Upper Body Exercises For Dressage Riders

A strong stable rider that has independent hands creates a beautiful picture upon a horse and this is something we should all be striving for. This sort of strength is achieved through a strong core, stabilized shoulder girdle and balanced pelvis.

When your torso is in the right position it allow your arms to move independently and freely, this in turn then allows you to have a soft connection to the horses mouth.

In order to create a strong shoulder girdle it requires proper positioning and stabilization of the shoulder blades, rib cage and entire torso. It then requires strengthening and flexibility work to keep it in the right position and improve its function and stability.

The problem starts with the environment our shoulders get put into most days, from computers, driving, leaning and just all round general poor daily biomechanics day in and day out. This constant pull in the wrong direction requires some working do bring them back to their proper form and function. So today I wanted to share with you some exercises you can do to help improve your posture and strength through your shoulders.


Create Neutral Spine To Begin With

Start by setting your torso up in the right balance each and every day with your neutral spine. Check out the post I did here in detail on this.  Think of creating length through your collar bone and across your upper back. Ensure your rib cage is balanced above your pelvis and you are sliding your shoulder blades down as in picture one. Try not to over arch the spine (picture 3) or collapse through the back (picture 2). Think balanced, upright and stable with a smile through your collar bones.

Then once you have set up your neutral spine here are some exercises for you to do to help improve shoulder strength and stability.


1. Neutral Spine With Breathe

Think of breathing into this position, allow your shoulders to relax, collar bone to spread and simply holding this position for 2-3 minutes.
Upper Body Exercises For Dressage Riders


2. Weighted Neutral Spine

Now add a layer to your neutral spine bay adding some weights into your hands and externally rotate them out. Think of squeezing shoulder blades together and keeping spine braced.  Again focus on your breathe and maintaining that good posture. The heavier the weight the harder it will be. Great for helping to strengthen the muscles that maintain neutral spine while at the same time working on your breathe.
Upper Body Exercises For Dressage Riders


3. Externally Rotating

This time lift the weights up to elbow height and externally rotate them out. Don’t let your back move and maintain that strong neutral spine. This is going to need to be a lighter weight, drink bottles are a great starting point.
Upper Body Exercises For Dressage Riders


4. Push Ups

With your neutral spine can you do a push up. Brace the core and push straight up and down from the ground. Aim for full range and keep elbows in by your rib cage. If its to hard on the ground, begin against the wall.
Upper Body Exercises For Dressage Riders


5. Bent Over Flies

Using your drink bottles or light weight, bend from your hips keeping your back braced, your spine long and your eyes 2 metres in front to lengthen spine (mine are down, need to be a little more out in front…whoops!). Then extend arms wide. Maintain that neutral spine, if you can’t keep your back still just use your arm weight to begin with.
Upper Body Exercises For Dressage Riders


6. Narrow  Bent Over Row

This is great for targeting your upper back muscles and you may be able to go heavier here. Slide elbows in by your side and keep that neutral spine. No movement through your back, just your arms. Straighten arms and then pull up. Keep elbows tight by your sides.

Upper Body Exercises For Dressage Riders


7. Lunge And Row

This is a great functional move that is now becoming more advanced. If you are finding the above exercises ok, add this one to your repertoire. Lunge down with a braced core and neutral spine, then without twisting pull in your resistance tube. Let your elbow sweep past your ribs.

Upper Body Exercises For Dressage Riders


8. Uprite Row 

Great for targeting your shoulders and strengthening your upper back muscles. Think of bringing your elbow to your ears.
Upper Body Exercises For Dressage Riders


For access to more exercises and full HD video workouts for dressage riders, check out our online gym and dressage rider training programs.

Take that training up to the next level and become the best dressage rider you can be! Our dressage rider training program has workout for all fitness levels. Everything for beginners through to advanced. Yoga, core, HIITs and mobility work to help you shine.

Learn more about our dressage rider training program here.


Do You Know What Neutral Spine Feels Like? With A Test To See

Its not just about your horse, the two of you are a athletic team and often we forget about our important role in this team sport. We put all of our effort into the horse and making sure they have the ideal training plan and schooling schedule, yet we forget about doing the same for ourselves.

Your role in this team is vital, your position, balance and fitness in this team is what is going to help you both shine.

Do you put attention into how your posture is on the horse?

Do you spend some time at the beginning of the ride checking you are sitting correctly and evenly?

