Fact: I ride my horse with more confidence when I know my core is strong and I am in shape.
Another fact: my most successful young students ages 5 to 10 also do martial arts, gymnastics, and play hard on the monkey bars. Many times people emphasize the physical component of being strong in your core to be a good dressage rider. I agree with this, but it's important to also note the mental component, that gaining strength increases your confidence as a rider.
"Play hard on the monkey bars!" That is the advice I tell all my students age five to ten. If you want to be a good rider, then be a monkey bar machine. I ask them before lessons all the time, "did you do the monkey bars at recess today?"
Truth, I can only do an assisted pull-up, and I sure couldn't do the monkey bars when I was a kid. However, as an instructor I notice a BIG difference in the riding skills of my students that can and can't do the monkey bars. I think it all boils down to core strength. I also see a big difference in my students that combine riding with martial arts and gymnastics versus ones that do not. The kids that do additional sports always make faster progress. In other words, to ride horses you have to be strong!
There are those people in life that can make riding look beautiful and effortless without working out every day, and then there are others like me that have to run 4-6 miles every night and go to a weight training class just to be strong enough to ride my horses (on top of normal daily barn chores and riding). But if you want to ride big fancy horses, you need to be strong. There is a HUGE physical different in riding horses 16.2 and bigger and those 15-16.2, and those BIG horses take a whole different level of core strength.
SIDENOTE: I can't repeat this enough. If you have a FEAR issue with your horse, becoming physically stronger will help grow your confidence!
On top of working out, I also take spirulina (I mix it up with Sprite Zero) every night for added energy. It also helps me sleep better at night. The following are my top 4 favorite exercises that help me with my riding. Enjoy!
1. Plank Dips
Because planks aren't fun until you twist your pelvis side to side while maintaining your position. I always feel the burn through my core when I do this exercise. Check it out on Youtube here:
2. Russian Twists
Order a medicine ball from Amazon for this exercise. I like doing these because I can really feel it in my core.
3. Glute Bridges
I find that glute bridges are most effective for myself when I do them weighted. I also feel like this exercise has strengthened my core the most. Sometimes when I ride my upper body gets "lost" or "disconnected" from my hips, especially during lengthenings. I find that after I do this exercise with weight that it's easier to keep my core "together" when I ask my horse for more power or bigger movement.
4. Weighted Squats
I don't really like doing squats, but I do them because they help!
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Ashley is a dressage trainer and instructor that loves to train dressage and teach lessons.