How To Stretch Your Hamstrings & How Not To As A Horse Rider

The popular thought in riding is that the core muscle is the key to good riding.This is true and is another topic to discuss.

DSC 0005websizeWell, this is true but the Hamstrings are the underestimated muscle riders have little knowledge about. If the DSC 0028websizeHamstring muscle is not engaged the leg will hang straight, (photo on the left). The heel will not sit under the hip and often the heels will also be higher than the toes. This is a resting posture for the rider, not self-carriage posture. We all know this is not the correct alignment for good riding posture. In the photo on the right, the rider has engaged her Hamstring muscle and also triple flexion of her hips, knee and ankle. This is one of 18 movement patterns I teach riders.

The Hamstrings are one of the most engaged muscles in Dressage Riding, recreational riding and western riding. The Jump rider also uses their Hamstrings but in a different mechanical way.

So let's look at the Hamstrings Muscle in more detail.

The Hamstrings are attached to the Tibia and Fibula behind the knee and to the Ischial Tuberosity (seat bone) in the Buttock. This muscle has three main actions in riding. In running the Hamstrings has different actions.

1. If the hip is stable (seat of the rider) the Hamstrings will bend the knee, this engages the lower leg for aids.

20869805 hamstrings anatomy muscles2. If the knee is stable the Hamstrings will tilt the pelvis or draw it closer to the knee joint. This will allow a rider to engage a deeper seat for aids.

3. To apply lateral aids the Hamstrings will assist in stabilizing the pelvis as the lower leg applies an aid on one side and on the opposite side the Hamstrings will stabilize the pelvis in conjunction with the core muscle.

So it is clear the lower leg is moved by the Hamstrings and the seat is stabilized by the Hamstrings.

  • When a  rider kicks, they use their Hamstrings.
  • When a rider needs to apply more pressure when applying an aid they use their Hamstrings.
  • When a rider needs to engage more pressure (deeper seat) through their pelvis they use their Hamstrings.
  • Of course, all of these movements incorporate many other muscles which are synchronized to obtain the correct action.
  • The ability to independently isolate each muscle will give the rider more control of their body in the saddle.

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Learning How To Use The Hamstrings through Rider Specific Movement Patterns will give a rider exceptional skills in the saddle. I teach this in my Applied Posture riding Program.

Poor balance when riding is a major cause for horses to miss behave and or become sore through their back and mouth. A stable rider with a good strong core and lower leg strength and length will ride with better balance and skill. The Hamstrings are an important muscle to achieve this.

The Hamstrings are constantly shortened because as riders we use the muscle in the saddle.


It is imperative to stretch the Hamstrings correctly to 

  •  maintain flexibility through the lower back
  •  maintain good muscle health. 
  • to relieve the pressure through the disc in the lower back
  • to allow the rider to use the muscle correctly.

It is important to stretch the Hamstring not only correctly but also safely. Many riders have back pain and stretching the Hamstrings in certain positions will stress the lower back and add to your pain.


1. Stretch with a straight back.

2. Stretch with a safe point to hold onto.

3. Stretch for up to three minutes at a time. (daily at first and reduce to 2-3 times a week).

4. Stretch to mild pain or discomfort.

5. No pain no gain only applies if you know what the pain means!

Stretch 1.

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 Place your foot on a solid object, about hip high. Keep your toes of both feet facing to the front.Arch your lower back so it does not bend and straighten your knee. You will feel this stretch in the muscle belly. DO NOT BEND!





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Again keep your back straight and lean on something.

Slowly straighten your knees and feel the stretch come in behind your thigh.

Stretch 3.

download 3Lay flat on your back and Straighten your leg into a vertical position use a wall as a resistance.

This is one of the most comfortable positions to stretch your Hamstrings, however not as effective as the two above.

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You can use your hands behind your knee the hold your leg straight. This is more of a nerve root movement pattern, but it also stretches the Hamstrings gently.

This is more of a nerve root movement pattern, but it also stretches the Hamstrings gently.

Stretch 4.

downloadLay on your back but this time you can use a towel or a rope to hold the stretch.



Now I am going to show you Hamstring Stretches  .......YOU DO NOT DO!

These are too risky for those of you with Back Pain.

As a Physiotherapist, I am often asked about stretches that are not harmful. Horse Riders need to look after their back and learn how to stretch and strengthen in a safe effective way. These stretches are part of my Applied Posture Riding program. If you want to learn how to train yourself for riding have a look at my program. 

Make sure you LIKE my Applied Posture Riding Facebook Page to get tips and advice on rider training.

NEVER STRETCH INTO LUMBAR FLEXION! Please avoid these stretches.

I have sourced the following stretches from images for Hamstring stretches, off the internet, be careful!

A sports trainer, personal trainer, friend, Dr. may suggest these stretches, DO NOT DO THEM!

They all involve back bending under pressure.

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