Applied Posture Riding - core pilates exercises for riding

  • Pilates For Horse Riders Published Article Part 1


    Part 1  Pilates For Horse Riders By Annette Willson

    Functional, strong core stability is a crucial element for good posture. Good posture on the ground is essential for a good riding posture. To be a skilled, effective rider requires a stable and functional core. This is a technique every rider can learn.

    Physiotherapist, Pilates Educator Rider Coach, and Author of the program “Applied Posture Riding” Annette Willson, explains how specifically-designed exercises and movement patterns based on Pilates can improve every rider’s strength, posture, feel, and all-around riding ability.

    before and after APR During a riding lesson, it is common to hear and witness or experience an instructor telling the rider to keep their shoulders square, soften their hands, use more leg, keep their seat in the saddle, stop bouncing at the sitting trot, stop moving their leg, use more seat…more impulsion…more bend, etc, etc. The rider, frustrated and trying as hard as they know how often compounds the problem and will stiffen up through the whole body and block the horse’s movement as well as their own. Many lessons are repeated ditto. Riders pay lots of money for the same lesson.

    Does this sound familiar?

    Many instructors see the problem but lack the knowledge on HOW to fix it. Riders are beginning to realise the average riding instructor does not have the education to train them in posture.  The ability to sit well in the trot and have a deep independent seat will not be taught by an instructor. To achieve a strong but flexible upright seat in the saddle and keep the legs still through all paces and aids are elements of riding which riders need to address themselves. All of these problems are based on the strength and use of the deep core muscles.

    Training to develop core stability will greatly improve every rider’s seat. Riding lessons will become progressive both with the horse improving in obedience, less resistance to poor riders aids, and the rider more skilled and confident. Core stability and strength can be trained in the gym or Pilates classes. However, these sessions will not train functional riding movement patterns; a rider needs to learn specific horse rider movement patterns to ride with skill. Riders must learn how to use their strength, not just be strong. Applied Posture Riding is the perfect way to apply Pilates to riding.

    Pilates For Horse Riders

    Pilates has become a very popular exercise routine for both the general public and for sportspeople. While most people may have heard of Pilates, many don’t actually know what it is or understand its principles.

    Why is it called Pilates?

    Over the years, professional people have discovered special features about individual muscles.

    These discoveries are generally named after the person who actually made a difference by studying that muscle.  Joseph Pilates was the man who discovered the special features and function of the deep Transverse Abdominal Muscle. This muscle is a postural muscle that runs transversely around the belly. It does not move any joints or body parts; its main function is to stabilize the spinal joints and flatten the tummy. This is known as core stability. The single most important muscle for posture and pain control As a Physiotherapist; I see a gap in the knowledge of many gym and Pilates teachers. Unfortunately, the true function of this muscle and its biomechanics is not well understood.

    The teaching of core stability is generally not complete as it must be taught by an expert. In reality, a Pilate’s class should be no different from any other class because every person exercising, working, or just walking around should be engaging their core muscles. Pilates classes should be called posture classes.

    Movement pattern 1 compressed Pilates is the function of the deep core abdominal muscles and simply drawing in one’s ‘tummy’ in preparation for doing an exercise is NOT Pilates. This is a good start but more education on HOW is not taught. It is important to know if the transverse abdominal muscle is working properly, and even more important to know if it isn’t.

    Core stability must be learned from an expert, to be performed properly.

    Why is Core Stability important for the Horse Rider?

    Horse riding looks so easy, but those who ride know better. Sitting on a horse requires energy on its own, and asking a horse to perform requires much more effort. Riding requires control, strength, and symmetry from both sides of the body. It is essential to have strength, coordination, feel, and precision from all body parts. Control, independent movements, and strength will all improve with good core stability. There are many factors that inhibit core strength.

    Lower back pain is a huge inhibitor in training the transverse muscle. Many horse riders suffer back and or neck pain. Severe stiffness will create pain and hence, weaken the core. These problems are self-feeding. That is, cause and effect run the circle. Pain causes inhibition, this causes weakness, and weakness results in poor control and stability and then again, causing pain. The cycle must be broken. Managing pain is another topic on its own but the first step is to start training core stability and understand HOW. Women have the greatest challenge post-childbirth. The separation of the front muscles and the regaining of strength is such a battle.

    Training the transverse abdominal muscle is the very first step for women returning to riding, post-birth. I have so much information on this subject but not in this article. Many women have drastically weakened core stability (and therefore strength/balance) following childbirth, due to the stretching of this muscle? These women, in particular, benefit from core strength training. Horse riding is very different from the ball or athletic sports. The riding postureis very static (but mobile) and should appear to be still. Ball and all athletic sports are dynamic, which means fast-moving in many directions. Most sports are one-sided, using the dominant side repetitively, e.g., tennis and eye-hand coordination is very important.

