Tag: Horse Rider

Boost Rider Performance Part 3


Boost Rider Performance Part 3

Last in the 3 part series – Boost Rider PerformanceThe Practical Nutritionist - Boost Rider Performance Part 3

Extremely active and intensive training at this level.

I have attended many horse shows and watched rider’s who are part-way around a cross-country course, red-faced and gasping for air – the horse being in tip-top condition and the rider letting his/her steed down. Horse riding, particularly competing, is a team effort and you need to be healthy and able to perform just as much as your horse.


You will be exerting lots of mental energy, energy means fuel and you get fuel by eating quality, non-processed and fresh food, I am talking carbs and protein mostly. Food like beans, legumes, quinoa, fish, chicken, even vegetables have carbs.

The eventer will be walking the course, jogging around the course and for some cycling around the course several times over and this is physically demanding. For many there will be an adrenal rush, nervous energy and some stress, particularly if you are still new at this level.

Slow releasing energy is required, no sugar spikes or caffeine-driven rides, this could impinge on your performance thereby impacting the way your horse acts. If you are hyped that energy translates to the horse, so the less stimulants you have and the more relaxed you are the better for you both.

Don’t eat heavy meals before or in between competition it is a burden on the digestive system and it could make you feel sluggish. Think light snacks; fruit, banana dipped in organic peanut butter and covered in hemp hearts, chia seeds and/or cacao nibs. Hummus and vegetable sticks, trail mixes (nuts, raisins, pumpkin seeds can be mixed at home) are just a few ideas.

What can eating too much sugar do to you?

Sugar from packaged foods, drinks and adding sugar to tea/coffee can mount up in a day.  It puts pressure on the body’s systems. It increases insulin levels, increases blood pressure, pressure in the circulatory system, creates an imbalance in cholesterol levels meaning there is too much LDL (bad cholesterol) and more.

Sugar is addictive and can be difficult to remove from your diet – particularly when the food and beverage industry’s put it in so many products.Even fruit farmers have learnt to grow crops that have higher fructose than in previous generations. That’s right, if you think that the grapes or pineapples you are eating today are sweeter than the ones you ate growing up it’s because they almost certainly are. Sugar is known to release chemicals that triggers the brain’s pleasure center. Coming off sugar can have side affects, like anxiety, cravings, shakes as seen in rat studies – I have also seen withdrawal symptoms with my clients. The best option is to gradually reduce the amount of sugar you intake daily. I will be talking more about sugar at a later time.

Caffeine as a stimulant

Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, soda pop. Caffeine  acts as a central nervous stimuli. It is known to help with alertness, energy and drowsiness. Some of the side-effects of too much caffeine include  headaches, acidity, increased blood pressure. It can also interfere with the absorption of calcium which could lead to osteoporosis, more information  can be found on this site. 

Therefore it is best to limit your sugar and caffeine intake during performance rides.


I love polo. It is a fantastic team sport. I have played a few chukkas and I know how demanding this sport can be on the body.  Nothing quite prepared me for how much my body would be required to work. If I had known what I know now I would have suffered less several days after. So here are some ideas to help with the aches and pains.

Anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce inflammation, reduce soreness and help you to recover efficiently.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

  • Cherries
  • Tarte cherry juice
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Pineapple
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Celery
  • Beets
  • Celery
  • Bone Broth
  • Olive oil (do not cook at high temp)
  • Coconut oil
  • Flaxseed
  • Tumeric
  • ginger
  • Salmon, mackerel, sardines
  • Walnuts…

Relax and Breathe

After a day of competition or working hard a the stables take time for yourself. It may be hard if you are focused on your business but  take a few hours for yourself and disconnect. Here are some ideas:

  • Read
  • Friends
  • Laugh
  • A glass of wine (one glass, not many!)
  • See a movie
  • Paint
  • Bake
  • Cook
  • Go for a walk
  • Visit somewhere you have never been before
  • Shopping
  • The list is endless.

Let me leave you with one last piece of advice. Laugh! Laughter can really change your mood and diminish stress levels so take a few moments to watch this video, even non-horsey people will laugh at this.

Your welcome!

Boost Rider Performance Part 1


Boost Rider Performance Part 1

Boost Rider Performance Part 1

The Practical Nutritionist - Horse

My recent post on horse rider nutrition proved to be popular and I have been asked to provide more specifics in terms of horse rider nutrition for those doing different types of activities. In response, I will be writing three separate blog posts to correlate with the intensity of activity. Here’s number one!

To begin, mental clarity and physical performance for the equestrian is paramount. Horses are unpredictable creatures so it is important to be able to think on your feet. To do this, there are some important factors related to enhancing your health and your safety. In this three part series we will look at how energy is produced in the body, what you need to produce energy, what foods to eat and you can help your body to recover after a hard day with your horse.

Low Impact Activity

Part 1, will look at low-impact activity for the equestrian. Generally speaking, you will not be using a lot of oxygen over long periods of time but may, upon occasion, exert energy quickly over a short space of time, usually to avoid being bitten, kicked, trodden on, thrown off or trampled over! Therefore, your energy needs are not actually that high.

