In recent years the core of a rider is being highlighted and discussed more than it ever has. People are starting to understand the importance of a good core and how it can help with riding. So often none horsey people think that you just sit on a horse and give it a squeeze and then the horse gets on with it and the rider just sits there being fairly inactive. This is far from the truth. So what muscles are involved with riding and how can we improve our bodies to help our horses?
What are core muscles?
Generally when talking about the core it is the deep core that is being referred to. The deep core encompasses the pelvic floor (and gentlemen you do possess one), transverse abdominis and multifidi.
The pelvic floor and transverse abdominis are quite easy to teach people how to engage as they are easy to feel. However the mutlifidi are a bit harder due to the fact that they are made up of lots of little muscles attached to the spine so trying to isolate to activate is difficult. By activating the pelvic floor and the transverse abdominis the multifid also activate and help to stabilise through the back.
The transverse abdominis is like a corset wrapping from the spine to the front between the ribs and hips. It is classed as one of the abdominal muscles. The pelvic floor spans the inside floor of the pelvis it supports the abdominal and pelvic contents.
How to activate your core
To activate your pelvic floor you want to draw up as though you are trying to stop peeing mid flow. For guys the best way to describe it is ‘nuts to guts’. A really good way to see if you pelvic floor is functioning is to actually try to stop peeing mid flow. If you find this difficult than working on engaging your pelvic floor will be really beneficial. You will also find it helps hugely with you riding.
The best way to start is lying on your back with your knees bent. Find the front of your hip bones. Slide the fingertip to the inside of the hip bones and you should find it soft. If you then try drawing in as though you are trying to get a pair of trousers on that are a bit to tight you will feel the muscle activate underneath your finger tips. You want to make sure you are activating below the belly button.
Practice activating both the pelvic floor and transverse abdominis and try and hold for 10 seconds repeat this a couple of times. Once you feel you have achieved this try activating them together.
Try activating your core when riding. You may find the first time you activate your horse might stop. Using your core in this way helps control your horse through your seat. Once you get used to activating the core you will be able to adjust the amount of activation to allow you to fine tune the response you get from you horse. Have a play around with this.
The above outlines the deep core and some very basic exercises you can do to start improving your core activation and ultimately your seat when riding. In future blogs we will delve into more complex exercises and discuss other muscles that can also help with your riding.