Exercises to Improve Your Riding (Without Riding)

It’s no-stirrup November! But if you’re like me, and have a horse that can’t do more than 5 minutes of trot, you might need more to strengthen your legs. Cue my expertise with crossing training! Utilizing multiple sports to create an exercise regimen honestly helps your riding and you will only benefit.

It all started 10 years ago. When I was in high school, I wasn’t exactly in the best shape. I wasn’t overweight, but I had a nice layer of fat in all of the places where I didn’t want it. Riding made me feel fit, but not when it counted. Whenever my trainer would make me do a no-stirrups lesson, I would always be exhausted after. After the lesson, I would always ask her how to improve my riding and get stronger. Her response, as almost any trainer says, was to keep riding and it will get better.

This didn’t sit well with me. I know where she was coming from. As a trainer, you easily have 4 horses to ride each day. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t have multiple horses to practice with and I cannot get excited about doing no-stirrups for 30 minutes once a week. I need something more. So, in college, I decided to make myself a nice fitness regimen. Cross-training, or using multiple disciplines to obtain fitness, was (and still is) heavily featured in that regimen.

Once I started working out regularly, while riding as often as I can, and sometimes dropping my stirrups because I know how important that is, I noticed a huge difference. And because I want everyone to be the best rider they can be, I thought I would share some exercises I do to improve my riding.

  • Plank. I know, literally everyone shares this exercise as a must for horse people. But there is a reason! Doing plank strengthens your whole core and works your back muscles. This exercise works all of the muscles that you use while riding…and helps you tone! To do this exercise, simply start on your hands and knees, then move to either your forearms and toes, or your palms and toes. There are also multiple variations of plank that you can do it you want to challenge yourself, or if you just get really bored while doing the plank. Try rocking your waist side to side, or moving your hips up and down to work your core. If you want to work your arms more, go from your forearms to your palms, then back to your forearms. If you want to tone your legs, try balancing on only one foot and use the other leg to pulse in the air, or simply hold it up. There are many variations of plank, and they all work wonders for your riding.
This is the typical stance of the plank position.
  • Yoga. While this isn’t exactly a workout exercise, doing some form of yoga works wonders. A couple of years ago, I HATED the thought of doing yoga. I found it completely useless and boring. Since then, I’ve converted and would proudly consider myself a yogi. I love that yoga not only works your body, but is also good for your mental health. On top of that, it stretches your body in ways that you never knew you needed to do, strengthens your balance, and creates muscles that will only help you while riding. If you want to learn more about yoga, or even try it, I recommend finding a yoga studio close to you or using an app for guided practice. I personally use Gaiam Yoga Studio for yoga and I love it! This app has tons of options for all levels, as well as targeting areas like relieving back pain (which we know all riders have). Before you totally hate on yoga, honestly try one of the many different styles of it. You might end up loving it!
  • Squats and lunges. We all know to never skip leg day. While our legs will forever be strong due to the fact that we hold onto the horse with our legs, its also important to keep that strength by toning other areas of muscle that us riders don’t use all of the time. Walking lunges, squats, sumo squats, jumping lunges, or any exercise working your legs will only help you in the saddle.

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  • Hiking. Now onto my second favorite sport! While finishing a course is my one true love, summiting a peak also gives you the most badass feeling. Hiking is great cardio, but also works your legs like nobody’s business. Plus hiking will give you great views of nature! So log on to all trails or another hiking app to see what hikes you can do in your area.Processed with VSCO with m5 preset
  • Running. This is another exercise that is good, but is probably one that almost no one wants to do. First, let me explain that there are two types of cardio: weight bearing, and non-weight bearing. Riding is non-weight bearing, since we are not “bearing the weight” of gravity while we’re working out. This is good cardio, but in order for you to properly work your heart in a healthy way, weight bearing cardio should be considered. I took up running because I wanted to stay heart-healthy, but I didn’t have the time to walk 3 miles a day. Running works for me because I can knock out a couple of miles, while working up a sweat, and staying fit.
  • Arms and Back. This area of the body is crucial for riding. While I usually knock out some arm exercises by lifting hay bales, exercises in the weight room can also do the trick. I’ve found that focusing on triceps, lats, forearms, delts, and pecs help with riding. They all strengthen your arms, while keeping your back strong so that you can maintain a good posture.

