Haley Gassel amateur equestrian jumper with horses Do you lack stamina or strength when riding? Haley Gassel reinvented her life and shares her fitness for riding journey.

Equestrians, Reinvent Your Fitness for Riding [I Did]

Riding fitness more than hype

My parents were the ‘let’s do every sport’ types. My activities included soccer, acting, swimming, dance team, and more. I pretty much lived in the car traveling from hobby to hobby as a kid.

Haley Gassel first pony Topaz at horse show
Haley Gassel and Topaz

Despite being a beginner in horseback riding at eight-years-old, my parents rescued my first pony named Topaz. Although Topaz was half my age, she had a fierce buck that unseated me countless times. Multiple falls, cuts, scrapes, and bruises didn’t keep me off a horse.

As I got older, the number of sports and demands on my time decreased. That allowed my horse passion to flourish. As a junior equestrian, watching Grand Prix Show Jumping events inspired and intrigued me. My goals included jumping the big sticks.

My parents went above and beyond to help make my Grand Prix Show Jumping dream a reality. They did everything from budgeting to giving-up their vacations. In 2013, my family bought my Young Rider’s horse that would also make my Grand Prix goals a reality.


Hitting rock bottom

Starting over isn’t easy and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. How do I know? My life hit rock bottom due to a series of tragedies. First, on the way to an amusement park to enjoy a day as a family, we got in a car accident. The vehicle was totaled.

While at the park, our neighbor called. Our house was on fire. It was almost a total loss along with my car. It was a day of destruction and loss.

A month later, my long-term boyfriend ended our relationship abruptly. As a result, I spiraled downward.


Finding fitness

There were two things that kept me going after the massive losses in my life: my horses and my goals. Unfortunately, horses and goal setting weren’t enough to shut my racing mind off at night. Neither kept me from thinking darker thoughts either.

Jumper rider Haley Gassel bikini fitness competition
Equestrian Haley Gassel on stage. Photo by Mark Mason

Throughout my early riding, fitness seemed overrated or almost pointless, but then it became my coping mechanism. Literally, fitness saved me. It allowed me to relieve my anger as well as my aggression. My mind became more focused — and you know what? Getting fit became enjoyable.


Fitness for riding

My life after finding fitness is nothing short of amazing.

Previously, I was the equestrian who thought a fitness regimen consisted of riding horses and doing barn work in the stable. Don’t get me wrong, horseback riding is one of the toughest sports out there and barn work is intense. Although, I never realized how much strength and stamina I lacked.

I thought being tired every day was normal, but it’s not. Neither is coming out of the horse show ring exhausted. Thankfully, both almost seem like distant memories. Now, I’m winning Grand Prix’s, training for bikini fitness competitions, and loving life.

The EQSportsNet video shows Quite Dark 2 and myself winning a Grand Prix in 2018.



Above all, I realize I’m capable of so much, not only emotionally, but also physically. I also found an enjoyable way to de-stress as well as a way to pay it forward helping equestrians, just like you, reach their fitness and nutrition goals.

Next time, join me as I break down how combining nutrition with fitness benefits my riding and gives me my Grand Prix level results. Then, I’ll share my secrets for success which can help you even if you hate hitting the gym.