I’ve spent most of my life riding horses. While I was growing up, I took western equitation lessons to work on developing the correct riding posture. The principles I learned in my lessons were almost exactly the same as the Pilates principles I learned when I became a Pilates instructor.
In order to maintain a strong riding posture you must have muscular endurance in your shoulder stabilizers, deep abdominals, gluteals, inner thigh and quadricep muscles. My riding instructor would constantly tell me to keep my shoulders down away from ears, my abdomen tight and my spine long. I had a hard time moving in unison with my horse because I wasn’t strong enough to keep my rib cage over my hips and my feet in the right position. I would often start leaning back on my horse and sending my legs forward, taking me away from her center of gravity. This improper riding position caused me back pain as well as my horse.
Horses are extremely sensitive to the position of our body when we are riding. If we aren’t balanced they will sometimes react by not picking up the correct lead when asked, for example. The horse will be forced to compensate for our bad posture and imbalance by altering their own body. A horse may compensate to the point that they need frequent massages and chiropractic adjustments in order to stay rideable. This often happens with our own bodies as well when we allow ourselves to live with poor posture.
Lynda and her horse, Taxi.
Luckily, Pilates can help correct poor posture and any asymmetries in muscle strength. In your first Pilates session you’ll learn about the basic principles of Pilates the place your bones in the proper alignment for each exercise. The 6 pieces of Pilates equipment in our studio allow you to strengthen weak postural muscles while at the same time gaining flexibility in tight or short muscles. Muscle imbalances can be corrected through Pilates training by focusing on doing more repetitions on the weaker side.
Pilates’ combination of strength and flexibility is perfect for developing a strong seat while riding. You want your abdominals and hips to be strong but fluid at the same time so that you are able to move freely with your horse. Strong riders are able to let their bodies move in unison with the horse while at the same time giving strong body cues.
Since starting my Pilates training in 2004, I’ve noticed a huge difference in my horse’s attitude when I ride. She’s much happier because I can maintain good posture and balance myself over her center of balance. I feel safer riding now because I have more strength in my legs and hips to help hold me on my horse. Pilates has given me such great body awareness that I am much more conscious of my riding position than ever before.
My love of horses led me to a part-time career in holistic barefoot hoofcare. Trimming horses can be very damaging to the body. But with Pilates I’ve been able to put myself back together through strengthening my abdominals and back. If I work on a lot of horses in one day I make it a priority to do some core strengthening and myofascial release exercises the next time I’m in the studio. In my 18 years of horse experience I have heard numerous times about professional trimmers taking time off work because their back went out. I’ve been trimming 5-10 horses a week for the last 3 years and have not had to take any time off of work due to injuries. I know it is my Pilates training that has allowed me to do this. If your interested in finding out more about my holistic hoofcare you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fully Certified Stott Pilates Instructor
Certified Holistic Hoofcare Specialist