’t able to keep up with the 8 year olds lapping me in the arena! Just keep riding, the more frequently the better! I think other cardio and strengthening is great, but riding will condition the individual muscles you need for posting. When I tired of posting I would sit the trot (and work my abs while I rested my legs.) Congrats at getting back in the saddle!


It is definitely something that takes time… quite a bit of it only comes back from saddle time–the more you’re in the saddle, the easier it gets. When I started riding 4-5x a week vs 2x a week, that was when I saw the most dramatic improvement to my riding fitness (stabler two-point, tighter leg, etc).

Out of the saddle, there’s a lot you can do to help. Pick a strength training of your choice 1x a week (weights, barre, TRX, kettle bells, even your own body weight!). Pick a HITT of your choice (kickboxing is amazing–good for you for taking that on!!) 1x a week. And then pick a straight cardio of your choice.

The cardio is what is hardest for me… but it’s also what is really going to get your stamina up so you’re not winded after a few times 'round the ring. I got a decent spin bike off amazon and do a 45 minute spin class 2x a week. It does make a huge difference to how long I can maintain good riding form, and that’s ultimately what keeps me motivated.


Big hug.
I’m in my mid-40s and started back last year after a, let’s just say very long time. I’m not a gym person but absolutely would’ve counted myself as being “fairly in shape.” But I too was winded AF and only after a lap. I couldn’t believe it.

I know, I know, I know. Saddle time is the biggest/only thing that’s going to fix it. Unfortunately for me, I’m lucky to lesson once a week. Often I’ll miss two in a row; that’s just my life right now. Just getting to the barn is a huge treat for me and I generally remember that but it’s hard not to get frustrated when you struggle, feel weak (my legs, I don’t know who they are anymore, lol), or get winded.

I just happened to be looking up exercises this weekend, resigned to the fact I may have to take a more discipline approach than just walking 1-3 miles daily and halfarsedly using an exercise ball.

Speaking of which, that was my trainer’s first suggestion. Again, I’m not good with disciplined exercise but I can make myself sit on it (near) daily to stretch muscles and work balance. Probably not safe but I put it on a hassock so my legs hang and more closely mimic being on a horse, feet out of stirrups. There were some old discussions in the forums here I came across about using the ball and probably more properly, too, if you give it a search. I got the Black Mountain stability ball/55cm on Amazon. It was dirt cheap.

I am definitely all eyes to your thread about stamina. I will say this, take heart. I’m about a year and a half back, actually. I missed a bit of time when things shut down for the pandemic and still on the weekly/bi-weekly schedule – but if I really think about it, I’ve made progress, even fitness-wise. I’m okay with the posting trot and now mainly just get tired with the canter (this is my struggle, lol) and doing wee jumping exercises. And I bounce back faster than I did at first, too. If I really step outside my head and take inventory, I’ve actually come a long way from that first ride back.

Don’t be hard on yourself. One of the best things about being an adult ammy is that you have permission to struggle.


I’ll share my experience
2 years ago I was a very healthy weight and fitness level. I had an active sales job and ate whatever I wanted when I wanted. I got a desk job and never changed my eating habits. I didn’t incorporate any additional exercise for my loss of activity. My weight ballooned. I found myriding abilities declining, myself falling off and I became scared.
I made a change in January. I tried the intermittent 16/8 fasting and started Orange Theory fitness. I have lost 20 lbs and my goal is 10 more but also increase my upper body muscle.

I noticed a huge improvement in my riding- I’m not getting left behind as much, I’m able to ride more effectively and my horse is sounder with my ability to control my movement better because I am stronger.
Am I still winded after a long jumping lesson, yes! But I continue to chip away and I love the progress and journey of it all… my only regret is that I didn’t start sooner!!!


It gets better! And easier!

Two years ago at my first lesson back I nearly passed out during the warmup (!), had to get off the horse, and sit and watch the rest of the lesson from the sidelines. So embarrassing! I would say it probably took at least a year to really feel as tight in the tack as I did before I stopped riding 10 years prior.


Ohhhhh yeaaahhhhh.

I’m not overweight, and I consider myself relatively in shape. I only walk for exercise, but I do it religiously. This morning I ran two miles without difficulty.