Do you set yourself up in neutral spine and take time off the horse to know how this feels and how to improve this?

When it comes to rider posture often what we are taught in pony club is what is with us for life and how we interpret words can affect how our posture is. So the words, chin up, shoulders back and heels down can mean different things to different people and create a whole variety of different positions on a horse.

We all learn differently and often we aren’t actually aware of what a neutral spine is and how it should feel. Often riders aren’t even sure of what correct posture and alignment feels like off the horse, let alone on the horse.

Improving your body awareness and position is a vital step in becoming a better rider. When you work on this not only will you improve your riding but also your horses way of going also.

Try this two handed test and get a feel for what neutral spine feels like. Do it in front of the mirror and gain a really good understanding of what it feels like.


Two Handed Test

Neutral Spine

Start by doing this two handed test off the horse to feel how neutral spine feels for you. Create some words that describe this feeling to you and how you created it. Then use those words that mean something to you on the horse when you set up each day for a ride. Those words could be things like braced and tight, connected and strong, tall and grounded or solid and set. Like I said we are all different and its important you know how neutral spine feels and looks like to you.
So next time you are near a mirror I want you to do this test and set yourself up. Carry this posture around with you throughout your day off your horse. This is how you stand, squat, drive your car, sit at your desk and carry yourself efficiently each day. This is your neutral spine. Then when you get on your horse each day, set this neutral spine up and continue to practice until this becomes second nature to you.


Heres how it works :

Take one thumb and put this on your sternum and make your palm flat facing down. Then place your other thumb on your pubic bone, again palm down.

Now the goal is to keep your hands parallel as you brace through your core. If your hands move apart you are over extended and over arching through your back.


If they move together you are collapsed through your back and core.


This position can be applied to sitting, standing, exercising and riding.

Neutral spine sitting

This test is great for bringing awareness to the position of three key areas in riding, your pelvis, your ribcage and your head.

For more on how to set up your neutral spine and how this can be applied more to your riding check out this post here.

Are you ready to take your riding up to the next level? Then check out our dressage rider training program. Improve your fitness, strength and stability in the comfort of your living room. Yoga, mobility, HIIT and core workouts to help you become the best rider you can be. Join members from all over the world and learn more about this program here.


Becoming A Dressage Athlete

I want you to really shine as a dressage rider and in order for this to happen its important that attention is paid to your fitness levels. Fitness is a huge aspect of dressage and often riders are out hunting for hugely athletic horses to ride, yet they don’t think of themselves as the athlete also. I really want to see this change and for you to start to see yourself as an athlete also.

When it comes to competition often the riders at the top have such a small margin for error when it comes to riding their test and again this doesn’t matter what level you are at. If you want to win your tests and have the edge above other riders you need to not only have the skill, but also the fitness, strength and mental focus to make those winning extra points. Its the complete package.

Even if you don’t compete at that level and you are just competing to take part, heading out to an event requires fitness, strength and endurance. The adrenaline that pumps through your body when you are out on a new horse in a new environment doing a dressage test for the very first time is taxing on your body. It doesn’t matter what the score ends up being. The fitter you are, the easier you will be able to cope with this sort of day without it completely shattering you. Then the more you do them and the fitter you become the more you can work on your arena craft and taking those 6’s up to 7-8 and higher.

Even if you don’t compete, the truth is you owe it to your horse to be fit. You don’t want to be the weakest link. We expect our horses to be fit and strong, so its really not fair if you aren’t putting in the effort to this partnership.

Time For A Change

Its time to start treating yourself and your horse as an athlete, again no matter what level you are at. Once you get in this mindset and you start looking at your training and your horses training in this way, this is when you will start becoming the best rider that you can be and that is what it is all about.

Dressage is an incredibly skillful sport, you have to be aware of your entire body, what muscles are working and how to control all of them, without showing that you are moving. This awareness of your body is what sets you apart from other riders and helps you improve your aids and horses natural ability.

Your body needs to be as quiet as it can be, while at the same time strong and supple. It is then from the position that you are able to give those subtle aids to ask the horse to move. This requires a certain tension in your body, a core stability and flexibility. Its not about tightness or being rigid. This combination needs to both present in horse and rider, but often the riders neglect in their own bodies and are all to often just focusing on the horse.


