Balance is one of the most important aspects of riding. Anatomically, balance comes from the powerhouse or core which is comprised of several muscle groups; namely the abdominals, gluteus maximus and hip adductors. Further, there are 3 groups of abdominal muscles which are each responsible for stability, support and control. They are, the transverse abdominals, the obliques and the rectus abdominis; the tansverse abdominals being the deepest of the abdominals which stabilizes the trunk of the body.
The obliques, on the other hand are responsible for flexion of the trunk which is especially important for balance while jumping or if the rider’s horse is making quick movements. Other parts of the powerhouse, such as the gluteus maximus and adductors, which were previously mentioned, are important as they provide stability for all 3 sets of abdominal muscles. Below are simple, at home exercises, which can help to strengthen each of the core muscles that are necessary for proper balance while riding: Activating your transverse abdominals: (Working in progression) Lie on the floor with knees bent and bottoms of your feet flat on the floor; gently lift your pelvic floor towards your belly button and lower, without lifting your hips. Imagine that there is a ribbon on your pelvic bone and your belly button and you are pulling the string together and letting go. The tilting motion will activate your deepest core muscles which are most essential for balance and posture. After 10-12 repetitions begin reaching your arms long towards the wall in front of you; still using that tilting motion to lift and move from the core. Continue with another 10-12 repetitions. Bring legs long on the mat, pressing heals into the mat, continue lifting pelvic floor towards the belly button as you curl all the way up, reaching arms long towards the wall in front of you; Lower back onto the mat, articulating one vertebra at a time. Activating your hip adductors and gluteus maximus: (Working in progression)
Using a step (about 2-3 inches off of the ground) alternate stepping up onto the step, with one leg, bringing opposite knee high and then stepping backwards to start position and switching legs. From here, use hand weights, in each hand as you step up and back, alternating legs. Squeeze glutes as you step up. To make more challenging, use a bocu ball (left), with the flat side up, instead of a step.
Activating Obliques: Sitting down, using a weighted bar, reach finger tips long towards the ceiling, keeping your arms in line with your ears. Turn your entire body to the left as you reach your arms to your right up, crunching the obliques. Keep hips pressed flat into the surface of which you are sitting on. Turn your chest towards the right and reach your arms up and over to your left hip. Continue with 6 repetitions on each side. These exercises are a great start to improving your balance to become a more effective rider. Good balance can help you become more confident and relax while riding which lessens the chance of taking a fall. Strengthening your core takes time, so keep at it. You will be happy you did.