Test and build core strength

Pilates exercises can help you to improve your fitness and strenth for riding

Pilates exercises can help you to improve your fitness and strenth for riding

Your limbs can only be as strong, effective and independent as your core tone allows. Your core is not just your tummy – it’s your whole trunk –and controls the position of your hips, seat bones, shoulders and posture. So you can see why it’s essential to balanced riding.

Here's how to test and build your core strength.


Pilates is one of the most widely recognised core training systems and is used by elite riders. Classes are available in gyms and village halls around the country, and there’s a wide choice of yoga or pilates DVDs you can rent or buy.

Once you’ve got an idea of the basic posture adjustments you need to make, you must work at improving them. Workout time isn’t limited to 20 minutes a couple of times a week if you want to re-educate and realign your body for the good of your horse. But that doesn’t mean you have to slave away at the gym –spend time driving, shopping or mucking out working on your body alignment.

Have a go at balancing on an exercise ball in a riding position while working or watching TV. This technique is advocated by biomechanics specialist Mary Wanless, as it aids coordination and balance, improves core tone and will give you valuable feedback about your possible riding faults. For example, which way do you always roll – to the front, back or side? Which side? Which muscles do you consciously have to activate in order tostabilise yourself?

What is your horse telling you? Many apparent schooling problems in the horse, such as head throwing, not going forward, a trot that’s hard to sit to, a canter that breaks or a horse who won’t stretch to the bit, are actually down to the rider blocking the horse. Of course, there may be other health-related issues causing these problems, so do examine them first. If there are no underlying issues and you’ve been using gadgets to correct these problems, your horse may need body work such as massage and groundwork to release all of the bracing you’ve put in and give him time to recover.

One of the simplest ridden exercises you can do to develop your balance is simply stand in your stirrups – not hover in a jumping position or lean forward, but stand – straight up as if there were no horse beneath you, and maintain your balance. Start at halt and progress to walk, trot and canter.