It’s time to “giddy up” over to the National Western Stock Show which is here in Denver through next Sunday. When you’re there – or at any rodeo across the country – take a close look at the cowboys and cowgirls competing in the events. What do you notice about each and every one of them? They’re in shape – GREAT shape! There’s a reason they look great in their wranglers! What’s their secret? Simple – ridin’ and ropin’! Riding a horse will help you discover muscles you never knew you had.
Growing up in Texas I wanted more than anything else to be a barrel racer. Unfortunately, my busy school and athletics schedule didn’t allow me the time to devote to learning to ride. That, and I didn’t have a horse. Then when I asked my mom and dad for a horse, they got me a dog……
Too bad, because horseback riding has many physical benefits, so saddle up! It’s not as easy as it looks – mounting a six foot tall horse with chest-high stirrups is a challenge in and of itself. Every leg muscle you own is needed to get your rear in the saddle. Once you’re actually in the saddle the real workout begins:
- Calorie Burn – One hour on the back of a trotting horse will help you burn 380-600 calories. Galloping will up the ante to 472-690 calories per hour. Three days a week of this and you’ll be able to kiss your gym membership goodbye!
- Strengthening the Core – The challenge of staying in the saddle is a great method of strengthening the core muscles of the abs and back. Using a Swiss ball is a good way to mimic the movement patterns that come into play. Complementing your riding routine with some strength training will make your rides safer and less injury prone.
- Brain Fitness – Staying in the saddle requires an enormous amount of leg, hand, and eye coordination. Horses can be very unpredictable. They are intelligent animals, but they’re also moody and have their own thought processes. Even the best trained steed will “do his own thang” from time to time – it takes major coordination to stay on.
The benefits of riding horses are not just physical, though. Riding also offers numerous social-emotional benefits such as teamwork and stress reduction. Horses have a calming effect on many people and the process of building a rapport with a horse takes time, patience and understanding, which are the same qualities needed in daily life, working with families, jobs and colleagues. We can surely learn a lot from horses. But remember, folks, as with any workout, start slowly – trot before you gallop and limber up before and after your ride.
Now, once you’ve got your “giddy up goin’,” try adding a little spice to your workout with some good old fashioned ropin’! Roping has been around since the days of the Ancient Greeks, when soldiers would throw ropes around their enemies and, well, let’s just say “it weren’t a pretty sight.” Fast forward to the days of the American cowboy, when cattle were turned out into miles and miles of fenceless grassland. Cowboys used their ropes to round up the cattle. The Spanish word for “roundup” is “rodeo,” and thus the rodeo was born.
Now, take the physical benefits of horseback riding and add the perks of roping, which brings into play the muscles of the arms, shoulder, neck, back and legs, as well as develops eye-hand coordination. And you don’t have to be a cowboy or cowgirl to enjoy roping – after all, the average person doesn’t have a horse to hop on or a calf to lasso. The point is you can rope “pert near anythang” – a teddy bear, a chair back, a fence post. Or you can just practice spinning your rope. Roping is an inexpensive, travel-friendly, and entertaining workout. WillRogerswas nearly as famous for his roping as he was for his humor. Will used to say roping was great exercise, “So get a rope and start missing. That’s about 80 percent of all there is to roping.”
Now, cowboy up – this week Debby and I will weigh in with good rodeo eats – plus the fare to avoid – as well as advice and resources to help “giddy up your workouts.”