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How Many Calories Did That Burn?

By Cindy Hale

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

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Wouldn’t you like to have a dollar for every time a non-horsey person says, “Riding isn’t exercise except for the horse”?

I would. Then I could afford to visit a spa to unkink and unwind after all my horse-related exercise.

I must admit that the intensity of my riding these days is lukewarm compared to the white-hot obsession of a few years back, when I was competing on the show circuit. Instead of containing the impulses and re-directing the energy of young, rambunctious warmblood sport horses, I’m cruising around on the likes of Wally the Curmudgeon and Danny the Lap Dog.

Yet I’m still wrung out and tired by the end of the day and I think it’s because I’m a hands-on horse owner. I’m not handing over the reins to a groom when I dismount and heading to the kitchen for a lemonade. No, I’m bathing dirty horses, wiping down tack, mucking stalls, raking the barn aisle, sweeping the tackroom and…. Well, I’m sure there’s something else left to be done before I stand in the kitchen at 5:00 p.m. and stare at the refrigerator, praying that when I open the door something fully cooked and tasty will magically appear.

Additional exercise is the last thing I need. Instead, how about a personal chef?

I suppose the exercise topic is on my mind because I body shaved Danny yesterday. I’d finally had enough of his overly enthusiastic winter coat—he resembled a giant Stieff teddy bear—and decided to rid him of his fur coat. I knew he’d be much more comfortable, especially since we’re back to our typical mild winter weather. It’s been in the low 80s all week. (Please don’t throw snowballs at me!)

At any rate, after hefting those industrial-sized clippers for an hour, contorting my body this way and that in what must be some kind of yoga posturing, I ended up with a much less hairier horse and an overwhelming sense of fatigue. I began to question if I was horribly out of shape until I considered that I’d also shuffled around eight 110-pound bales of hay that morning and transplanted a tree next to Wally’s stall. No wonder I was a little tired by the time my horses expected me to cart several flakes of hay to their doorstep for dinner.

The next time someone questions the validity of horseback riding as exercise I’ll explain that it’s not the time in the saddle that burns the calories, it’s the time on the ground. If they don’t believe me I’ll invite them over for a workout.

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Reader Comments

Caitlin    Canton, CT

2/10/2011 1:43:40 PM

I completely agree. The next person that says that is being taken on a four-hour endurance conditioning ride. Or better yet, mucking stalls and hefting down hay all day. When the boys in the gym class wonder how I'm as strong as them, I say "I work with horses." When they laugh, I'd love to see them be on a horse bareback, pushing their entire body weight up and forward with their inner thighs, using their core muscles to balance, and holding back a crazy wild horse that wants to just go.

CINDY HALE    HORSE CHANNEL, CA

1/21/2011 1:17:18 AM

I'VE BEEN TO INDIANA AND TO ALBERTA, CANADA, AND I KNOW THAT YOUR WINTERS ARE FAR MORE "CHILLY" THAN OURS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, TO SAY THE LEAST!

SO WHILE I'M NOT BURNING CALORIES TRUDGING THROUGH SNOW AND ICE, I DO HAVE TO PULL BLANKETS OFF WALLY AND DANNY IN THE MORNING AND THEN PUT THEM BACK ON THEM AT NIGHT. THOSE ARE DANGED HEAVY BLANKETS, TOO! SINCE THEY'RE BOTH BODY SHAVED I HAVE TO GIVE THEM PAJAMAS BECAUSE OUR NIGHTS DO GET COLD AND OFTEN WINDY.

Lorie    New Carlisle, IN

1/20/2011 6:22:28 PM

Its down right cold here in Northern Indiana that we leave the blankets on the horses 24/7 especially when the temps dip below zero. Just walking from the car to the barn is cardio exercise in itself when wading through a foot of snow. Then we work those thigh muscles by riding bareback just to stay warm!

lindsay    maple grove, AL

1/19/2011 3:49:34 PM

hahah i agree. or maybe a horse with LESS go, and you can sit there and whatch thier thighs and calves burn tryin to get ole' bob going

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