Up Your Gym Ball Efforts

I know plenty of my clients have a gym ball at home, great for sitting on, kneeling on etc. to improve your balance and ability to respond to movement.

However there are plenty of other ways you can up the ante on your training using a gym ball.

Here are just a couple I use in my class sometimes.


Plank on ball-Core without supported hands

Plank with your hands on the ball is a great exercise. It encourages you to maintain a stable core whilst your hands are not so stable-like you know every time you ride! This will firstly stop you using your reins for balance but will also help you out if your horse moves his head around perhaps sneezing, or pecks on landing after a jump. No more toppling over the head gymnast style for you!

To do this exercise. First ensure you have a firm footing. I tend to start on my knees with this to get my arms in position and then lift my knees to full plank. If you need to start just staying on your knees that’s fine you can work up to lifting them. Try holding it for up to a minute-5 seconds is totally fine as a starting point!

Stir the pot-This is essentially upping the ante of the exercise above. You know if it was too easy! Once you are comfortable in your plank slowly move your arms with the ball in a small circle, first left then right. Do 10-30 each way.


Reverse Hyper Extension. I know most of you wouldn’t see this as a core exercise, but the reverse hyper extension will work both your glutes and lower back. This is important as the glutes are the biggest muscle in the body and also play a supporting role in hip and core stability. So strong booty=strong core. The lower back forms part of the core and is an often underused area of the body. It is an area many people experience pain and would therefore be wary of working; but that is exactly what it needs. If we strengthen the area we make it better able to cope with the demands we place upon it.

Lie over the ball with your hands on the floor. Your hip bones should be in the middle of the ball and your legs and feet lifted. Squeeze your glutes together and lift both your legs up so they are a few inches higher than your glutes. You should also feel your lower back working here too. Do -10-30 reps.


Ball Pike. This move requires core control whilst moving. This obviously happens constantly whilst riding i.e when you use your hands, your leg, move into a jumping seat the list goes on.  Ok, people have different methods of erm “mounting” the ball. I like to roll myself forward over it and into a press up position walking out until only my feet remain on the ball. You can keep up to your knees on the ball if you need a little more stability. Then you are going to roll the ball in with your feet/knees towards your hands. You can do this firstly with knees bent and then if you can do this try it with legs straight with your feet on the ball.


Let me know if you do these exercises and how you get on!


If you would like to join us in class or 121  I have a couple of spaces so hit reply and you can join our tribe!

What about your Seat Bones

Last week we looked at improving the seat and I had a few questions about seat bones.


The Seat bones are one of our main communication tools when we ride. Your horse knows where they are, he knows if they are moving or if they are still and if one is sat somewhere different than the other.


Your instructor may sometimes ask if you can feel your seat bones and I bet many of you give a kind of nod not really knowing if you can or you can’t. Or you may be able to feel them but they aren’t level and you don’t know what to do about it.


First things first let’s find your seat bones. There are a couple of ways you can do this. Most simply you can just sit on a firm chair and sit on your hands, and you should be able to feel a bony lump in each cheek (yes even through any extra padding…..).


Another great way is using a ball. Either a tennis or hockey ball or a spiky physio ball (if you google it make sure you put physio ball as just spiky balls brings up something else…..) Either seated or lying down just pop one under your bum cheek and have a roll around. Then take it out, take a moment to notice how it feels and then do the other side.


If this feels a little uncomfortable you may be inhibited in you glutes which will in turn affect your riding and I would suggest spending a little more time using a ball in this way to release them.  It is also really useful to do this for a minute or so before you ride.


You can also try riding (if you have a bombproof horse!) with the physio balls under your seat bones , you may have seen the Franklin balls used for this. If you find you lift a seat bone on corners and circles this will help you to stay level as you will be trying to keep the ball in place.


If you are un-level in your seat bones a gym ball should become your new chair of choice. Just sitting on the ball and lifting your feet will help you to get the feel of a level seat. Obviously if you aren’t level you won’t be able to lift both feet! Feel free to hold onto something solid to help you get your balance first that way you can feel which way you need to shift your balance to find your central point. Just doing this alone has improved my position and balance in the saddle.


