Core stability in horse riders -RDA article

In recent years we have been inundated with advice on “core stability” training, however, there remains confusion as to what qualifies as the core, and how to specifically train these muscles in a useful manner. Riders need sufficient core stability and strength to maintain good posture and trunk stability in the saddle. Reduced flexibility, tight muscles, restricted joints, or simply nervous tension in the rider can all reduce controlled stability by inhibiting the “core muscles” and thus the ability to adapt to the movements of your horse.

It is commonly thought that the core is comprised of the abdominals and lower back muscles (Rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, and the transverse abdominus). However, when looking at core training and movement patterns we can not be limited to these three muscle groups. For the lower back/pelvis/hip region there are 29 different muscles that each contribute to providing stability to the core, and this area can not be looked at in isolation from the upper body as issues around the pelvis will effect the shoulders and head stability / positioning, and vice versa.


Any low back pain or discomfort which riders suffer from can be attributed to the vast number of muscles that surround and intersect this region, and which may have been overlooked in any core program. If too much emphasis is placed on certain areas such as the anterior musculature (6 pack!) then muscle imbalances can develop leading to pain and injury. It is therefore necessary to emphasise the importance of a comprehensive core development program to cover the whole lumbar/pelvic/hip region.

Prospective Injuries from poor core stability

Lower back pain (lumbar spine and / or sacroiliac joint)

Abdominal strains

Groin strains

Hip flexor / abductor / adductor strains

Pelvic misalignment

Other musculoskeletal injuries due to compensation

Prospective Performance detriments

Poor balance in your seat causing increased tension in your legs and upper body.

Poor postural alignment

Poor transferability of force from lower to upper extremities and vice versa, eg. Changing body position, communication with the horse.

Inability to withstand and balance external forces from the horse

Core stability exercises can be incorporated into both land based training, and when on the horse. With the warmth and rhythmic movements of the horses movements can help relax tight muscles allowing the core muscles to switch on, and once warmed up the rider can practice simple movements such as pelvic tilts and trunk rotations. Instructors should give coaching cues around ensuring the rider is sat as tall as possible, lengthening through the spine, and activating the abdominals and obliques to support the spine.

Land based exercises can be done on the floor, on gym balls, with exercise bands, pilates trainers or IJoyRide trainer. But the exercise program must be tailored to the individual rider by the instructors and physiotherapist.

An often overlooked aspect of core training though, is endurance. Doing 6-10 reps for 3-4 sets will build the strength in the muscles, but to improve the endurance higher repetitions are needed, typically 25-30 repetitions. Holding contractions (isometric) also builds awareness of the correct positioning as well as strength through the tendons and connective tissues.

So in summary- some of the reasons you should look at incorporating specific core stability sessions into your riding, and off the horse training are:

Improved stability and positioning in the saddle

Greater control and communication with your horse

Lower risk of coming off – able to control/stay in the saddle during a spook/unexpected movement

Greater endurance when trotting/cantering

Reduced risk of injury


		
Advertisements