How energy is produced in the body:

The body has three main systems to produce energy depending on the physical demands. (1)
1. ATP-PC (phosphagen)(ATP is commonly referred to as the energy for life) – Low impact activity (lasts 6 seconds, short bursts)
2. Anaerobic Glycolyticn or lactic acid – medium impact activity (lasts 30 seconds to several minutes)
3. Aerobic system (uses carbohydrates and fat) – high impact activity (lasts 1-2 hours)

What you need for energy: (2)

  1. Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)
    Carbohydrates can be stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver
  2. Fat (9 calories per gram)
    Fat is stored as adipose tissue and small amounts can be stored in the muscles
  3. Protein (4 calories per gram)
    Protein is a building material; protein is only used in extreme situations. Meaning the carbohydrates and fat have been used-up and the only reserves left are proteins, this is not a good situation to place the body.

Types of carbs, fats and protein can be found in numerous foods. Please refer to a previous blog post which provides a variety of food examples:  more information here.

Before I get further into the nutrition, let me remind you to get enough sleep. If you own and care for your own horse and have a full time job then I know from experience you’ll be doing a lot of early mornings. It is important to get enough sleep so that you can perform the next day. As mentioned earlier, working with horses can be a dangerous pursuit. Many accidents occur in the workplace due to fatigue. Remember, fatigue not only affects you but your colleagues too. Here are some extreme cases of what can happen during work time if sleep deprived.

One hour Riding Lesson
If you only ride once or twice a week or have a one-hour riding lesson you are going to need to be mentally alert. Not only will you be listening to instructions from your coach you will also need to be attentive to the movement of the horse. Avoid foods that can cause brain fog; sugary foods, stimulants like pop and processed packaged foods that can contain trans-fats and large amounts of sugar or salt. Consume good fats like avocado, coconut oil, cold pressed olive oil (do not cook), nuts and seeds, experts believe these sorts of fats are good for brain health.

Start your day drinking filtered water, wait for at least 15 mins and then eat breakfast. If possible, squeeze a fresh lemon and add it to that first glass of water to alkalize your digestive system and also wake it up. When I say eat breakfast, I am not talking tea and toast or coffee and bagel! Think granola, oatmeal, toasted quinoa bread topped with avocado (SEE RECIPES). Don’t rush your breakfast, chew your food properly as it helps with digestion.

Avoid riding on a full stomach, it prevents proper digestion and could make you feel sick. Ensure you have enough to drink before your lesson and take water with you for after the lesson. Start eating healthy, unprocessed food each day. Eat lots of vegetables, add lentils and beans to your dishes, spices and herbs for flavour. Eat raw, unflavoured nuts, it is very easy to add your own spices and herbs at home, make homemade trail mixes, eat apples, carrots and hummus for snacks. Set yourself a challenge, go vegetarian (if not already one) once or twice a week, it will add variety to your meals.

You’ll note that I’m not getting overly specific here with food recommendations. I’ll get into more recipes and food lists another time but for now just be assured that if you are eating plenty of fresh, unprocessed food then that’s a great start. The body loves variety so try and mix things up!

Weekend Warrior
What do I mean by weekend warrior? You spend the entire weekend at the stables. Now, if you are going to be physically active all day then you will want to ensure you don’t skip meals and you have plenty of healthy snacks to hand. Plan your day and plan your meals! Have a good breakfast, take snacks with you to the stables, apples, nuts, seeds, trail mixes, bananas, drink lots of water throughout the day. Try to avoid high-sugar and fizzy drinks and juices, these just spike blood sugar, can make you jittery and be overstimulating which is the last thing you need to be when you are around a horse that weighs about 1000kg. Pack a lunch, soups (homemade preferable otherwise read the label), quinoa salad with grated vegetables and nuts if tolerated. Don’t forget to eat dinner at the end of the day, for example salmon, wild rice with dark leafy greens, (steamed kale or chard) will make sure you are topping up on good quality protein, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals.

Stable Manager
Early starts, missing breakfast, sugar cravings are not a good way to start your working day. Here is the thing: your job is hard and physically demanding. For you this is all about maintaining balanced energy levels. Avoid high sugary drinks and food and any other stimulants – you need quality carbs, good fats and protein. Pack healthy meals and snacks. The time of year can impact what you crave, there are cooling foods like salads during warmer months and warming foods to help during winter months, more on this later. Vegetable soups with beans/lentils that can be heated at work are a great way to help warm up during the chilly season. Energy bars make good snacks and can be made at home and fruit snacks, apples, pears, bananas, grapes (local and seasonal is preferable when it permits). I like eating a banana dipped in organic almond butter and sprinkle chia seeds, hemp hearts or cacao nibs on top. Be creative.

I  have covered some of the basics and hopefully given you some ideas to help you nourish your body to help improve performance. Being physically active is just one part of an holistic approach to health. Healthy living includes eating fresh, clean food, hydrating your body and ensuring you get some time to relax.