Become The Dressage Athlete

When you start to put the effort into improving your own fitness, strength and suppleness you are then able to bring more knowledge and understanding to how your schooling is going to affect your horses body.  Often I see people going round and round and round in circles on their horse and wondering why they are getting worse and worse. Often the rider just simply doesn’t realise that horses get tired just like we do and they to need the breaks and the variety in their work. They also end up schooling doing the same thing day in and day out. Having a plan and a training program helps you improve and become a much more successful rider.

When we ride we are often just thinking about the horse and this is a great thing, however as some point we need to put the effort to think about our own body and fitness so that when we are riding well we can just ride and enjoy it without our fitness or strength holding us back.


Taking It To Another Level

Another part of becoming fitter is that when you can just ride you can then focus on your breathing and breathing correctly. If you are unfit, weak and unbalanced you will be puffing and wobbling all over the show. But if you are fit you can then focus on really riding. Often riders unable to keep up in a lesson or just day to day schooling, the riders stiffen up in the shoulder, breathe high in the chest and their entire body tenses up. Breathing needs to be deep, shoulder relaxed and this in turn helps you balance and relax on the horse. When you are able to get to this stage you can then really channel in on that mental focus and arena craft when you are competing.


So no matter what level you are at or what your goals are, I simply want you to be able to enjoy dressage and riding and in order for both you and your horse to be happy, healthy and fit that means you to need to take care of your own health and fitness. Treat your body and your horses like you are both athletes.

To get access to workouts, nutrition and core programs to help take your riding up to a new level without even leaving your home, check out the dressage rider program. Get access to yoga, mobility, stretching, core workouts, HIIT workouts, strength training and so much more. All the tools to help you become the dressage athlete. Learn more here

Nutrition For Dressage Riders

All to often I talk to riders who know so much about their horses nutrition and will spend all their pennies on making sure their horse is on the right supplements. Everything from enough magnesium, selenium through to b vitamins and toxin binders which is fantastic. However that same rider is then loading their own body up with white breads, pastas, muffins, cakes, alcohol and biscuits. Everything that is pretty much void of all nutrition. They know inside and out what their horse needs dietary wise, yet they never put the effort into their own body.

As a dressage rider it is just as important that you take care of your own body as you do your horses. The food that you eat builds every single cell in your body. You are what you eat, every single food you eat has a reaction in your body. Food can either enhance you or do the opposite.

Most riders  will also know exactly the way the time of year the grass changes can affect the behavior of their horse. Food has the same affect on your body, but often we ignore it and disguise it with more sugar, caffeine and what ever else is quick and easy to grab.

Riders will also understand the quality of the feed your horse is getting determines how he looks, feels, and performs. If you feed your horse a high grain diet it could have a couple of different reactions. One could be positive and make him more athletic and the other could create quite the explosive spooky temperamental experiment to ride each and every day. That same rider most probably then to knows the supplements then and feed that can counteract that and if they don’t, they will do everything they can and ask everyone they know what they recommend and also change his diet.

Dressage riders wouldn’t dare to overfeed or underfeed your horse and often keep a super close eye on his weight, temperament and work load and you adjust everything to suit.


So why is it then that I see all the time riders do the complete opposite for their own health?

Dressage riders are intelligent people to, you have to be to be able to train an animal. So I don’t think that its intelligence that is lacking here. I think it is just an unclear picture of priorities and goals. You see if you want to shine as a dressage rider, no matter what your level. You need to put as much effort into your own nutrition and fitness as your horses. You don’t after all want to hold back your horses abilities due to the fact that you aren’t fit enough or healthy enough to keep up or to be able to put in the hours to train your horse well. It takes energy and vitality to ride horses each and every day and hold down a job to pay for that hobby of ours. Its rather expensive you know!

The honest truth is I want to see you really succeed and be the best dressage rider you can be, so in order for that to happen its time for you to also take care of yourself. To put yourself and your health first. Health is wealth and lets face it those horse feed bills need you to be healthy enough to be able to work and ride productively and effeciently! You cannot do those things if you are dragging your feet each and every day due to the rubbish diet you are feeding yourself. You simply wont have the energy to put in the effort to that sport you love at the end of a long days work.

So lets start to pay attention to our own health and start taking care of your amazing body at the same time as your amazing horse.

Here are some tips to help get you started with what you should be eating.