Once you have found your seat bones try this little challenge to show you how much your seat bones affect your aids. In walk feel your seat bones move forward and back in time with your horse, now try to slow your seat bones down and then make them still. What does your horse do? If you did it right he will have hopefully slowed down or stopped completely-clever pony!


I hope this has answered your questions and given you some things to go away and try.


Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like me to talk about.

Strengthen your Seat

When we talk about the seat what are we actually referring to? 


Well it comprises a lot of things. 


Firstly your pelvis,  and then as part of that here are your seat bones-which are the bony bits under your bum (no your bum isn’t too fat you can definitely feel them if you sit on your hands)


Your pelvic floor which is a sling of muscles on your erm….undercarriage.


Then there are the muscles of the hips, the inner thighs and the glutes.


In some ways your abs also play a part as they form part of your pelvis stability. As do some of the muscles of your back.


And worth a mention is your breathing as this can also affect how all of these muscles work together.


On the one hand this is great as it means you have a huge support system to create a light but stable seat. But on the other hand it means if you want to improve your seat there is not one single area that would definitely fix the problem.


However that is why I tend to use multi benefit exercises I.e exercises that perhaps recruit the outer hips and glutes, or maybe the abdominals and breath work, hips and abs together, lower back and glutes…...and of course all of these things will form part of my 121 sessions and classes so we aren’t leaving any stone unturned.


So, what can you do at home that will cover these basis and improve your seat?


Breathing leg floats-I like this as a really simple gym ball exercise to co ordinate breathing and movement. You can do it seated as if on a chair or in a more “on horse” position and co ordinate with giving a leg aid.

Curtsy Lunge-This works the glutes, outer hip and to some extent the inner thigh so all those big muscles that will help to stabilise your pelvis. If you also do it trying to maintain a more upright posture you will recruit your abdominals and back muscles too-winner!

Seat Bone Awareness-Just bringing awareness to your seat bones when you ride and allowing them to follow the movement of your horse can have a huge impact on how you sit and how you communicate with your horse. 

Try these out and let me know how you get on! 


If you’d like to join us in class or 1 2 1 to improve your riding hit reply and we can get you started.


Training for Turns

Whenever I assess my clients riding I look at whether they are sitting straight both on a straight line and on turns and circles. 


If a rider is sat rotated on a straight line quite often they are not aware of it. If you’re lucky you can make them aware of it and they will straighten right up- but it’s not always that easy.


Aside from not being aware,the reason riders are sat crooked is due to a restriction and weakness somewhere in the body that they are not able to hold themselves straight in the saddle.


If it only happens on turns and circles -again just bringing awareness to the pattern can help but sometimes these riders also just need a little extra strength in their turning straight muscles to help them out.


In order to move and therefore be still freely both left to right we need to be able to first move equally left to right.


I like to use pole rotations (yes it’s just a broom handle, a long schooling whip will do). These help to identify asymmetry in the rotation pattern and repeated practicing of the pattern will result in improvement.


To then strengthen the area I like to do two things.


  1. Strengthen the muscles that wrap around the trunk in slightly more isolation-there will be other muscles involved but I like to take out the symmetry requirement to focus on the left and right more individually.
  2. Get the trunk to work in a rotation pattern and focus on the straightness.


To work the muscles in a more singular manner I like Windmills if you have access to light weights or side plank dips for a no equipment exercise.


To the then work in the rotation pattern I like a cable or band Russian Twist or for no equipment a seated Russian Twist.





Solid Front to Back

If you ever look at top riders they look solid in the torso, no wibbling around in the middle creating flailing arms and limbs!


It’s what most people would refer to as good core stability. The aim is to create equal strength at the front, the back and the sides of the body. This also translates as being sat equally front to back and left to right. 


If you are able to hold a level of strength here you are firstly able to better absorb the movement of your horse underneath you ( see last week for some specific exercises on force absorption) but also better able to maintain control of your body and limbs which in turn makes you more able to give clear aids. 


As the goal is strength whilst moving limbs and absorbing movement your standard crunch and static plank just aren’t going to cut it. 


Starting with a basic exercise 


Tap Back Planks.

Starting at 4 point in a neutral spine imagine pushing your front to your back and your back to your front. Keeping your neutral spine, hips as still as possible tap one foot back, leave it there and then again keeping everything as still as possible tap the other foot back to take you to a full plank position. Take each foot back down one by one and then repeat changing the leading leg each time.


