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There are Two Athletes in Every Partnership

21st April 2009, 18:27

The goal of every rider is ‘oneness’ with their horse which means they need good co-ordination, balance and communication.

Over the last few years the rider has started to be seen as an athlete in their own right rather than just a passenger upon the athlete. Regardless of the level or discipline the rider who is working at, increased fitness will improve their performance and communication with the horse. If a rider is unfit then they become tired more quickly and are more likely to make mistakes and lose confidence in themselves (Houghton – Brown, 1995). No matter how fit a horse is, if the rider is unfit then they become little more than a dead weight in the saddle which will significantly decrease the joint performance. It has been identified that riding alone may not produce sufficient stress being put on the body (heart, lungs etc.) to develop any training adaptation to help physical performance. Many riders overlook the fact that regular ‘off horse’ training is essential and that riding alone will not improve fitness levels in most circumstances.

Equestrianism is primarily a postural sport and therefore core stability and muscular control are of the utmost importance as the rider needs stability and balance to carry out every manoeuvre (Panni & Tulli, 1994). If the rider has good posture then the horse will be more balanced and will find carrying the rider easier. It has come apparent that riders with higher levels of core stability are able to maintain a more accurate riding position and that core stability training can help to improve the position.

If you as a rider take the time to carry out a core stability training programme then you will help both yourself and your horse. Below are a small selection of publications that might be useful in helping you to pick out some specific exercises to use in your programme.


The Rider's Fitness Program, Dianna R. Dennis

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Pilates: For the Dressage Rider, Janice Dulak

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The Rider's Fitness Guide to a Better Seat, JeanPierre Hourdebaigt

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Sarah Graham, BSc