Christoph Hess says Think “go” rather than “Whoa” 


“Change up to trot” is widely quoted in the horse magazines this week. This is a fundamental strength in a good rider, always thinking ‘forward’.

Key to good riding is using your core; Horse Scout has Top Tips for core strength below.

If you look at a horse who is travelling well he will always be moving towards his head, a horse who is being restricted with his head behind the vertical cannot produce the impulsion necessary to carry himself.  It can be difficult to asses yourself and decide if you are working too hard, but a good instructor will be able to tell you if you are using your limbs too much and not enough core strength to ride correctly.

Impulsion is created through a horses core strength, his ability to carry his weight behind the saddle and free up the shoulders which can then dictate the direction in which the horse will travel.  It is important to first achieve core stability to protect the spine and surrounding musculature from injury in static and then dynamic movements. Second, we want to effectively and efficiently transfer and produce force during dynamic movements while maintaining core stability.

This is as important in the rider as the horse.  A rider who is able to employ his core strength both statically and dynamically has a real advantage when training horses to perform and improve their way of going.

Core strength protects a rider from injury  by protecting the spine which can be damaged by even the least sexy of actions; like picking up the milk far back in the fridge!. Research has shown that athletes with higher core stability have a lower risk of injury.

You can test out your core strength by performing a “core Stability test”

For the purpose of self-evaluation begin in a prone pushup position, with toes tucked under, lying flat on the ground. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart. Men will have the palms of their hands in line with their chin and women in line with their clavicle (collar bone). In a single motion, perform a pushup while maintaining a completely straight body. To check that you are performing this test correctly you can place a dowel rod or PVC pipe along your body shoulder to seat.

Put yourself in the proper start position (hands may not slide down lower)

Using the strength in your core muscles lever yourself up through your arms and shoulders. The chest and stomach leave the ground at the same time

Spinal alignment is maintained with the body moving as a single unit (can use dowel to help determine and measure alignment) If any of the criteria are failed the screen is deemed as a failing score. You have a maximum of three attempts to complete this screen.

If you successfully pass the stability test, progress to the strength screens. Progress in core stability and strength should yield more effective progress and strength gains in other movements including both the squat and deadlift. Without core stability gross movement patterns become very difficult to impossible.

Exercising abs in isolation is not as effective as using exercises such as the plank. The Plank and side plank evaluate static core strength.

Improving you own core stability will help you improve you performance and therefore effectiveness as a rider.

Are you struggling to ride your horse forward into his bridge are you constantly having to use leg power to animate your horse? It could be that your core muscles need strengthening.  Working with your trainer or finding a trainer to help keep you on track and encourage you to ride using your core strength will really make a difference to how you ride.