  • Stay hydrated. Drink 2+ litres of water per day.
  • Eat intuitively. Meaning only eat when you are hungry and allow yourself to feel hunger and don’t just eat because your bored or its that time of day. Then don’t overeat and stop eating once you feel fueled
  • Base your diet around vegetables and eat as many green vegetables per day as possible. Try adding a green smoothie to your diet daily as a great source of nutrients and nourishing energy. Here is a great smoothie recipe I use often
  • Add good quality protein to each of your meals
  • Cut sugar out of your diet and only eat sugar from whole real foods such as fruit and honey
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine
  • Eat three good meals per day with one of those meals being a great breakfast by 8am, this helps set up your ghrelin and leptin hormones which control cravings and satiety. Important to help you avoid cravings later in the day.
  • Avoid processed foods and eat whole real foods only. Look at the ingredients, if you can’t understand, pronounce or read it the words. Leave it. Ingredient lists should be real food only, not chemicals, additives and preservatives.
  • Stop eating 3 hours before bed. Melatonin is produced in your gut, this is your recover and repair hormone and helps you sleep. If you are eating to late you can disrupt this and effect your sleep quality, therefore your energy the next day, not to mention your waistline.
  • If you get cravings try having things like herbal teas. Peppermint is great for helping to reduce cravings.
  • Aim to get 8 hours of sleep per night.


For more information on rider nutrition and performance, check out our dressage rider training program. Fine tune your diet so you can let that dressage athlete shine within you. Become fitter, stronger and leaner in the comfort of your own living rom with this program.  Get access to nutrition questionnaires, menus, meal plans and nutrition information with this program inside the online gym. All the tools to see you succeed! Learn more here.


Why Dressage Riders Should Brace Their Spine And How To Do So

In order to protect your spine and be able to transfer the force the horse creates beneath you, you need to have the ability to be able to organize your spine for optimal force and transfer. Meaning if you are stiff and rigid, so to will be your horse!


why-dressage-riders-should-brace-spine-and-how-to-do-soPrevent Wear and Tear

Understanding how to brace your spine helps prevent injury and general wear and tear of your joints and ligaments not to mention proper transfer of your central nervous system through your spine. If you don’t organize your spine correctly then simple tasks like lifting hay bales, sitting trot or even hoping on the horse each and every day can become affected. Riders often have to take days off riding due to a tweek in their back or a pulled muscle, so prevention is the key.


Improve Spinal Alignment

A spine that isn’t properly organized will lead to mechanical disruption, meaning if you have tight hip flexors and poor flexion through your hamstring, your posture will be compromised on the horse, causing you to tip forward and become imbalanced. This is why when you put effort into creating a good mid line of stabilization, good movement mechanics can be created from it.


Improve Force Transfer

If you have poor posture you lose optimal balance and positioning affecting the horses balance. If you aren’t properly organized above the horse you simply shut down the the force production and lose the ability to stabilize your pelvis, hips and shoulder girdle. Which is going to affect how freely the horse can move beneath you.

These three areas are hugely important to recognize and a great motivation to create a strong and stable core for you to be able to ride optimally from. If your spine is in a poor position you can’t create a safe and strong position to stabilize hips and pelvis therefore affecting how your body moves with the horse. This then shuts down the chance of your horse being able to swing and move efficiently from the hind legs through to the front. Don’t be the weak link in the chain, instead improve your spine position so that your horse can shine beneath you!


Heres how: 4 step sequence


Bracing Sequence For Your Spine


Step 1

The first thing you need to do is set your pelvis into neutral position, so place you hand on your sternum and position your feet parallel to each other under your hips. Screw your feet into the ground and squeeze your bottom. Now relax the bottom but keep that position through your hips, knees and pelvis. DSC_0021


Step 2

Time to pull your lower ribs in and balance your ribcage over your pelvis. Imagine your pelvis is a bowl full to the brim of water and so to is your ribcage. They are now both equally balanced above each other and you don’t want to let any of the water spill out. DSC_0023


Step 3

Now its time to  brace your core to lock the ribcage and the pelvis above each other. Think about corseting in your waist as if you have shrink wrap around you. Its not about hollowing or sucking in your tummy, its about bracing. Think if I was to come and push you, you wouldn’t fall over. You are solid and braced through your middle. Now breathe. Hold this position and let your upper body relax and breath. DSC_0027


Step 4

To finish off, set your head, neck and shoulders into position. Centre your head over your shoulders, think about bringing your ears over your shoulders, hips and ankles. Then draw the heads of your arm bones back to bring a stretch through your collar bones. Then release your shoulders down and back. Then squeeze your shoulder blades down and back. DSC_0029

Now each of these steps are vital in order for you to set up a solid and strong neutral spine. Practice these on and off the horse and make it part of your daily routine. The more you do this, the more second nature it will become and the better your riding will be as a result.