I know these exercises basically target all the muscles in your body, but if you want more specific workouts, I am happy to share what I do at the gym and for other workouts. What do you do to stay fit for riding (besides riding)?

And if this is the start of your journey towards a more active lifestyle, remember to just take it one stride at a time 🙂

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Top Sights Along the Camino Portuguese

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Hellooooo, ladies and lads! It’s been awhile, and mostly due to the fact that I went to SPAIN! (and Portugal obviously since this blog post is about the Camino Portugues…)

But before I share my lovely experiences about Spain, the Camino, and Santiago, I wanted to get something out of the way first. I landed in Spain 1 hour before the terrorist attack happened. When all was said and done, I ended up less than a mile away from La Rambla when it happened. I know, I know, I know, the terrorist attack in Barcelona was absolutely horrific. My heart goes out to all of those immediately affected. But the bright side is the lovely Catalans, and the rest of the world for that matter, stayed strong through it all. I am so relieved that everyone is continuing on in their life; it is truly heartwarming and just goes to show this world is also full of love and resilience.

Ok, now the fun stuff! So we spent a couple of days in Barcelona doing the touristy things like La Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, El Born, you know, the places that all of the travel sites say you have to go to. Then we took a flight over to the wonderful Portugal!

Porto was an absolute dream. I would definitely put this gorgeous lake town on your to-do list of visiting the world. Before this trip, I had no desire to travel to Portugal, but I am glad I decided to go. The Portuguese are the sweetest, the views are incredible, and the port is perfect!

Unfortunately, we only had half a day in Porto before we were on our next adventure. There are plenty of sites talking about all the things to do here, but if you only have an afternoon, definitely visit the places I went to! Aside from just walking around town, it is worth it to see the Porto train station, the Douro, and walk across the infamous Dom Luis bridge. The bridge is up HIGH, but it was absolutely worth it to cross.

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Another great thing to do in Porto is to taste the wine! We only had a bit of port, but we also had some great sangria alongside the river. The restaurants here are chock full of great seafood and drinks. They also offer great views of the river!

After our lovely evening in Porto, it was off to the camino! I think we did a total of 60 miles on our trip, starting with the Camino Portugues. Our first leg was from just outside of Porto to Ponte de Lima, Portugual.

Even though we had all day to walk 10 miles, we needed it! The weather chose to be around 95°F when we were walking, so it was pretty exhausting. If I could do this trip over, I would definitely recommend hiking the camino in a month other than August. The heat made it unbearable at times.

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Once we finally made it to Ponte de Lima, we were tired and overheated. I wish we had more time to explore this cute river town. From what we did explore, I can tell you right now that the seafood is amazing! In fact, this whole trip had amazing seafood. Another thing about Ponte de Lima was the history along with it. There were so many old buildings to explore. We were also there during their market day and it took up almost two whole streets! The giant market would have been fun to explore, but we were on a schedule. My takeaway from the first day was to enjoy the walk, but also do this hike at a different time of the summer and to leave more time to explore bigger towns like Porto and Ponte de Lima. This was a common thing for me, as I wish we had more time to explore Santiago, but more on that later.

IMG_3727Before we moved from Portugal to Spain, we gained some elevation to this gorgeous mountain. At the top, we overlooked this valley full of trees and it was well worth the climb. Labruja mountain is on the way of St. James, so it isn’t hard to find if you follow the camino Portugues.

After Ponte de Lima, can you guess what we did? If you thought, more walking, then you are right! We walked, and walked, and walked until we were in Spain!

If you do the Camino, even though this kind of goes without saying, but definitely bring nice shoes to walk and hike in. If I didn’t have my trail runners on this trip, I would have been in serious pain on the last couple of days.

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But on the bright side, the what we saw along the way of our trip was breathtaking! When hiking the Camino, its easy to get in the groove of just walking to get your miles in, but it’s also important to take time and appreciate the view. For me, walking around the little towns in Portugal and Spain was truly amazing. California, and most of the US for that matter, doesn’t really have anything like Portugal. There are no cobblestone streets or trellised vineyards. These two countries had so much to offer and I’m so thankful to travel them.

