How many times have you been told horseback riding is not exercise, all you do is just sit there while the horse does all the work? Our sore legs and abs after a good lesson tell us otherwise, but it’s hard to help someone understand that without putting them on a horse. And I’ve never had a way to compare just how hard I worked when riding to other types of workouts, like running or biking. Now with my Fitbit I can easily track just how hard I’m working while I’m riding, and track my rides over the course of a week or a month to look for consistency and signs of improvement (or, er, signs I need to ride more and work harder…).
I love looking at how hard I worked when I rode, especially when I have a good run to compare it to. While running is excellent exercise, riding does just as much to get my heart rate up and keep it up. And when I have a ride like this one from the other day, I feel better about how hungry I am afterwards!
This ride was really interesting because it’s the highest I’ve ever recorded my heart rate (and really, too high, although it only hit that 193 bpm mark for a moment). It was a hot day, and for us in Northern IL, summer is just getting started so we aren’t used to the heat yet. I also did a lot of canter work, and during that time my heart rate got the highest, I was working on tempi changes across the diagonals (4’s are no problem now, 3’s are getting smoother, 2’s and 1’s are starting to happen!!! Yeah Remy!!!), so we cantered back and forth across the arena and it was a constant half halt and push forward and half halt again and bend and straighten and change and collect more and go forward more… The next day my abs were SO sore from this ride! At the time, it felt like a good hard ride but it wasn’t by any means exhausting, and if I had guessed before seeing this I never would have thought I had worked just as hard as I did.
The most interesting part to me is that this kind of work out did not involve getting out of breath, which is something that before Fitbit I equated with cardio or exercise. It’s also interesting to me that this workout comes a few rides after a saddle change. Previously, when I would ride Remy I would get out of breath and have to take more frequent breaks, so my heart rate would go up and then down again, but never get as high or for as a long a period of time. With the new saddle, my endurance is much better and I stop when my muscles are fatigued instead. It’s definitely a different kind of workout now, and I would guess that it’s indicative of my muscles having to work too hard to compensate for something in the other saddle.
I wish I knew more about the “somethings” and could offer more concrete conclusions from some Fitbit data, but I’m still researching that part. It is interesting though, and as I learn more about what the numbers mean it will be really cool to see how this type of data can be used to improve my riding and maybe as an early warning when something is off. If nothing else, at least the next time someone tells me that horseback riding isn’t exercise, I can ask to see how their traditional gym workout compares to this!
If you’ve been considering getting a tracker to record your activities, I highly recommend the Fitbit HR (HR meaning heart rate – such useful information!), you can order one from Amazon here.