Lifted Bird Dogs.

In a 4 point kneeling position and neutral spine, lift your knees just off the floor (about an inch will do as you don’t want to have to round your back) From here maintain neutral and lift opposite arms and legs away. 


Now for some fun……


If you want to add in some force absorption, try standing on one leg, standing on a wobble board, kneeling on a gym whatever level you are at, then throw and catch a ball against a wall or have a friend throw it to you. That’s solid core, moving limbs and dealing with extra movement all in one go!


We do exercises like this in my Equestrian Fitness Classes every week. If you would like to join our group of like minded Equestrians all working towards improving their riding whilst having loads of fun and making friends hit reply and I can let you know which classes have space available.

Shock Absorption

What do we actually do with our bodies when we ride?


Well we,


  • Use it to help balance the horse

  • Control the direction, speed and tempo with it


But, in order to effectively do this we must first absorb forces with it. That is we must be able to absorb the movement of the horse underneath us and be still in control of our muscles. That’s a pretty big ask for say a 60kg woman on a 600kg horse!


So, what can we do to help us achieve this?


Firstly, riding in a neutral spine allows our bodies to be it’s most effective at absorbing force.


Neutral spine is when all of the joints of the body stack on top of one another allowing them to fully supported by the big muscles of the body to do this.


However there are also things we can add into our off horse training for shock absorption.


By being able to recruit the big glute muscles (that’s your bum) and the hip stabiliser muscles around the pelvis you are better able to absorb movement of the horse underneath you and keep your control centre that is your pelvis and spine stable.


Here are a couple of great exercises to train your shock absorption system.


Kettlebell swings. Working with kettlebells trains you to control the speed of the swing with your own body. You control the speed of the kettlebell swings and then you control the stop at the top to bring it back down.


Quick Squat Drop. If you are a regular on the dance floor on a saturday night you may know these as a sl*t drop, but basically you drop into a squat really fast, take control at the bottom and push back up.


Squat Jumps. Drop into a squat and jump back up. This can be done as a single or in a continuous pattern of squat to jump straight back to squat to jump.


Depth Jumps. That is jumping off a box, landing and then immediately jumping again


Now to up the Ante’

Single Leg Squat Drop. As with the quisk squat drop but on one leg!


Single Leg Squat Jump. Start with your back foot on a bench in a split squat position. Jump with the front foot, land and repeat.


What can your elbows tell you?

Your elbows can be a great reference point as to how your upper body is stacked up.


The first thing to look at is whether they are touching the same points on your torso on each side. For example on your left side your elbow might sit just under your rib cage, and your right side it sits on your hip. Which of course means you are not equally balanced.


To correct this imagine there is a spirit level attached from elbow to elbow and you need to  make it balance. 


Then ask yourself whether you have equal distance and pressure between your arm and your torso? Maybe one is clamped in with no distance between your arm and your waist and maybe the other looks like a bus could drive under it. Obviously neither of those is ideal so to help them hang more equally and effectively imagine some tiny weights drawing them gently down, then gently close your back arm pit keeping the upper arm still soft; this should engage your lats (back muscles) to assist with maintaining a stable position.


How about your hands? Are they using equal pressure? Are they fixed or do they move too much? Imagine trying to keep the hands still but gently moving the elbows to brush against the fabric of your sleeves so to do this they will move but only very slightly and very gently-this is what you’re aiming for.


I hope these visualisations help you to fix your elbow woes but if you would like some more in depth 121 advice to improve your riding I have some limited spaces for 121 Clients at the studio-WN8 9QP so hit reply if you’re ready to up your game!

Are you getting better?

This week I am away at Equipilates™️HQ completing the first couple of modules of the Advanced Equipilates Biomechanics Trainer qualification.


I love learning and I think it’s important that I continue to learn and grow as a trainer in order to continually improve the service I give to my clients.


Riding is a sport that no matter what level you are at you never really stop learning-even the pros have regular coaching.


So as a rider are you continually trying to learn and upskill? I’m sure each time you ride you are expecting your horse to improve but what about you?


I know riding regularly means hopefully you are getting stronger and therefore getting better, but do you take it any further?


