It is well known that members of the United States Dressage Team rely on Pilates to improve their position in the saddle. Riders found that Pilates, with it’s focus on core strength — which Joseph Pilates refers to as your “Powerhouse” (strengthening the abdominals, lower back, inner /outer thighs, hips, and buttocks) is crucial to good riding. In fact, Dressage riders also rely on Pilates to help them with their balance, flexibility, and suppleness.
Horses are a reflection of their riders and if a rider is controlled and balanced then a horse will produce controlled, balanced movements. Horse trainers many times say that riders spend too much time conditioning their horses but not enough time conditioning themselves. Riders can learn to isolate body movements in preparation for sitting in a saddle. Pilates exercises like Leg Circles teach riders to move their legs without moving their torsos or hips. Pilates training also helps riders build body awareness. If a rider puts too much weight in the left hip, it unbalances the horse and sends a confusing message to the horse. If a horse can feel a fly land on its back, imagine what a crooked body does!
For more information, please refer to the book: Pilates for the Dressage Rider by Janice Dulak. Janice is a Romana’s Pilates Certified Instructor. From time to time you may find Janice teaching at Pure Pilates in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.