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Pilates for Horse Riders: The Benefits

Pilates’ range of subtle exercises can help you build a stronger core and gain better symmetry in the saddle. Lindsay Wilcox-Reid of Equipilates urges you to try it out with this simple move you can do at home

Why Pilates works

A rider’s position in the saddle has a huge influence over a horse’s way of going, affecting not only the quality and freedom of his paces but also his ability to perform happily and even to maintain soundness. However, try as they might, many people can’t ‘unlock’ the stiff or uncooperative areas of their body or break the bad riding habits they may have picked up.

This is where Pilates can help. By performing this range of subtle exercises, you’ll develop all-important symmetry in the saddle and build a strong, central core that supports your spine and improves shock absorption. With this greater body awareness you can isolate certain muscles, releasing tension that may be limiting your horse’s movement or making him rush or hollow.

Pilates is ideal for rehabilitation, helping you regain fitness after injury or childbirth. As a performance enhancement tool it can offer benefits in every discipline – whether you aim to score a couple of per cent extra in a dressage test, jump a more balanced round or simply hack out in greater comfort. You can learn the basics in pure Pilates classes or in sessions geared especially for riders, following this up with practice at home or even at the yard before you ride.

Try the Wall Glide

Low-grade muscle spasm can typically cause two or three of the five lumbar vertebrae to lock together and move as one block, instead of smoothly and individually. This will affect how well you sit in the saddle and absorb the horse’s side-to-side movement. Follow the steps below to this quick but effective exercise to help release joints in the lumbar spine.

  1. Start by standing side-on to a wall or a doorframe, no more than 6in away from it
  2. Keep your feet together and your nearest arm bent at the elbow, then lean your upper body against the wall
  3. Now glide your hips across, smoothly and slowly, to touch the wall – before releasing and returning them to the middle
  4. Perform eight repetitions on each side, then eight again each way, twice a day, for a few weeks. It may seem simple, but this exercise is surprisingly beneficial and will soon improve the way your body works

Find out more at equipilates.com