For more information on how you can improve your core strength and fitness check out our dressage rider program. All the workouts, education and information you need to become a fit, strong and healthy rider. Take your dressage up to the next level by becoming the best rider you can be. Best of all, this can all be done in your living room.
Learn more here.


5 Yoga Poses To Improve Your Dressage

Yoga is an incredibly under utilized form of training for dressage riders and I would love to see that change. You see yoga has the ability to make you feel centered, balanced and more energized. It improves your posture and evens out any imbalances throughout your body. Just as we want our horses to be balanced, centered and energized it makes sense that as a rider we to should be aiming to feel the same. After all how the horse feels is a replication of how the rider feels.


Here are 5 yoga poses to help improve your riding.


Dolphin Pose And Its Benefits

Overall – Great for strengthen your shoulder girdle and all the muscles of your upper back. 

  • Also helps calms the mind and bring in focus.
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and arches of your feet
  • Strengthens the arms, shoulders, upper back and legs


Start by coming into a plank with wrists under shoulders and legs extended straight back. Keeping your hands in place, shift your hips up and back into down dog.

Now keeping your hips up, drop down onto your elbows.  Relax head and draw shoulders away from the ears. Press chest toward thighs and think of pushing heels down to the ground.

Hold for 10 deep breaths.


Warrior II And Its Benefits

Overall – Great for opening up your hips, strengthening your legs and learning to relax your shoulders and breathe.

  • Also strengthens and stretches the legs and ankles
  • Stretches the groins, chest and lungs, shoulders
  • Relieves backaches, especially through the lower back


Stand with feet about 2 shoulder widths apart. Turn right toes out and left toes as much inwards as you can. Bend your right knee to make your thigh parallel with the ground and push down into your left heel making your left leg strong and straight.  Bring your arms up to shoulder height and look down over your right finger tips. Brace your core and relax your shoulders.

Hold for 10 deep breaths each side.


Triangle Pose And Its Benefits

Overall – Fantastic for lengthening your ITBs and lower back.   Plus a great strengthening exercise for your core as well as your legs.

  • Also stretches and strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles
  • Stretches the hips, groins, hamstrings, and calves; shoulders, chest, and spine
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs and improves digestion


Stand with feet around 2 shoulder widths apart. Turn right toes out and left toes as far inwards as you can.  Keeping both legs straight, hinge at your hips toward the right leg. Think of lengthening your spine and keeping your back long and straight. Place right hand above or below the knee and extend left arm above shoulder. Look up if its okay on your neck or down to your toes.

Hold for 10 deep breaths each side.


Warrior III And Its Benefits

Overall – Fantastic for strengthening your glutes as well as your stabilizer muscles that support your spine and hips.

  • Strengthens the ankles and legs
  • Strengthens the shoulders and muscles of the back
  • Tones the abdomen and improves core strength and stability.
  • Improves balance and posture


Step into a lunge position with right foot forward and left foot back. Hinge forward at your hips and bring torso towards the floor. At the same time, lift leg up to hip-height, forming a straight line from the crown of your head to your toes.
Bring your hands  to your heart center, brace your core and gaze down.

Hold for 10 deep breaths each side.


Pigeon And Its Benefits

Overall – Great for loosening up your glutes, ITB and can help with tight lower backs. 

  • Stretch deep glutes
  • Stretch groins and psoas
  • Relieve impinged piriformis and alleviate sciatic pain


Take a seat and bring one knee out in front bent, with the other leg bent in behind you.

Tuck in your front heel to your groan and lengthen your back leg so it becomes straight.

Fall forward over right shin and rest hands or forehead on the mat.

Hold for 10 deep breaths each side.


If you are looking for a simple place to start with improving your riding strength, balance and posture I would start with some yoga. This yoga doesn’t have to take up hours in fact you can begin with just a 10 minute routine a few times doing these exercises above. Im sure by putting in the effort you will notice the effects this has on your posture and your riding.