Do you look at individual areas you can improve on yourself? Perhaps your right shoulder is stiffer, or your left leg is wobbly?


Do you try and address those issues outside of being on your horse?


I think it’s so important to be aware of your part in the relationship between you and your horse, if you expect your horse to improve you must make sure you are trying to improve in order to support his journey.


What sort of things can you do to improve?


Watching videos on YouTube, I also like DressageTraining TV or the Masterclasses with top riders on Horse and Country TV.


Have regular coaching with an instructor that focuses on you as well as your horse.


Train off horse with a coach specifically targeted to helping riders …….I’ve got space for 121 clients and a couple of spaces in Wednesday at 6pm.


Sideways and Circles

So often riders have told me that their horse falls in on one rein or out on another, they can do a lateral movement one way and not the other; and no matter what they do they can’t fix it.

However when we then assess the rider we almost always find some sort of asymmetry or uneven weight distribution.

This of course then transfers to the horse and then exacerbates further on a turn, circle or lateral aid so whilst that rider thinks they are giving perfect aids both ways and the horse is ignoring them one way they are actually giving different aids for each rein.

So if this is you it’s time to stop blaming your horse and have a really in depth look at Exactly what You  as you give these aids.

Starting straight on and from neutral-first we must establish neutral.

  • Can you feel both your seat bones equally? Are your feet equal weight in your stirrups?
  • Is your rib cage directly over your pelvis –or try sternum in line with pubic bone. That is front to back and left to right? Do you arch, hollow or tip to one side?
  • Is your head floating on top of your neck, central and looking ahead?
  • Are your hands equal weight, height and length on the reins?

It is really useful to have someone on the ground to help you with this as often what we think is happening is not necessarily the case. We wouldn’t be fluffing our circles if it was would we!

Now in a walk start a 20m circle and run through the check list again. You see the idea is not to lean to the inside and motor bike around the corners. It is perhaps useful to imagine you are on train tracks and as they run around a circle they still stay equal distance apart and you remain equally attached to them.

As you turn; your body will turn with your horse so in fact you stay in neutral together around the circle.

  • Are your seat bones still equally weighted?
  • Are your feet equal weights in the stirrups?
  • Is your rib cage directly over your pelvis?
  • Are you still looking straight ahead?
  • Are your hands level?

Try it again in a leg yield. Using leg yield right as an example.

  • Can you open your right hip slightly to allow the horse to step over?
  • Is your rib cage still facing the front?
  • Are you still equal length front to back and left to right?


Again it is really useful to get someone to watch this. If that’s not possible I often set my phone up in the corner of the arena and video myself to watch back afterwards-it’s brutally useful!

If you can keep everything in balance throughout on both reins I guarantee there will be an improvement in how your horse performs them.

Reaction Riding

If you see the videos of my classes you will see sometimes we’re outside in the arena having a great laugh balancing on gym balls and wobble boards throwing stuff at each other, sometimes without looking at the person or saying a different name etc to make it more difficult.


Of course there is usually lots of laughing and everyone does enjoy themselves but is there some method in this madness?


Of course there is!


How many times have you been merrily trotting along on your horse then suddenly you’re going sideways or facing the other direction? Those pesky pony eating invisible monsters!


To stay aboard and hopefully maintain some control takes not only good core stability but also super fact reaction skills.


The majority of the time you are on your horse your body is reacting to the movement underneath you so spooky horse or not your ability to ride consistently well is affected by your reaction time. Of course spooking and “surprise” behaviour just add an extra test into the mix but your ability to react can make the difference between a minor second of non compliance or a hitting the deck scenario.


So that’s what we’re really up to on those gym balls throwing stuff.


Why not have a go at training your reflexes and reaction times yourself?


You don’t need a group of crazy women on unstable surfaces (although I highly recommend it for the fun element). Instead why not try.


  • Learn to balance seated or kneeling on a gym ball. It will move underneath you meaning your body has to react to stay balanced.
  • Throw and catch a ball with one hand.
  • Throw a ball against a wall.
  • Try the ball throwing on a gym ball……
  • Play with a Reactor ball -it’s an odd shape so when you throw it on the floor it pings off all over the place meaning you have to be sharp to keep up!