In this article I share core strength exercises for horse riders with a target towards dressage. Learn how to improve your posture and balance in the saddle.
Horses are hugely athletic large sensitive animals and our posture and balance affects them. So in order to be able to control your horses body, you need to be able to control your own. Using strength exercises for horse riders to create a strong, balanced, fit and stable rider can help you give clear precise and subtle aids to the horse.
It’s important to get to know your body, where are you tight, what needs work and what areas are holding you back. The more you know your own body the more you can work on it. We are all unique, we all have different work environments, past injuries, strength and weaknesses. So being aware of your misalignments and environments will help you to better overcome them and ultimately improve your riding.
When we hop on a horse all of these imbalances and weaknesses tend to be forgotten because we are just focusing on the horse. Yet that tight hip flexor pulling your seat bones off balance could be what is causing your horse to lean more on the right rein. This is why it can be really helpful to use strength exercises designed for horse riders to work off the horse. The key is to understand your alignment and work on your areas, so when you do get on the horse you can be more sure what is happening in the saddle.
In order for your horse to be balanced this requires a balanced rider above. So to begin with you need to set yourself up in neutral spine on and off the horse each and every day, until it becomes second nature to you. It is from this strong framework you are able to move with the horse. To be supple, yet balanced and strong. To not be stiff, but to have the ability to absorb the horses movement and ride with ease. This requires some real strength from you deep stabilizer muscles and the more your practice and improve this strength the more quieter your seat will become.
Where is your core?
Your core is your centre unit. Cut off your head, arms and legs, what is left is your core. A central unit of muscles that stabilize your spine, pelvis, ribs and shoulder girdle. Here are some great exercises to help you improve the strength on this central unit. Ensure you are doing this all from a neutral spine check out my article I did here on this.
Exercises To Try
1. Neutral Spine Lying Down
Then set up your neutral spine lying down, gain the same feeling as when you were standing. Focus on relaxing your shoulders and breathing deep into your belly.
2. Leg Lifts
With your neutral spine, lift your heels off the ground. Then lift one leg up at a time so knee is over hip. Rotate side to side maintaining neutral spine, relaxed shoulders and breathing naturally. Ensure you brace your core the entire time to keep your back still and strong. Do 10 reps on each side.
3. Long Leg Lifts
Point your toes and set your neutral spine. Then really brace your core so your back doesn’t move and lift both legs up of the ground. As one leg lifts, lower the other. Do 10 reps on each side maintaining that strong braced core and relaxed shoulders and breath.
4. Prone Hold
Start on your hands and knees and brace through your middle. Push up from the ground and up into your shoulder blades so your back is strong and long. Then lift one knee up of the ground keeping back straight. Then the other leg. Imagine a glass of water on your back and keep you back as still as a table top.
5. Horse Stance
Brace your middle so you spine is like a table top, keep it very still and lift one arm up, place it down and then the other side. There should be no movement through your back. Then try the same for you legs.
Once you can do this without your back moving, combine opposite arm and leg. Do 10 reps on each side.
6. Plank Pointer
Set up your horse stance pointer as before, but this time come up onto your toes. Go through first by lifting one arm at a time, then one leg. Once you can do this without moving your back, move onto doing opposite arm and leg at the same time. No movement should be happening through your back, imagine this time an expensive glass of wine! Don’t spill a drop!
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