The Magazine March 2018

Develop a secure seat with Pilates

Posted 5th January 2018

In the first part of our new series, Julie Driver shares how Pilates can help improve your position in the saddle

Pilates

A secure seat is the foundation of good riding, regardless of which discipline you do. It’s where the majority of the communication with your horse comes from, and being secure in the saddle means you’re able to use your leg and rein aids independently. Sitting quietly and correctly means there’s less wiggling around and weight shifting, which can confuse your horse and leave him unsure of what’s an aid and what’s you gripping for balance. It can also mean the difference between staying on board and hitting the deck if things don’t go to plan.

Transferable skills

Improving your horse’s strength and suppleness is a key part of your schooling sessions, but it’s important to apply the same principles to yourself so you can communicate with him effectively. Practising Pilates regularly helps you develop the body control required to keep you balanced and stable in the saddle, and allows the freedom of movement you need while riding.

Many riders are guilty of sitting unevenly, slumping, slouching, or tipping backwards or forwards in the saddle. Correct body alignment is a key part of Pilates and once you’ve learnt what it feels like, it’s simple to transfer into the saddle. It becomes easier to self-correct, too, and build stamina within your muscles so you’re less likely to collapse or arch your back. A correct posture will also improve your seat and build a deeper partnership with your horse.

What is Pilates?

In 1940, German-born Joseph Hubertus Pilates published Return to Life, which contained 34 matwork exercises designed to be performed seamlessly, with one exercise flowing directly into the next. The core principles of these are…

  • centring Pilates exercises start from your core and strengthening this area can help you isolate different parts of your body while remaining stable. It has similar benefits to working your horse in a correct outline
  • concentration Absolute focus is required to master the movements, helping you relax your mind and develop body awareness. You’ll be able to reap the rewards of training your mind in this way when it comes to remembering a dressage test or course of fences
  • control Rather than intensity or repetition, being able to control your body’s movement is key to doing Pilates correctly and also eliminating flappy legs or wobbly hands when you’re in the saddle
  • breathing Rather than being something you do automatically, breathing correctly is a key part of all Pilates exercises

Find out more about Pilates, and the six exercises that will help you develop a secure seat in March Horse&Rider.

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