Release Your Shoulders For Better Rein Contact

As a horse owner your shoulders take a bit of a battering. Firstly there’s all the mucking out, lifting feed etc. Then there’s the extra “fun” of your horse dragging you off for some grass, maybe having a mad gallop on the lunge……


Alongside this you may also have a desk job, do a lot of driving and therefore spend a lot of time hunched over.


Add to this the stressful nature of life and horse owning sometimes and you might find your shoulders are solid bricks stuck to your ear lobes most of the time.


However when we ride those shoulders are in charge of the hands attached to the reins. Your shoulder is the joint at which your arm is attached and therefore it’s function is vital to the function of your arms. If they are stiff or weak they aren’t going to be that soft, steady contact we want to give out horse.


Here are a couple of simple exercises to help you first release your shoulders and then activate them to keep them strong and ready to ride.



Yoga for Equestrians

Last week we looked at the benefits of Pilates for riders, so this week let’s look at Yoga for riders. I use both in my classes as I think they are equally beneficial, however they do differ slightly. 


Yoga tends to focus on the lengthening of muscles and often there is a relaxation element. However I teach specifically Sports Yoga which adds in the stability element found in Pilates. Yoga is also a really good way of teaching Proprioception and body awareness due to some of the postures requiring movement and balance, as well as being able to join movements together to create a flow that will challenge coordination and concentration alongside stability and strength.


Sports Yoga specifically looks at the demands of a sport, the areas that may become shortened/tight and then the areas that need strengthening to improve performance. 


For riders this would be a focus on 


  • Symmetry 
  • Both mobility & stability in the hips
  • Stability in the core
  • Stability of the shoulders
  • Mobility and shock absorption of the ankles -I’m going to look at this next week 
  • Body awareness 


Adding yoga to your routine needn’t take up hours of your time, just 10 minutes a couple of times per week is enough for you to feel the benefit.


Here is a short flow you can use to improve your body’s performance for riding.

Pilates for Riders

I don’t think it’s a new concept that Pilates is good for riders, but exactly why is it such a good off horse training method.

Pilates cites it fundamental principles as.

  • Breath
  • Concentration
  • Centring
  • Control
  • Precision
  • Flow


So, if we were masters of these qualities in our own bodies do you reckon that would make you a better rider? Damn right it would!

As an Equipilates ™️ instructor I often incorporate breathing exercises into my classes, in particular exercises that can then be used on horse to address issues such as tension, straightness or the obvious not breathing during a lesson! 

Concentration is a vital part of riding. It can be so difficult to completely focus on what you are doing  when often there can be lots of distractions in the form of other horses and people, maybe general activity in and around the yard and topped off with whatever else is going on in your life and therefore your head right now. Concentration can be practiced as a skill which over time will transfer to your riding and other areas of your life.

Centering is connecting with your core. I’m sure you’re aware that a good core is a huge benefit for riding, and being able to really connect and control it whilst on a horse will improve your balance and aids no end. Your arms and legs need a solid base from which to move, this alongside the ability to absorb the horses movement underneath you is the job of a stable core.

Control-Being able to have awareness and control of the muscles being activated enables you give precise, clear aids. It enables you to correct yourself where necessary and assist in correcting your horse and remain n balance.

Precision-As just mentioned, controlled precise aids are clear aids. Your horse may well be listening to you but you aren’t getting the answer that you want because your question isn’t right. Precision is key.

Flow. This really ties to principles together. The ability to move fluidly with control and precision is when riding looks to outsiders to be effortless. Harmony in your own body will help to create harmony with your horse.


Here are a couple of my favourite Equipilates™️ exercises to help with these key principles.


Drop drop Dead Bug



Bridge March


Fit to Ride?

It’s difficult to assess fitness for riding because it contains so many components-one being a wild animal. Others being experience, technical ability and then the question as to whether you are fit for intro Dressage or Badminton as they would be different levels of fitness.


However Jockeys have to pass a fitness test to gain their licence so I thought I would have a look at what that entails-ignoring the fact I eat too much food to ever make weight as a female jockey!


There are various different tests for muscular endurance, core power and cardio fitness-The Bleep Test, for which I still have psychological issues with from school and I’m not ready to tackle those demons yet.


However muscular endurance I reckon I could give a crack.


So just for fun (ok I have different ideas of fun) I picked out these two tests from the Jockey fitness Test. 


You get a score out of 100 based on the time you achieve.


Stupidly I did my first attempt at these after a heavy training session so I was nowhere near fresh! However I managed a 2 minute plank which would be 50% so not great p. The leg repetition and hold I managed the full 2 minutes though so I was pretty pleased with that; I’m not going to lie it burned like hell!


Plank -on Forearms and toes for up to 4 minutes. 






Exercise Ball leg repetitions and hold.

Squat with gym ball behind you for 20 reps, then hold a 5kg weight and hold with thighs at 90 degrees for up 2 minutes.







Why don’t you challenge your yard friends and see how you score!