Why core stability
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, January 24, 2011 09:47 PM
The following exercise is more of a demonstration for importance of core stability in riding. I found it by accident and thought it can be a really good way to show riders why core stability is important. This is very effective and safe way to see how core stability affects movement of the rider's back, head and hips in an environment similar to the movement in the saddle.


  1. Lay down on your back on a mat or carpet. Bent your knees 90 degrees and put your feet flat on the mat. They should be shoulder width apart. Put your hands on your hips. Keep your back neutral and relaxed. Breathe deeply and evenly.
  2. Start rocking your body gently by pushing with your feet against the mat back and forth. Find a good motion - not too fast or too big amplitude that feels comfortable and pleasant. Notice how your whole pelvic bone and spine including neck and head are rocking with your lower back arching and than flattening. The movement sort of flows through you like a wave. This is in itself is a good way for self-massage and relaxation.
  3. Now, without stopping the rocking motion tense your back by arching it upwards. Notice how stiff you became, your hips stopped moving completely and there no movement comes through your body. Relax.
  4. Next, without stopping the rocking movement round your back and brace it. Similar result, your hips are not moving any more, the whole torso is rigid. Relax.
  5. This time, without stopping the rocking movement simply create an Abdominal Push. In other words engage your core muscles. If you haven't read my article on Abdominal Push I strongly recommend doing it. It will explain to you why it is important to use your core muscles and how to engage them. Be careful not to accidentally tense your big back muscles. When Abdominal Push created properly it will not interfere with small rocking movement of the pelvic bone and will not lock the hips. It will stabilize your torso and your head will be much more quiet.

Analysis from riding perspective

If we substitute the legs rocking our torso with the horse moving our body we can clearly see that completely relaxed rider is totally at the mercy of the horse's movement (# 2). He/she cannot stop it, slow it down or change it in any way. If you do the above exercise very rigorously and rock yourself very hard you will start feeling quite unpleasant sensations. And you will want to tense something to eliminate them. This is what starts to happen. Riders tense themselves by arching their backs, locking hips joints or rounding their backs and leaning backwards (# 3 and 4). All these actions do not allow the true absorption of the movement, they simply lock it. The only way to let the hips and lower back absorb the movement is by stabilizing rider's torso with core muscles (# 5). This way the back feels very supported and thus safe. Back muscles though toned are not tight and can allow some absorption of the movement in the lower back ( not very big part). Plus they can be used to control tempo and amplitude of the gaits and balance of the horse. Hip joints are free to absorb the most of the movement. Head and shoulders are quiet because spine is stable and does not act like a lunging whip cracking the head at the end of the wave, amplifying it's movement.
This exercise allows riders to feel what it means to be relaxed and in control at the same time, where exactly control and relaxation happens.
Happy riding...
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