I work regularly with riders on how they can better activate their core whilst riding. It’s not that most riders don’t have great core stability they just struggle to activate it whilst riding.
Often when asked to sit up tall we simply stretch up-often sticking our chests out (your headlights as I call them) and have then created admittedly a taller frame at the front but our abdominals are now in an elongated position and we will be shorter at the back. Then in order to try and stabilise riders will often lean back a little more as the horse moves forward creating a hollow back.
In order for our core to work effectively we actually need to be equal in length at the back and at the front.
This enables us to use our front and back equally and be able to truly stabilise and go with the movement of the horse.
Now of course for some riders they are actually using too much front and too little back and in fact need to open up, but I see way less of these riders so I’m going to focus on the former position for this week,
Essentially to create equal length front and back we need to close the front a little which in turn if done correctly will activate the muscles of the abdominals and hip flexors enabling them to work correctly.
I use the cue –take your bottom rib closer to your hips, which is basically a tiny ab crunch. (The ladies in my class has changed this phrase to P!bes to B**bs….I’m sorry but apparently that makes it easier to remember!)
To find the right muscles and movement pattern before you get on your horse you can try this exercise on the floor. It’s like an ab crunch but with about 2/3 less movement.
So I want you to lie on the floor, knees bent feet hip width apart. Your hands go behind your head-purely for support they do not pull on your head at all! Your elbows should also stay out to the sides throughout. You are going to recruit your abdominals and as you breathe out pull them back towards your spine. Do a few breaths like this first to get the hang of it, breathe in let your belly rise, breathe out, recruit and draw in towards your spine. You are trying to prevent your belly from popping up as you lift up. Now breathe in to prepare as your breathe out recruit the abdominals and send your bottom rib towards your hips, your shoulders lifting slightly as you do so-however the bottom of your shoulder blades should still be on the floor. Keep your eyes focused to the top corner of the room. Your belly should not pop up as you lift.
If you feel this in your neck you are not recruiting your abdominals correctly and may need to focus on just the breathing pattern for a while until you master it.
Once you can feel this recruitment pattern try recruiting bottom rib to hip whilst on your horse. This adjustment will appear really minor and you should remember to keep your shoulders open as the rib cage drops-otherwise you will be in the opposite problem of too hunched!
Give this a go and let me know how it feels and if it helped!