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Our next stop, after Portugal, was Galicia in Spain. We stayed in castle that was converted to a hotel. It was so fun to explore the ins and outs of the castle. During our stay, which was only a day, we also explored the surrounding islands. Taking a break from walking the camino to explore nearby beaches and other attractions was worth it to me because we got to see more of Spain! I know that the camino asks a lot of each person completing it, but I would recommend taking time to explore other areas along the way. Sometimes you see great things!

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After Galicia and Baiona, we were on our way to Santiago! We hopped over to the Camino Frances (the most popular camino), and we continued walking. The theme of this trip is walking! Walking on dirt, walking on roads, hiking up a mountain, walking on gorgeous cobblestone…we definitely did our fair share of walking!

Even though we were walking a ton, we had some beautiful views of the coast and trails along the way. We also rarely had to worry about getting lost because the whole camino is guided by yellow arrows!

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While our trail was on the coast for a portion, we also were in the countryside and surrounded by trees. The camino gave us an opportunity to explore the country while being away from tourists and exploring the authentic culture of Portugal and Spain. Plus, the camino also has other pilgrims and you get a chance to meet other great people!

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After we made it to Santiago, we were able to spend about half a day in this historic town. The cathedral was breathtaking, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. All in all, this camino was great! I loved that we were able to jump around different caminos and really soak in all of the history.

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Before I end this post, I wanted to share a couple of things I learned along the way. Even though I already mentioned the weather and shoes, I want to reiterate the importance of hiking when its cooler outside and wearing sturdy shoes! Seriously.

I also wanted to say that we hiked the camino with a tour group. At first I was a bit worried about having a guide through this experience, since it somewhat sounded fabricated, but I was pleasantly surprised. Having a tour guide was helpful and fun because they were able to help us if we got lost (which thankfully never happened) and we could use their vans to jump between caminos. I know this was a different take on this pilgrimage, but it was well worth it.

So please keep your mind open to this camino! The Portugues way can be a bit harder to complete because resources (like cafes and hostels) can be scarce at times. If you are able to do it, though, you will not be disappointed! Even being able to hike a bit of it will give you an opportunity to see gorgeous views. If you want to hear more about the camino, be sure to comment below. And if you’re worried that you can’t hike this much, just remember to take it one stride at a time!

Jump Into…A Brand New Place

I totally thought that I would have time to blog throughout this move…but I was greatly mistaken. These past few weeks have been full of moving, starting a new internship, finding a full-time job, finding a barn for Rae, barely sleeping, and some part-time exploration of the town and the rest of NorCal! I can honestly say I am so happy to be back up here, but I can also say that I miss SLO more than I thought.

 

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It’s hard to change everything and move, but there is also a beauty in it. I feel like you learn who you are when everything else isn’t stable in your life. On top of that, it shows you that you’re stronger than you think. Trust me, I’ve had some hard moments in the past month between applying for jobs and devastatingly missing Raven. During those hard times, it’s best to just keep going. Because I’ve also had great ones! Not only did I find a place for Raven, but I also got to try backpacking for the first time and dare say I’m addicted!

Putting yourself into new situations may seems scary at first (or maybe even exhilarating), but it always ends up being a good thing. I’m thankful that I can be optimistic during this time period and understand that it will all work out.

But more about backpacking because I can understand why so many people go. The feeling of being in the woods with literally no one else around is beyond words. This was my  first time backpacking and before then, I always was hesitant to try. I’ve always loved hiking, but I didn’t know if I would like carrying upwards of 30 pounds on my back or going to the bathroom in the woods. Heck, I didn’t know how I was going to wash my hands for putting my contacts in! But I put that all aside and just dove in and did it. I’m glad that I put my fears away and explored the beautiful backcountry of Tahoe! I highly recommend going there, but also just ignoring your fears (or at least not embracing them). It will surprise you what you’re capable of!

 

Desolation Wildnerness

I love nature for many reasons, but the first and foremost is that it never ceases to amaze me. Example A: Lake Tahoe. More specifically, desolation wilderness.

Located just before the actual lake, desolation wilderness is perfect for almost any activity. On this particular sunny day, we went on a day hike. Since desolation wildnerness is fairly small, we almost hiked to the center of it and it was only 8 miles round trip. But in those 8 miles, we saw picturesque mountains with full lakes and the greenest grass.

