How Core Stability Can Improve Rider Symmetry & Equine Performance

We all want our horses to move as best they can with free, floating movement.

But we can’t expect them to do so if we don’t work towards symmetry in ourselves.


Now we have the research that says that rider symmetry and equine performance can be improved through training the core muscles! (I have written other blog posts on core muscles and how to activate the core muscles correctly for horse riders– check them out in conjunction with this article).

A rider core stability program can have a significant effect on rider symmetry and consequently provide an important method for reducing asymmetrical loading and improving both human and equine performance.

Riders generally have a preference for side laterality of the pelvis and shoulders, causing asymmetrical loading of the human and equine back and limbs when riding (a technical way of saying that we are naturally crooked and this causes uneven loading on both us and our horses).

 

DEFINE CORE STABILITY

There are many definitions of core stability. The points below outline the common defining themes of core stability.

  • An individual’s ability to control the position and motion of the trunk during movement and function.
  • the capacity of the muscles of the torso to assist in the maintenance of good posture, position, and balance, during movement.
  • Stability is provided in a co-ordinated fashion by the active (muscles & fascia), passive (joints, ligaments, and bones) and control (neurological systems)

Please note, that these are definitions of core stability. Definitions of ‘the core’ are outlined in another post.

 

HOW DOES CORE STABILITY HELP HORSE & RIDER?

This prompts the question “could exercise, aimed at promoting core strength training, affect trunk angle, lateral alignment and symmetry of the rider?”

Authors Alexandra Hampson and Hayley Randle of The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, set out to discover rider’s asymmetry and its effects on horses’ backs, with the knowledge that asymmetrical loading can be detrimental to performance.

Ten healthy medium level dressage horse and rider combinations each fitted with an electronic saddle pad, performed two ridden tests at sitting trot, before and after participating in a twenty minute, unmounted equestrian-specific core fitness program, three times weekly for eight weeks. Three variables were measured at week 0 and week 8 including: left-right saddle mean pressure difference, maximum total force of the saddle on the horse’s back, and equine stride length.

Theoretically, it’s no surprise that doing unmounted core training has a direct benefit to rider’s symmetry but now there is published evidence that a 2-month core program significantly decreased differences in left-right mean pressure (riders sat more evenly), and slightly decreased overall force (riders could sit lighter).

These differences also had a direct influence on the horse’s performance with stride length increasing by 8.4%!

So just by improving your core stability, you can make your horse’s stride longer!

This study demonstrates that participating in a rider core fitness program can have a significant effect on rider symmetry and consequently provide an important method for reducing asymmetrical loading and improving both human and equine performance.

HOW YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR CORE STABILITY

I have produced an 8 week equestrian rider specific exercise program so you too can improve your symmetry and your horse’s performance. I have done all the hard work for you- researching and creating the best rider-specific exercises, curating them into ready-made complete workouts! Find out more about the program below!

 

Study Source: Hampson & Randle 2015. ‘The Influence of an 8-week rider core fitness program on the equine back at sitting trot’ International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport. Volume 15, Number 3, December 2015, pp. 1145-1159(15)

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