Since I started in the fitness industry over 10 years ago, combining fitness and riding, it is really interesting to see how much has changed – riders are so much more aware of their core; there are pilates courses designed for riders and there is even specially designed equipment for riders to work their core. But why is your core so important for riding?
Firstly, we must understand what makes up the core. A simple way to describe it is [emember_protected custom_msg=’This content is only available to Members, to read more of this article please Join HERE or if you are a member please LOGIN‘] – the muscles that run from your rib cage to your pelvis – front, side and back. So the erector spine, the multifidus, the obliques – external and internal, the rectus abdominals and the transverse abdominals. The muscles work together to form a unit. If some of the muscles are not as strong as others, it is like having shoddy brickwork in part of a wall – it causes a weakness, and affects the rest of the wall.
Most of you will know this, as the two commonly come together – core stability. Your core supports your spine, giving you a stable platform to work from. If your core is weak, you will be less balanced in the saddle, and more likely to fly out the front door if your horse changes direction quickly.
Sit up tall in your best upright position. Get someone to gently push you about. Now sit up tall using your core (using the slouch sit exercise) and repeat the exercise. You should feel much stable, but also adaptable, rather than locked and fixed.
Your core supports your trunk, helping it to work to its best ability. Think of it as a balloon – a strong core is like a well inflated balloon, helping to hold your trunk upright. A weaker core, is like a balloon that has lost some air, causing the chest to collapse, and therefore not working as effectively. When it collapses, it affects your breathing.
Sit up nice and tall, using your core. Now take in some deep breaths – easy. Now slouch, and try taking in some deep breathes – harder
Your core allows your trunk to stay stable, allowing your legs and arms to work independently. If your core is weak, you will find your seat is compromised as it will shift to help maintain balance, giving a mixed signal through the seat to the horse.
Go into a plank position (forearm or straight arm). From there lift a leg – does your body twist? Try the same with the other leg and then the arms. You will find that your body has to move to keep you balanced – the stronger the core, the less you move. This is similar to what happens in the saddle, just a clearer way for you to see the knock on effect
A strong core allows your pelvis the freedom to move independently. If you use your back muscles more than your deep front core muscles to sit up, it helps to lock the pelvis, not allowing you to move with the horse in the saddle
Sit and slouch in your chair, and now try and move your pelvis – quite limited. Now sit up tall using your core, and your slouch seat technique again, and you should find it much easier to move your pelvis.
As discussed already, your core supports your trunk and spine, therefore it has a knock on effect to your posture. If your core is weak and causes you to slouch down, it will effect the shape of your spine. Your spine is an ‘S’ shape, when supported well. But if it is not supported well, it causes the shape to change – you can have a bigger top to your ‘S’, or a flatter bottom, or both. This means your spine is under more strain than planned, and your posture is not at its best in the saddle. It also has a knock on effect to your hand aid, but we shall look at that another time
Stand side on in the mirror, and stand tall using your core. look at your ‘S’ shape – is it balanced, and with gently curves? Now slouch – how has the ‘S” changed?
So your core is more that just core stability, it heavily influences your riding ability.