For access to full HD video yoga routines to help with your riding check out our dressage rider training program. Yoga, core and HIIT workouts that you can do in your living room to take your riding up to a whole new level. You don’t even have to leave your living room. Learn more here



Why Planks Are Great For Dressage Rider Posture (With 6 Different Variations To Try)

As a dressage rider our goal is to remain super stable and balanced, yet have the ability to move our limbs and pelvis subtly for aids. This is why planks are such a great exercise to help improve your strength off the horse. They require almost every single muscle to work in order to stabilize your spine and pelvis and then you will see these different exercises help you isolate specific areas to balance so that you can move an arm or a leg.  Just as you would need to do when giving the horse balanced and correct aids.


Plank Arm Reachers

Great for improve shoulder girdle stability and even strength through both sides of the body.

The option for this exercise is to do on your knees. Either option however the aim is to imagine you have  a glass of water balanced in the middle of your back. You don’t let it ripple…..stay super still. And Breathe….


Plank Bunny Hops

These are great for really activating your lower abdominals. These are the hardest to recruit and often the laziest. By doing these bunny hops you are not only working them, but you are also increasing your heartrate and strengthening your upper body. Great full body exercise.

Option here is to jump do smaller jumps, even if it was just jumping feet forward a few cm.


Plank Hand Walk Outs

The aim here is to not let your back arch, so only walk as far as you can control stability through your core. Even if you only walk out a few cm, you are on the right track. The key is to again imagine a glass of water on your back, don’t let it ripple. Great for full body core control. Every muscle in your core is working here with a huge emphasis on your shoulder stability and upper body posture.

Option is to do this on your knees, following the same advice above. Super still through the body.


Plank Jacks

Awesome exercise to really spike your heartrate up while at the same time strengthening your core. Everything has to work here to keep your spine stable. Great comparison to sitting trot. Staying stable through spine while lower body is moving.

Option is on your knees and step one leg out at a time and back.


Plank Nose To Knee

This is great for lower abdominals and the upper back. Its a controlled movement that you do with your breathe. Think of bringing hip bone to rip cage and rounding through spine to activate lower abdominals. Option is on your knees, think of bringing one leg through at a time. Think knee to nose.


Plank Spider

Great for teaching you body control. While the arm moves the body stays still. This is crucial for a stable strong rider on a horse, especially once you add the force of movement beneath you. Think of keeping everything still minus the arm. Imagine that glass of water (or this time expensive champagne) balancing on the centre of your back. Don’t let it ripple or spill!

Option is on your knees, keep spine still by bracing through core and move one hand at a time.


For more exercises to improve your rider core strength and balance. Check out our dressage rider training program. All the tools you need to take your riding to the next level. Learn more here.


Strength Exercises For Horse Riders – Improve With These 6 Core Exercises

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

First set up Neutral Spine (see post here on how to do this )

Neutral Spine arms down


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.

Strength Exercises For Horse Riders


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.

core strength exercises for horse riders


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.

core strength exercises for horse riders


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!

core strength exercises for horse riders


For more information on rider nutrition and performance, check out our dressage rider training program. Fine tune your diet so you can let that dressage athlete shine within you. Become fitter, stronger and leaner in the comfort of your own living rom with this program. Get access to nutrition questionnaires, menus, meal plans and nutrition information with this program inside the online gym. All the tools to see you succeed! Learn more here.


Improve Your Rider Strength With These 6 Exercises

Here I share how you can improve your dressage strength out of the saddle. This will ultimately help you seat more even and balance in the saddle.

As dressage riders its important that we are constantly working on ways to improve your riding seat. These little improvements over time are what are going to help you become the best rider that you can be. I remember at pony club being told to sit up, shoulders back and heels down and I often hear instructors use these words today. All though these words are great its so important to understand that peoples interpretation of these words vary and often you see all sorts of different outcomes yet the same words are used.

improve-rider-strength-with-these-6-exercisesSo in order to get a good understanding of what a good position feels like, it should start off the horse and the begin with good body awareness, creating a good neutral spine and feeling what that actually feels like. It is then from this neutral spine that strength, stability and riding can be improved.

Once riders have got a great understanding of what neutral spine is they can then work on strengthening their entire body. Often dressage riders think it is all about the core, and don’t realise our body works as an entire unit, yes your core is the central hub, but everything is connected. If you don’t have a strong core everything else gets connected and vice versa. If you have areas that are weak other muscles and ligaments have to make up for that.

