I’m sure you’ve heard it and heck I’ve even written about it. To improve your position in the saddle you need to strengthen your core.
That’s great advice it really is, but it’s not the whole story.
A strong core can be interpreted in many ways.
Firstly what is the function of our core whilst we are riding? It is to absorb force. In this case the force created by your horse as he hits the ground and moves off again-that’s some force! In order to do this it actually needs to be able to flex and extend whilst maintaining control. It also needs to be our stable base from which to move our arms and legs without losing balance.
So, let’s go back to the first point. In order to absorb your horses movement your spine needs to be able flex and extend? Ever see those riders with ram rod straight spines-fixed in that position in order to maintain a “strong core”. In reality they are sending all of that force their horse has created right into their spine. If the spine does not move itself cannot absorb movement sent through it-short version this is bad news for your spine long term and likely to cause you back pain.
On to the second point, if your spine is a hardened, solid core it will actually be quite difficult to create soft and subtle movements with the attaching body parts. They will also be stiff and maybe jerky.
So what to do? Well core work is still great for your riding, but I also recommend yoga to maintain flexibility and also to do core work that involves movement at the same time perhaps balance work involving movement of arms or legs –or both! It is also to look at how you breathe when your core is “switched on”. Can you keep those muscles switched on and take some deep breaths at the same time-then move an opposite arm and leg…..tricky huh? It will be worth the practice I promise!