    Horse riders, on the other hand, need to feel movement through their seat, and this does not come naturally to many. Riders need to be equally talented with both the left and right sides of the body; people generally find it difficult to coordinate their left and right hands at the same time (rub your belly while patting your head), let alone coordinating feet, hands, and seat altogether. When what is required to ride well is analyzed, it’s easy to understand why riding isn’t that easy. Good riders make it appear easy, but why?

    Go to Part 2 for the next part of the article. If you have questions or want advice then contact me I am happy to help, I love this topic and I love seeing horse riders become the best they can.

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  • Pilates For Horse Riders Published Article Part 2

    Pilates for Horse Riders

    This is Part 2 of an article written by myself for the hoof beats magazine.

    If you have not read part 1 then I suggest you start there and come back to this article for it all the make sense.

    Part 1 is here.

    Pilates For Horse Riders Part 2

    What makes a Good Horse Rider?

    rider competing dressage competition classic estepona malaga province andalusia spain 34936377A good rider has a natural feel for the movement of the horse through their seat. They also move with their horse so well. They are one unit. If you want to learn then observe and study the posture of a good rider when they’re out of the saddle. Watch how they stand, how they walk, how they move. Many are naturally straight in the back and flexible in their movement patterns.

    If they were tested for strength and stability the results would most likely be good. Having strong core stability allows these riders to move their limbs independently. This equates to the ability to apply precise, independent aids. These riders would also be generally fit and have good muscle endurance. A good rider has endurance and strength in all their posture muscles.

    A Horse Rider Can Learn to Ride Better? How?

    If a rider is having performance problems, they need to look at themselves before they blame the horse. It does not take a huge effort to do some self-testing of one’s postural muscles, joint flexibility, and specific riding muscle strength. Knowledge of how and when each of the major riding muscles is used is a great advantage to a rider. Applied Posture Riding teaches riders about their riding muscles; how to test them, what their function is, and how to train them individually.

    56 CopyMy techniques teach specific movement patterns to riders, and how to use the deep core muscles for riding. There are many skills a rider can learn while off the horse. The Applied Posture training program is unique in many ways. A rider will do some self-testing and identify their own faults. Once identified a rider can focus on certain exercises, to retrain their muscles.

    The absolute, most important muscle to train and learn how to engage in the deep core abdominal muscle. A rider can then be taught how to use this power in the saddle. This cannot be taught by a gym trainer or aerobics teacher. Learning and understanding one’s horse’s footfalls and the beat will also give insight into one’s riding.

    The absolute, most important muscle to train and learn how to engage is the deep core abdominal muscle. A rider can then be taught how to use this power in the saddle. This cannot be taught by a gym trainer or aerobics teacher. Learning and understanding one’s horse’s footfalls and the beat will also give insight into one’s riding. A simple test for Core Strength.

    This is a test I use in my Physiotherapy practice and on my riding pupils.

    Many of my patients report the instructions given in most Pilates classes are not clear enough and the instructor assumes the core is engaged already. It is not enough for most sportspeople and especially not enough for horse riders. You must know when your core is engaged and when it is not. The ability to hold the core strong while performing a movement pattern will increase strength and protect the back. This can be learned and used in riding. The rider should move in tune with the horse but appear still. You are never still when riding. This should be the case in all paces.

    Learn to feel movement by understanding the beat of each pace.

    There are many more specific tests and movement patterns to learn, to improve one’s riding. In the Applied Posture Riding program, a large gym or Physioball is recommended. This is the ideal tool to train horse riders specific movement patterns, and core stability. Once a movement pattern has been established, it will become natural.

    The trot, both sitting and rising can be trained on the ball if the trainer knows the correct movement patterns. The sitting trot can be taught by learning how to engage the deep core muscles and coordinate the breathing pattern with the two-beat footfall pattern; once learned, the breathing pattern can be dropped because the sitting trot is established. The canter can be simulated, with certain exercises, just as easily.

    Pilates for Horse Riders

    Pilates is simply the learning of HOW to initiate, test, train, and function with core stability. The use of core stability in horse riding is more complicated than just doing Pilates-based exercises. If you want more information or just want to ask questions then contact me. Fill in the subscribe form and follow Applied Posture Riding on Facebook, share your story, and read of others love this topic and I love seeing horse riders become the best they can be. 

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