Your entire bodies biomechanics need to be working and it is little by little, bit by bit that you improve this over time. Having specific dressage strength helps you to be able to move freely with the horse and stay in control with the movement.


Here are some great exercises to help you improve your dressage strength

These exercises are nice and effective. All should be done from your neutral spine and if you do these 2 times per week you will begin to notice changes in your rider position and strength.


The Exercises

Do each of these exercises for the recommended reps and as a circuit. Then repeat the circuit 2 times through.


1. Upright Row

Great for strengthening your upper back and shoulders, which are incredibly important for maintaining strong posture while riding.
Stand into a resistant tube and have your feet hip width apart, then bring your elbows up to your ears. Do this exercise for 12-15 reps.



2. Prone Hold

Great for strengthening your upper back and entire core. Think of balancing a glass of water on your back and pushing from your hands up into your shoulder blades. Squeeze your bottom as well as your thighs and don’t forget to breath! Option here is to drop your knees. Aim to hold for 30 – 60 secs.
Dressage Strength


3. Wide flies

Fantastic for opening up the chest and improving upper back posture. Especially good for those in a desk job.  Remember to set your neutral spine and keep your back long and straight. Start with light weights like some drink bottles and open the arms long and wide. Keep eyes down and repeat 12-15 reps.


4. Lateral Rises

With your neutral spine and braced core, bend your arms 90 degrees and lift the weights wide to shoulder height. Keep the bend in the elbows and lower back down again. Choose a weight that you can do 12 reps for with good form. Its important you don’t arch or move through your back, only thing to move its your arms. Do 12-15 reps.


5. Lunges

Great for seeing how open your hips are and how even your strength is in both legs. Start kneeling on the ground and bring one leg out in front so it is bent at 90 degrees. Then with a straight spine and strong core, push straight up. There should be no movement forward or back just up and down. Lower down so knee just about touches floor then up again. Do 12 -15 reps each side and add weights to this to make it harder.
Dressage Strength


6. Step Ups

Another great exercises to even out any imbalances and make sure both sides are as strong as the other. Find a step that is about knee height and place one foot up ontop of it with the other on the ground. Now without plunging forward push through the top foot to lift the upper body. Try not to let your front knee travel over the line of the toes. Use your bottom to lift you up. Do 12-15 reps each side.
Dressage Strength

Do these exercises in and around your riding 2-3 times per week and notice how they improve your rider position, posture and strength.


For more of these sort of exercises and to get access to full HD video workouts for dressage riders, check out our online gym.

Improve your fitness, strength and stability in the comfort of your living room. Yoga, mobility, HIIT and core workouts to help you become the best rider you can be. Join members from all over the world and learn more about this program here.


Beginners Yoga For Dressage Riders

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Yoga is an incredibly under utilized form of training for dressage riders and I would love to see that change. You see yoga has the ability to make you feel centered, balanced and more energized. It improves your posture and evens out any imbalances throughout your body. Just as we want our horses to be balanced, centered and energized it makes sense that as a rider we to should be aiming to feel the same. After all how the horse feels is a replication of how the rider feels.

beginners-yoga-for-dressageThe great thing about yoga is its ability to get to all those deep muscles that we tend to neglect, while at the same time improving your straightness and opening up your hips. All of which are incredibly important for riding. The combination of length, balance and strength allow you to get more in control of your center of gravity and more balanced in the center of the horse while riding. It is when you are balanced that you are able to give subtle independent aids on the horse. Not only does yoga work on your body it also works on your mind. Its increases body awareness, focus and clarity. Then at the heart of yoga is breath.

Staying connected to your breath and mind while you take your body into challenging and uncomfortable poses. Exactly what a dressage rider needs when heading into an arena or trying out your first flying change! Being in control of your body, your horses body, the balance and impulsion while at the same time being accurate calm and centred. As you can see yoga can have some incredible benefits for dressage riders.

As riders we want our horse to calmly move through the movements with grace and ease, so it just makes sense that we put that sort of training in practice off the horse to. Dressage is about feeling, flow, balance, mindfulness and breath and dressage is very much the same when done well. So try out this short beginners yoga and start to bring some balance into your body today.

Want more yoga for dressage or more specific exercise to help improve your rider fitness and strength? Then checkout our dressage rider program. Learn more here.


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