The Athletic Rider: Eat (and Drink) Like a Horse

Craving soda? Try sparkling water! Photo by Laura Crump.

When it comes to nutrition, what is the most important nutrient?

Water! As caretakers, we are usually hyper-aware of how much water our horse drinks in the stall overnight, but when was the last time you fully drained your own water bottle? Physical activity can lead to dehydration and affect cognitive function, a result of exposure, heat and duration of time without hydrating.

In any riding discipline, reaction time is crucial. This substance is quite literally liquid life. For the best results in your sport, plan regular water breaks!

Taking this opportunity focus on your nutrition, think about how you feed your horse as an example — a lot of the same principles apply. Humans and horses actually have quite similar structures of teeth, with small incisors and flat, grinding molars. Choosing plant based proteins is great for getting stronger, especially to build topline and galloping position muscles. Think salads, soups, and sandwiches with all your favorite vegetable combinations!

Our teeth are flat for grinding, with small incisors, like an herbivore or frugivore, unlike the omnivore or carnivore! Photos by Lee Rouse.

You probably spend a great deal of time creating the optimal diet for your horse. Planning your own meals for health will be equally beneficial. Carrots and apples are great snacks (that you can even split with your equine partner)! These are great alternatives to mints or sugar cubes which can cause tooth decay, just as fruits and vegetables are far more beneficial than candy. Oftentimes riders who are working students or competing all day remain active for long hours without eating enough. Low blood sugar can impact the heart and brain’s ability to perform.

Just as you give your horse plenty of hay or roughage like alfalfa, try to get as many leafy greens into your diet. Spinach, kale, and sprouts are packed with vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. For carbohydrates, whole grains are always a great choice. Oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat spaghetti can be great sources of energy, but also fiber. Spices, nuts, lentils and other legumes are the perfect supplement.

GreenFare restaurant in Herndon, VA, has some wonderful plant based options! Photo by Gwyn Whittaker.

You would never feed your horse a fat juicy cheesesteak or an ice cream cone because it would not be a wise or healthy decision. This is a unique idea, but eating similar food groups as your horse will help you stay fit while at the same time getting the best nutrients our planet can grow!

Cameron Rouse’s passion for eventing grew steadily, having moved and started training in Northern Virginia. Earning certifications up to the H/A level in USPC allowed her to mentor some of the most successful riders in the country, including a skilled Feldenkrais Practitioner. This experience sparked within Cameron an immediate love of movement awareness, for not only a personal gain in riding, but as an educational and professional track. Completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology, with a concentration in Exercise Science at JMU University, the desire to continue in the athletic field led her gain qualifications in ACSM Certification in Personal Training and Exercise Physiology, HITUni, and now as an in-house Equestrian Fitness Specialist and a Power-of-10 Certified Strength Training Instructor. She is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science and Sports Nutrition, while following her equestrian strength conditioning passion at InForm Fitness Leesburg and Reston. Cameron is currently competing her horse Rummy in Area II.