There is a common misconception that horse riding requires little effort with many people believing that the rider merely sits while the horse does all the work. This could not be further from the truth and horse riding is a great way to develop a strong core and build strength in the legs, glutes and back. The body is strengthened through a rider’s need to balance and control the horse. Many athletes use Pilates as a way to improve their overall fitness levels. In this article we look at how Pilates will benefit horse riders.
The muscle groups most affected by horse riding are those around the pelvic and hip joints. Popular horse magazine Horse & Hound spoke to Pilates expert Lindsay Wilcox-Reid about the effects of riding on the body. She told the magazine “you may not even be aware of this, yet the far-reaching effects through your back and shoulders can cause twisting, tilting and an inability to maintain an elastic contact.” In her article on Pilates exercises riders could try at home, she went on to explain how a few simple warm up exercises for Pilates could help: “these preparatory exercises are designed to be used before starting Pilates to ‘normalise’ your fundamental pelvic and spinal mechanics.” Lindsay Wilcox-Reid instructs the readers on two exercises that focus on the glutes and piriformis muscles at the side of the hip. Both these muscle groups benefit hugely from Pilates as they can get overused and potentially injured during riding.
Pilates.com states that Pilates can help increase the performance levels of riders. In their list of the benefits for riders they include: improved movement of arms and legs, improved jumping form, better absorption of the horse’s movements, and improved posture and comfort. The site also states that Pilates will help correct impediments such as rounded shoulders, tight hamstrings, and tightness and curving in the lower back. As Pilate exercises can be done at home or with a qualified Pilates instructor at a studio, riders have no excuse not to exercise to improve their riding form.
Motivation is always a key factor in doing exercise outside of the comfort zone and many people need to be inspired to try something new. Former Olympic gold medallist and now jockey Victoria Pendleton has championed the benefits of Pilates for reducing injuring and keeping in shape. The Body Refinery quoted her as saying “I’ve been doing Pilates for more than a year, and for me, it’s been a real breakthrough in managing back pain and building my postural muscles.” After retiring from cycling, Pendleton took part in the Cheltenham Festival after only riding for twelve months. In the lead up to the famous race meeting, she was sponsored by Grand National preview site Betfair who helped her realise her dream of becoming a professional jockey. She completed the challenge and stunned the racing world by finishing fifth in the prestigious race. Her hard work and dedication to fitness helped her achieve her goals.
Pilates is a great way to help a person achieve their goals whether they are a horse rider looking to advance their form and reduce the likelihood of injury, an athlete hoping to push their body that bit harder, or even someone looking to improve their fitness.