When my horse comes out lazy, I find myself gasping for air. I know I know I know – I’m not supposed to nag him with my leg, but I do. Once or twice around the ring and I’m asking if we have a defibrillator (sadly it appears we do not).

This didn’t happen to me in my 20s and 30s, but now it’s pretty much par for the course.

I have no tips. Just lending my voice for solidarity.


Fitness for riding is something I’ve been interested in since I came back to riding a few years ago as an adult. I will share my thoughts, but know that this is only what works for me. Everyone is different, so above all, I would encourage you to pick up any form of physical activity that you are willing to do repeatedly. There’s no perfect way to do this! With that said, here are a few of my thoughts:

  1. No, you can’t quite replace saddle time, but few of us have 8 horses to ride each day, so most of us need to improve our riding through non-horse physical exertion. It may not directly translate, but any activity that increases your cardiopulmonary fitness and your core strength will substantially improve your riding fitness. Just take your time, there’s no pressure!

  2. I am cheap and lazy, so I don’t like to drive to a gym each day for a workout. I run and walk because it only costs the price of a new pair of Brooks every 3 months. I live in the Midwest so in winter time I run on my treadmill while watching Netflix to keep the boredom at bay. But I will also go to a nearby lake and swim, bike, or walk my dogs. I have lighter free weights and I have a variety of resistance bands, plus a yoga mat at home. So I do strength training as well.

  3. I aim for 2-3 activities per day. They don’t all have to be major sweat sessions or take a bunch of time. Personally, I loathe strength training so I will often times break it up by sets since I work from home right now. I’ll pick 8 exercises (a mix of upper body, lower, core and back) and do 15 reps of each, which takes about 10-15 minutes per set. So I work some, do a set of the 8 exercises, then work a couple more hours, do another set, then cap it off with a third set toward the end of the day. So by the time I finish my work day I have also completed a full strength training workout. I don’t do this every day, maybe about 3 days per week for the strength training. And that’s a good week.

  4. My fitness waxes and wanes over time. Some periods of time I am particularly fit and strong, sometimes I’m not. Over the years I’ve accepted this is a natural cycle for me and I am good with it.

  5. Cut yourself a bunch of slack. The fact that you are trying and are interested in increasing your fitness is wonderful!


Yep that was me too. Former smoker, with life lone GI issues that affect my riding. Coming back into serious riding I couldn’t do more than 3 laps around our 60x120 arena without needing a break. Either from being winded or feeling ill. I can now ride walk/jog/lope and walk/trot/canter on both of my horses for 45-60 minutes with no issues other than getting hot!

You just have to keep plugging away. Start with one time around, and do that until it gets easy! Good on you for wanting to better yourself!


Lord yes! I started back seriously last summer. I could trot only a couple times around at a time. Jump two jumps, max. When the trainer would ask me a question, I couldn’t answer because I was so winded. What helped me was adding an hour of walking or running each day. Not all at once, but throughout the day, and then trying to challenge myself by going more laps and for longer on the horse. It also really depends on how slow your horse is. With an energetic guy, you’ll be able to do more laps. I can now a year later jump a course of jumps. Last year I NEVER thought I’d get there. Good luck to you, you’ve got this!

1 Like

Don’t forget to breathe! Seriously - make an effort to concentrate on the in-and-out of your breath as you trot around, from your belly!

I see so many adult beginners/re-riders in lessons red-faced and huffing because they are so busy concentrating on their hands/heels/horse/trainer that they forget the most basic thing!


Kinda sorta. Posting trot has always come easily for me, even after a couple years of not riding much other than the odd walk on a retiree, but lord knows 6 canter strides would have me completely discombobulated and quite frankly willing to bail to end my misery. And two point at the trot was ugly and short lived. Weirdly I could get into a more correct two point while cantering but only on sainted schoolies and then only for a brief period but easier than sitting deepish at the canter.

At any rate, totally normal to find it distressingly difficult to get back into.


Thanks so much everyone! This gives me hope. I’m hoping kickboxing and saddle time will help. I’ll plug away! :blush:

1 Like

You got this! Other items to consider might be the saddle; I’m totally aware that sometimes in lessons one has no control. But if it’s an option, try out some different saddles. It can make a big difference!

1 Like