The forwards riding position required in jumping “necessitates weight bearing to be through the rider’s legs,” according to a study of the physical demands on equestrian athletes.
This position also requires high levels of “tonic muscular contraction, particularly of the trunk” which “incorporate(s) some anaerobic demand.”
A program for condition the body for optimum show jumping performance must therefore strengthen the torso and legs as well as improving stamina for a jumper rider.
Exercises for the Torso
1. The Plank
In Exercises for Showjumping Jo Jackson explains that “plank exercises are good for showjumpers.”
Start with the pushup position, leaning on your forearms. Straighten the spine and pull in your stomach, then hold yourself up for 15 seconds, with toes and forearms touching the floor.
Perform 15 repetitions, lengthening the time you hold yourself up as your fitness builds.
Other exercises to improve torso strength include:
Exercises for the Thighs
1. Trotting Without Stirrups
Jo Jackson recommends trotting without stirrups.
Cross your stirrups over the pommel of the saddle. Keep your legs in the correct position and ask the horse to trot.
Ride in rising trot for as long as you can, with your heels down, just as they would be in the stirrups.
Initially this will be tough to maintain, but you’ll gradually be able to perform this exercise for longer periods.
2. Trotting in the Jumping Position
A favorite among event riders, this exercise improves the rider’s balance in the saddle as well as strengthening the thigh and calf muscles. It also flexes the ankles.
With feet in the stirrups, trot the horse while sitting in the forward jumping position. Look ahead, as if you were approaching a fence, without coming back down into the saddle.
You’ll be able to sustain this for longer as your thigh muscles become stronger.
Exercises for the Calves and Ankles
1. Stair Exercise
Stand on the first step of a flight of stairs, with the balls of your feet on the edge of the step and your heels hanging over the edge.
Slowly lower the heels of your feet until your calves are stretching, and hold for 10 – 15 seconds, then raise your feet above the height of your toes.
Perform 10 reps.
2. Balance While Standing
Brooke Yool in Simple Calf and Ankle Strengthening Exercises advocates balancing on one leg to work “the small stabilizing muscles surrounding your ankle and the base of your calf, helping you prevent sprains. Work up to balancing 60 seconds on each leg, once per day.”
These two exercises combined will strengthen your ankles and improve your balance.
Showjumping riders should build their stamina with thrice weekly cardio exercises, according to M. L. Rose in Exercises for Showjumping. These should be vigorous and can include riding, but additional options are walking briskly, jogging, swimming, playing squash and biking.
Showjumping requires good physical fitness. Strengthening exercises on the legs and torso will improve your balance and stability in the saddle, while stamina training will enable your body to compete without becoming stressed. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program to make sure you can safely perform an exercise program.
Resources & Further Reading
Exercises for Show Jumping by M.L. Rose
Exercises for Showjumping by Jo Jackson