The actual hike wasn’t too hard. After a steady incline, and adjusting to a higher elevation, we made it to above the forest and saw a gorgeous view.

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Once we got through the initial forest (about 2 miles in), we hiked on these giant granite slabs to the lakes. I was in love with the  tree tops against the blue sky.

After seeing the forest, we continued our climb to twin lakes, our final destination. The whole hike was absolutely beautiful!

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Ta-da! The lake! You can see a bit of the reflection in the water, but these lakes were the blue-est I have ever seen. It was honestly worth dealing with the elevation change and the warm sun on our backs. I can see why some people just want to live in nature and nowhere near any cities. Desolation wilderness is so pretty, with a peaceful air, and full of nature!

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After crossing one lake, we went to the divide of twin lakes. They almost look like one, except for this small divide. We ended up having lunch on this rock and it felt like we were actually in the middle of the lake!

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I honestly never wanted to leave this rock. Desolation wilderness made me want to forget school, forget my responsibilities, and just live outside forever. It was absolutely breathtaking.

So if you’re in the mood for some nature, go!

Tips for Taking Your Dog to the Beach

Ah, the beach! There’s nothing more relaxing than taking a dip in the warm salt water, sun bathing, and just watching the world go by. Not a summer day goes by without me thinking about how wonderful the beach is compared to my stuffy apartment. And of course, the beach is too good not to share. So why not bring the puppy along?

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Always check the rules of the beach

While you would think that everyone loves to see the joy of dogs running across the beach, begging for another round of fetch or going 0 to 60 down the sand, most beaches actually don’t allow dogs or at least dogs off a leash. It’s important to check with either a ranger station, a website, or even the locals to see if you can take them. In my town, we actually have a beach dedicated to dogs. Here, dogs are free to run around on the beach and frolic to their heart’s content. And then there are some beaches where they are allowed, but only on a leash.

Come prepared

When we first took our dog, we made sure to have our leash, the choke collar (if he decided not to listen to us), doggie bags, and water. For some reason, our dog likes to go to the bathroom on the beach more than anything! Thankfully, most beaches that allow dogs have a dog bag station. Anyway, we wanted to make sure that Jackson would listen to us on the beach just as if we were hiking, playing frisbee, or taking a walk through the park. We took him to a quiet beach that allows dogs on a leash the first time we went. Honestly, just be prepared for any reaction out of your dog. At the end of the day, you know your pup the best, so you can make decisions for them perfectly!

If you want to take your dog to a dog beach, just remember that many of the other dogs will become an instant distraction. Your puppy will want to play and play and play and most likely not want to listen. But again, you know your limits of your dog. Just remember that a quiet place might be better when you’re first starting out.

It’s all about the time of day

Timing is important for many reasons. When you first take your dog, it might be better to go at a time of day where there aren’t too many people or other dogs. This will help your dog not get overwhelmed with all of the distractions. Remember, the beach should be a positive place, but too many activities all at once can be a negative thing. Bringing them to the beach in the early morning, or even during the late afternoon, could potentially help with lowering distractions. The first time we took Jax, we went during the early evening and made sure not to bring any toys. We wanted him to get familiar with the ocean, the waves, and the sand. Now, he loves nothing more than chasing the waves and becoming soaked by the water!

Another reason timing is important is because you don’t want it to be too hot for them. Obviously, they are at a beach, so it’s easy to dunk them in the water if they overheat, but what if they end up not liking the water? To be on the safe side, I usually go to the beach sometime other than the peak heat of the day.

Make this a family affair

If you know your dog is social, and is good with other dogs, take them to a community dog beach! If you’re not sure about how your dog will act with the plethora of puppies running and playing in the waves, I would strongly recommend taking them to a dog park or interacting with friends’ dogs before taking them to meet total strangers. Timing also is good in this case. Nonetheless, a community dog beach is so much fun, both for you and for your dog! You can meet tons of friendly dog owners while your dog occupies himself with fetch and chasing other dogs around in the water. The other dogs could also contribute to a more positive situation because your pup can see others having fun. Jax used to be afraid of the waves, but when other dogs started jumping around in the water, it was easy for him to see that the water was okay. (Dogs are pack animals, they like to see other dogs do something if they are too scared to do it!)

