Pilates is beneficial for just about everyone. There are however certain disciplines, sports or activities where the benefits of Pilates are felt more keenly. Such disciplines as: dancers; gymnasts; martial artists and the skill and control of Pilates appeals to horse riders, in particular dressage riders.
Most people just assume that Pilates is all about the ‘core’. Joseph Pilates never once mentioned ‘the core’. For him the spine was King. However he treated the body holistically. He also never called his system Pilates but rather ‘Contrology’, which for me best sums up what it is we are trying to achieve.
Control of our own bodies, for us to dictate to the body what it does not the other way around. That is the appeal of the system of Pilates to the above mentioned discipline – control!
Benefits of Pilates for Riders
- Improved posture
- Feel taller with improved alignment
- More control of your entire body
- Lengthening of short muscles for improved body balance
- Strengthening of weak muscles for improved control
- Less stress on joint, tendons, ligaments and muscles
- Improved focus and concentration – Pilates Principles
- Greater body awareness
- Improve cores strength and control for stability
- More mobile and supple spine
- Improve your connection with yourself and your horse
Pilates helps us to become more symmetrical. As we attempt to achieve balance in our body. We are endeavouring, amongst other things, to have equal control of our movements, not allowing or permitting one hand, arm, leg, side of the body, shoulder etc to dominate, bully or dictate to any other part of our or the horses body.
It is ‘we’ that are in control.
Pilates in general will and does benefit just about every person. It is appreciated more by certain dedicated and disciplined people. Who are after achieving mastery in their fields, by choosing Pilates to master their own movements.
So what is Pilates for Riders ?
A large number of Pilates Teachers or Fitness professionals, have basically hand picked a large number of Pilates movements (Joseph Pilates never referred to them as exercises – they were movements of our bodies; we evolved to be moveable and mobile) that are more suited to horse riding.
That is fine and dandy BUT Pilates is a system that works the entire body. Learn a lesson that professional cyclist sports scientist discovered: alter just slightly your position on your bike, and you affect not only the muscles used, different parts of the same muscle are innervated differently, and fire in different patterns.
Change one thing you alter something else somewhere in the body. We are connected (literally) from head to toe via fascia. It used to be thought that muscles only attached to bone, we ‘know’ that they also send tendons off that attach to this fascia.
It is possible to have an issue in your lower extremity which can impact on the upper and opposite side of your body etc.
The take home message being don’t get fixated on ONLY performing movements that directly mimic your discipline, thinking that this is all that will benefit you. You will derive benefit from movements you may think have no bearing on your horse riding.
Pilates for riders should take doing whatever Pilates routine is decided upon, to the next level. And this gear change can take your horse riding to the next level. Your horse will appreciate the new you too!
Pilates for riders endeavours (or should) for the Pilates moves performed, to mimic as best as possible its application to riding. Example watch Pauls Youtube video on How to use Swiss Ball for Horse Riders Pilates re if you are going to ‘do’ certain movements try to make them as sports specific as you can!
Horse Riders Exercises Heels Down Calf Stretch
Matching Pilates exercise moves to make it more applicable (sports specific) for Riders; here is Paul working the calves to help in keeping ‘heels down’.
Example watch Basic Core Exercises for Horse Riders Pilates half Roll back. Pilates for Equestrians attempts to make Pilates moves specific for an aim within your discipline.
This will translate into a much better feel when on your horse. Remember, you only have to alter your position slightly to affect which muscles, and to what extent, are firing and being used. Ensure the movement best fits what it would look like when you are riding.
Benefits of Pilates for Riders and Horse
If you have chosen a Pilates Teacher, you should have a postural assessment to assess what if any issues or snag you may have, or may need working on – correcting.
In a professional context, the Pilates teacher will either work with a riding coach, or be reliant upon you informing them what issues, problems or snags your riding coach has picked up on that may require specific ‘working on’.
You or your coach may have areas of technique that need addressing. That is where your Pilates teacher can come in to help. Having a thorough knowledge of anatomy etc can best guide you to help achieve your goals.
Example: ‘Heels Down’ – I have lost count how many times and how many people in endeavoring to have greater flexibility in their ankle joint and calves perform heel raises (actually heel lowering) whilst standing on the stairs with legs straight!
Sadly this advice has come, at time, from professionals that ignore anatomy. Again you need to think specificity of your sport. The better option would be to do or include lowering of the heels whilst the knees are bent. As this is the position you ride in AND as stated earlier – change your position slightly and you change what muscles are affected.
When the legs are bent, as they are when you ride, then heels down relies primarily from the soleus calf muscle – not the gastrocnemius (which is the muscle you stretch with legs straight on the stairs). Watch Paul’s videos Heels Down – Calf Stretch.
So to help you keep the heels down when riding, you need the soleus more flexible than the gastrocnemius (this is keeping it simple, it can get more involved re the gastrocnemius being a bi-articulating muscle, it is also responsible for transmitting force from the glutes to the feet and for this reason is not functioning at it best IF it is ‘overly’ stretched – it needs tension to transmit force to the feet).
Remember that as you obtain an increased body awareness, posture, alignment and control, that this will be transmitted to your horse. Your horse will benefit from your Pilates training also.
It is possible to learn your Pilates from YouTube, Google etc – sadly there are so many idiots and dolts that have great websites and youtube channels and look like they know what they are talking about. If you are not sure you may follow their advice to your detriment.
It is hard to know who to trust or rely upon for advice. Best I can advise – ask questions and go to an actual Pilates Teacher. But ask them questions and have your BS detector on when they answer. Most Pilates Teachers just spout off ‘stuff’ they were told and don’t think for themselves nor question – they have no real depth.
Find someone with depth!