Food For Thought

10th April 2019 by

Many horse owners will spend hours gruelling over their horse’s diet, making sure it gets the correct ratio of concentrates to forage and being fed correctly to complement workload. Undeniably, they are treated as the athletes they are but when it comes down to the rider, their own plan seems to go out the window, or more often than not, there isn’t a plan at all. It seems silly really when they are the navigators and one of two brains that need to be in it when tackling the toughest tracks in the world.

We decided to check in with a few Noble Event Riders to find out how seriously they take their diet and fitness regimes. After all they are at the top of the game…

Fit as a fiddle

A day in the life of Heidi Coy includes riding several horses, poo picking and walking courses. When the day draws to a close, it’s not surprising that she doesn’t feel like dragging herself to the gym.

Although what our riders do day-to-day improves fitness, according to Eventing Worldwide, it is worthwhile to be doing an out of the saddle fitness routine to keep performing at the best ability. A balanced, fit rider, makes the task we are asking of the horse a lot easier and insures we are giving the horse clear signals. A few key aspects to focus on include:

  • Balance
  • Flexibility
  • Core Strength
  • Glute Muscles
  • Overall Muscle Symmetry.

Back to basics

When looking at diet, many of our riders have it down to a tee and eat healthy, hot meals, particularly for dinner. For breakfast, James Sommerville and Wills Oakden eat long energy cereals and Felicity quite often has Porridge. Felicity mentions she tries avoiding processed, microwave meals as much as she can.

It is so important to get the basic principles of eating well correct for good health and long lasting energy. Felicity , Heidi, James and Wills all appear to have a good attitude towards feeding their body and do not struggle with their weight but sometimes when you are lucky with your physique it is difficult to see the value of improving eating habits. According to Horse & Rider Magazine there are a few simple tasks that help improve athletic performance and keep energy levels up:

  • Choose whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible
  • Eat a wide variety of foods with different colours and textures
  • Choose low GI Carbohydrates for lasting energy and serious health benefits
  • Avoid ‘bad’ fats by steering clear of most pastries, cakes, biscuits, meat pies, sausage rolls, chips, friend foods, visible fats on meat and hydrogenated fats
  • Eat the recommended amount of protein for your body weight and choose lean sources
  • Drink plenty of fluids-mainly water-and avoid excessive intake of caffeine and alcohol.

Under pressure

When it boils down to competition days, these plans can be disregarded. At Oasby Horse Trials, Heidi Coy admitted to eating just a milky bar and Felicity Collins mentioned at Belton Horse Trials that she fuels herself on sugary sweets. Considering the nerves and pressure you may feel on such days, I think we can let them off on this occasion.

In fact, according to Rider Sports Psychology, it is always better to work out what foods your stomach will tolerate and bring them with you to competitions so you can eat small amounts frequently rather than a few large meals. Whatever it may be, feeling well fuelled puts riders in control of their energy. Instead of feeling distracted and anxious, it build feelings of strength and well-being. So if milky bars and fizzy sweets do the trick for our girls we’ll go with that! When the rounds have been jumped and ponies put away you can’t also forget the compulsory trip to the burger van queue as a treat for going clear.

Find your balance (it doesn't just apply to our Riding Tights)

Our riders will be the first to admit they are not the oracles of diet and fitness and like everyone, have their guilty pleasures: Heidi loves White Chocolate, James has to have his Oat and Raison Cookies, Felicity is partial to a Dominoes and Wills wont go without mini eggs.

It’s all in the balance. Of course, professional horse riders love a G&T and cake like the rest of us but if we are wanting to aid our horse and see improvements it’s important to look after ourselves as much as we do our horses! Quite often our plans revolve around the horses but next time you come to sit down you might want to add a little section in for yourself. You can’t say you don’t have time if you’ve planned it in!

When you’re as dedicated and successful to the sport as Heidi, Felicity, Wills and James it would be hard to say they are excessive in their drinking and eating habits or lazy. It is clear that they have had discipline instilled in them from a young age and take care of themselves. Health is wealth!


A chocolate fuelled Heidi on her way to coming 2nd in the Intermediate at Oasby Horse Trials (Photo courtesy of William Carey).
A chocolate fuelled Heidi on her way to coming 2nd in the Intermediate at Oasby Horse Trials (Photo courtesy of William Carey)
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