But most of all, have a blast!

The beach should be just as much fun for them as it is for you. Bring toys, bring treats, bring other dogs, bring whatever you want to make this a great time for you and for you puppy! Now that we have been a few times, Jackson starts whining when we take the exit for the beach. He absolutely loves it, and loves fetching tennis balls in the ocean! Maybe your dog won’t dig it, so maybe the beach isn’t the best place for them to hang out. Maybe your dog will love it so much he wants to be the next dog surfer. Who knows? At the end of the day, just trust yourself with your dog, and have fun!

The Outbound

This app has changed my life. Why? Because hikes I didn’t even know about have become available to me at the tip of my fingers.

 

For anyone that loves the outdoors (hiking, camping, cycling, etc.), this is the app for you. You can download it free on the app store and gain so much information on almost anything nature related. There is also the ability to create adventures and save hikes that you want to do.

 

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Not only that, but there is a community on this application who review hikes and give you information on what to bring. It’s like having your own nature guide without having to pay for one!

The app first introduces the ‘featured collections,’ which has hikes and cool places to go. I love that you can search for new adventures, or you can search by the activity you are interested in. You can also let the app use your location to help you find cool things around you. This feature is extremely helpful when you are vacationing or visiting somewhere new.

You can also develop a profile that keeps track of your hikes and adventures. I love being able to see what I have completed so far! And of course, you are also able to write reviews of places and create adventures of your own. This app also connects to their website, theoutbound.com. On the website, they have also created a job search. Here, fellow adventurists can post jobs they know for other job seekers. The website also has a blog where you can read about fascinating places people have gone.

I hope to use this app a lot to document my travels and find cool places to go. My goal is to complete as many hikes and adventures as possible, especially using this app!

Product Review: Ariat Terrain Endurance Boots

***I do not receive any compensation for these posts; I just buy almost everything from Riding Warehouse because their headquarters are 5 mins away from where I live.

Guys….we need to talk about my new obsession. These boots are literally my life. Not only are they comfortable, they are unbelievably cute and super versatile.

I bought these boots because I hate how clunky and loud my other western boots are and I needed some boots for a hiking trip to Joshua Tree. That’s where I had the bright idea to buy boots that endurance riders wear. I mean, if they can do Tevis in these bad boys, I’m pretty sure these will work for me.

And I was right. They exceeded my expectations! The durable tread made climbing rocks, wrangling foals, and running around at the barn a complete breeze. Usually when I hike, I often find myself slipping one or two times. Not with these! I had sturdy traction in even the most rocky trails at Joshua Tree.

The sole was also amazing. I have completed around 20 hikes in these since I purchased them in March and my feet never feel tired or sore. In my old boots, I always haPictured the problem of sore feet after only 4 hours of chores at the barn. I can go from dawn until dusk in these and my feet never feel tired. They also have a heel, which makes them perfect for riding! They even have spur rests!!

These boots also withstand endless amount of dirt, dust, water, and other yucky stuff with ease. They’re so easy to clean, too! Even when they look disgusting, they are still super cute with the pink inside and camo on the ankle. Ariat definitely did a good job with making a masculine shoe as feminine as it can be.

So, these boots are very comfortable, very durable, functional, versatile…pretty much everything you want in a shoe. I will never stop wearing the Terrains. They replaced my other work boots and I will never go back. Their comfort is unbeatable. They are also made of leather so they still protect our feet when a rambunctious horse steps on them.

The only problems I have found in them are very small. With every hiking boot, they are rather bulky, so it makes it impossible to pack them while traveling. These boots also go up to your ankle, so if you don’t wear the proper socks, you will get rubs on your heel (trust me, I know from experience). Also, if you are going to use these boots for long-distance riding or hiking, I would highly recommend a cushioned sock that is made for hiking. Although these boots are very comfortable, they cannot protect against excessive fatigue.

All in all, I love these boots. If I could give everyone a pair, I would. They are amazing! If you are in the market for a pair of hiking boots, or want to have a pair of shoes that you can easily ride in and do barn chores, these are it!