Strength & Conditioning… On Horseback…

The following post is written by Stacy Steiner, a client of Liberty Performance Training for the past 2 years.  Take a minute to check her out at to see some of her amazing stuff on horseback!  She is an incredible rider and trainer who recognized the importance of strength, agility, and control in her work so she works hard every day to improve in those areas.  Enjoy!

I am a horse trainer.  I have a day job, but if you ask me what I do, I’ll tell you I train horses.  And you’ll think, why do you need to be fit, it’s the horse that does all the work! Sure, the horse works hard when I ride, but after a 15 or 20 minute school on a horse I’m just as winded as I am after a few sets in the gym.

My horses are big, powerful and awfully quick at times, athletes at varying levels of confidence and skill. Often, they are young and just learning how to deal with the person on their back while some are experienced and knowledgeable horses who respond to every flinch in my muscle. As their rider and trainer, I need to be balanced and capable of nuanced movements.  The better I am as an athlete, the better they perform.

I’ve been a jock my whole life. I was always the smallest, fastest and strongest girl on my team and consistently worked out. Running, yoga, pilates and, yeah, some weightlifting.  But here’s the thing about lifting, every time the weights got heavy, my riding went to crap.  My muscles were bunched and I’d feel like a brick and my horses would hate me.  So I’d stop.

A few years ago my corporate life and expense account got the better of me and I was pushing maximum density.  So this time, I bit the bullet and decided to hire a personal trainer.  The gym I belonged to offered personal training and for a couple years I worked with some pretty cool guys who helped me a lot.  But guys, no heavy lifting okay?

But they leave and I decide I’ll work with Rich.  I think the first day was squats and the next day was squats and more squats, more weight (um, that looks awfully heavy, Rich) and now its all powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and accessory work.  In my head I’m thinking, yeah, here is the start of my Olympic powerlifting career and the end of my riding. I kept going, sure that soon it was goodbye Rich because my riding was going to suck.  I stuck with it, even though I periodically spent more time with orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists than Rich.


And so, here I am, two years of focused, sport-specific lifting under my belt and I am riding better than I ever have, like ever, in my whole life.  The balance and body control I have on the horse is amazing but even cooler, my mind is different.  I came into Rich’s gym as a quick moving, fast thinking, overachieving get it done now jock and now I actually have patience with the process. I’m channeling his process and patience with me into my horse training and that’s brilliant.  But I think there’s one more change in my head.

You know how the best athletes in the world say the game slows down for them?  I think I get that now; with all the change in my physical abilities, my brain has changed too and I process all the speed and power of my horses, even the young ones, at a slower speed. I think I actually get what those guys are saying.

I think powerlifting and the accessory work that goes with it feels a little excessive or weird at first, or we are all just skeptical.  Like me, it probably just makes you think of big fat Russian guys in singlets lifting a small car or something.  Or just thinking about it makes your knees hurt.  You think, I’m an athlete, or my kid is, I need to be quick, agile, flexible; my sport needs a different kind of workout.  And yeah, you do need agility and cardio work, but take it from me, it will do wonders for you if you take up some powerlifting.  Who knows, maybe you or your kid will get how the game slows down for those guys on TV. It’s a seriously cool feeling.

If you are looking for more conventional strength training – check out our coaches.