Please note: The information provided are guidelines, it does not however take into account any specifics about your health concerns or diagnosis. Please remember no one nutritional program fits all therefore the information is assuming you are in good health and are not on medications.

1.Anita Bean (2013). The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition 7th Addition. London, Bloomsbury (p. 17)

2.Anita Bean (2013). The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition 7th Addition. London, Bloomsbury (p. 14)

Horse Rider Nutrition


Horse Rider Nutrition

The Practical Nutritionist - Horse Rider

Nutrition for the horse rider? Okay, a bit niche I know but it’s something of a passion for me. I will start with where it all began. At the age of 9 I was begging my parents for a horse, I had no idea what that entailed, my family were not horse people. They didn’t buy me my own but they did, after much pestering, take me to riding lesson after riding lesson. By the time I was 10 I had fallen from ponies and horses too many times to remember but it made me strong and I learned a life lesson: when you fall you get back on.

I was addicted. I wanted to learn everything I could. I worked at riding schools, race yards, loaned, borrowed and eventually bought my own horse. I competed and I trained hard. All the time I was learning about horse management I never once thought about my own health needs. Tending to horses, out for long rides, early morning physical activity… it struck me and still does, there is a lack of quality nutritional advice for horse riders. A lot of stamina is needed when owning or working with horses but, while a horse’s feeding regime is precise and calculated, the rider’s and carer’s nutrition is overlooked.

That’s not to say that horse magazine don’t publish articles on what to eat. It’s just that most of them are wrong. Even today, I read articles saying horse riders should eat bagels, nutella, low-fat yogurt, cheese strings, low- fat protein bars, yep, these items were on the lists in various horse publications. A qualified nutritional practitioner will tell you to stay away from these items. Sure you do get some writers urging riders to pay attention to their macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates), eat fresh vegetables, stay away from soft drinks, pastries etc. However, much of their understanding is outdated. For example, when they talk low-fat they fail to understand that low-fat typically means more sugar because processed foods use it as a  replacement for fat to improve the taste.

I have covered the basics of nutrition in previous posts but depending of the level of riding, the amount of other exercise you are doing (running, cycling, swimming, gym etc) your precise requirements will differ. For example, a person who hacks out on weekends is going to have very different nutritional needs to that of an international 3-day eventer. The horses nutrition would be different so of course the same applies for the rider!

Healthy start and snacks. People who ride or work in the equestrian field  are often snacking, it is physically demanding and snacks are a good thing. However, there are often very early starts involved and you may be tempted to miss breakfast so you can tend to your horse before work begins. Don’t. More than most people, if you are a horse rider and/or owner you need a good healthy breakfast. It boosts metabolism, provides energy and it is a great way to start the day; for some healthy breakfast ideas visit my recipes page.

Ensure your snack choices are healthy. By healthy I mean balanced. Forget low-fat – go for low-sugar. Try to avoid the pies, pastries, cakes, cookies and replace with a good quality protein bars (Lara bars are a good or, even better, make your own. Alternatively, Deliciously Ella energy balls), make your own granola bars, make a trail mix. Eat apples, carrots sticks (don’t give them to your horse!)

Lunch and dinner are just as important. Don’t miss meals. Plan ahead if you have a busy schedule.

Water discipline. Stay hydrated, everyone from an  office admin to the elite athlete needs to drink water. Don’t wait until you are parched because by that time you are already dehydrated. Of course, you also don’t want to drink so much that it’s coming out of your ears! How much water to drink is dependent on a number of factors, such a:

  • Environment (weather, hot, humid etc)
  • How much you are sweating
  • Exercise
  • If you thirsty
  • Pregnant/Breastfeeding
  • Health
  • Age

The average amount suggested by many sources is 1.5-2 liters but really it is a ball park figure. Pay attention to what your body is telling you and act accordingly.

Benefits of drinking water are numerous:

  • Brain health (mood, headaches, hydration)
  • Digestive health
  • Supports Elimination (stools)
  • Flushes out toxins (detoxification)
  • Skin health
  • Immune support…

That quick energy boost. Energy drinks, do you really need them? I’m not a big fan of drinks loaded with sugar and caffeine. If you are out for a long hack then, if you have some healthy snacks and water it should be enough. If you engaged in prolonged physical activity without much opportunity to stop for a break and are going to carry around an energy drink or two then make sure you read the label! Otherwise, just be aware that your body really doesn’t need a big hit of stimulants on a regular basis.

If there’s one thing you take away from reading this post, let it be this: a horse rider needs food that is not going to spike blood sugars too fast and then send you crashing down shortly afterwards. Our bodies love to have energy that is released slowly and steadily thereby maintaining energy levels and mental clarity. Quality fats, carbs, protein, fiber and water are your friends.

This post is dedicated to a dear person, Sheila Lines. She took me to my first riding lesson at the age of 9 and I have never looked back. Thank you for being a supportive, caring, loving person through my formative years. I will miss you greatly.