How Horseback Riding Keeps Me Active
I'm not letting the pandemic hold me back from physical activity and mental wellness
Timing is everything. As the world shuttered its doors, fearful of an invisible enemy with the power to destroy lives, I wondered what was going to happen to my body and to my fitness.
Although I’ve never been much of an athlete, I’ve made my fitness a priority since graduating college. Whether I attend a yoga class at work, set a schedule for HIIT classes at my favorite local studio, pop over to the gym for a cardio session, or lace up my hiking sneakers and hit the trails, I always make sure to move.
With good reason too. I hit the brakes on working out when I moved across the country to attend grad school. Despite living in a city notorious for trendy diets and workouts, I found myself without a fitness budget for a gym and without time to workout.
It hit me hard. Not only was I just out of shape, but I was also in a lot of pain from old injuries that were exacerbated by a lack of movement and stretching. It took physical therapy, a change in my diet, and about two years of regularly attending workouts to become relatively pain-free and fit again.
And then the pandemic hit. My gyms closed and I was left with home workouts and running to stay fit and keep myself in shape.
Great, I’m saving a ton of money, but I am certainly not the type of person to self-motivate for a workout. I’ll have grand plans of running three days a week to train for a 5k, and then I’ll get through maybe two days and give it up. I need the motivation of a trainer and of a group to not only keep myself accountable for a workout but to get the best workout possible.
I had to figure out the best way to be somewhat active at least three days a week, and when I couldn’t enter an indoor facility, I found myself escaping to the outdoors. Specifically, to horses.
Farm Girl at Heart
I have rural roots. Born in Western Canada, I lived on a 20-acre farm for about 3 years and then moved to a rural area of New Jersey (yes, it exists!). I grew up around farms and horses, learning how to ride at a young age and continuing my passion into adulthood.
When I moved to Los Angeles nearly 5 years ago, I resigned myself to city living, forgoing my rural roots in favor of a job in the fast-paced, high energy music industry. But I missed the wind in my face, the silent connection with another living creature, and the emotional release that comes from flying over obstacles and galloping around a ring.
I sought out a new trainer earlier this year, right before the pandemic began, and with incredible luck found a small, private facility (not subject to closures) out in the Californian country. After several years of city living and the beginning of living and working in the same room, my inner outdoor-loving, farm girl heart was happy.
It would have been easy for me to sit around the apartment all day for the last several months, complaining that I’m not getting a workout in because they gyms are closed. Luckily, finding a great farm and a horse when I did was all the motivation I needed to keep active during the pandemic and onwards.
Slowly but sure I got my legs back underneath me and within a few short months of weekly lessons began to lease a horse and ride three days a week. It’s not just the physical activity and workout that I crave ( and trust me, riders don’t just sit there and look pretty!), it’s a mental release from the day’s or week’s stressors, from being cooped up in a two-bedroom apartment. It’s a welcome break from the news and the influence others’ panic and anxiety has on my own mental wellbeing.
Riding motivated me to begin doing home workouts and keep active outside of my time spent at the farm. I walk every morning before sitting down at my desk to work and make sure I take walk breaks throughout the day. I started a yoga routine and now take an online class or each day to stretch and tone my riding muscles to become an even better athlete. I plan to start running soon to increase my endurance so I'm not out of shape on horseback, and I'm investing in small weights so I can build the muscles I need to stay in control.
Horseback riding is a lifetime sport. It kept me active as a child and keeps me active as an adult. It's a sport that motivates me to keep active in all areas of my life so I can be my best self for the horse. And as we make our way through the uncertainty of our global crisis, I know that it’s going to be my lifeline for physical wellness.