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Core engagement for different riders/owners

core engagement exercise Nov 08, 2020

I talking a lot about posture and core engagement for our horses as it's so important and beneficial, so going a step further, I wanted to talk about how core engagement affects different activities for our horses!

Each activity with our horses requires them to have different skills, whether we are doing dressage, jumping, cross country, endurance, groundwork.

But all of these activities or sports require good core strength for different reasons! 

Dressage riders

Question for you…have you ever had a comment from a dressage judge about your horse not working over his back…?

Core engagement is the missing piece! If your horse isn’t fully engaging his core and lifting his back underneath the rider, and symmetrical in his body, dressage movements won’t be quite as fluent and easy as they could be, your horse will be lacking bend in one direction, and your paces will likely be more laboured on one rein…you’re throwing marks away!

Is this the case with your horse? Do you need to find ways to improve your horses core strength and flexibility? I have the answer in my core engagement training

Jumping/cross country

Does your horse bascule over a fence, or jump flat? Is this something you struggle with?

The key to this can be lack of core strength and flexibility! If your horse is just using his limbs to get over the fence and not using the whole of his body, he is over using his limbs and risking injury. If he could be using his core and therefore the whole of his body, your jumping round will be more fluent, your bend will be more equal, your horse will be more supple, your horse will bascule over a fence, and he will be carrying himself much more effectively!

I like to explain horses like a bike chain when talking about core engagement…each little piece of the ‘chain’ (the horses body) needs to be fully operational for the whole chain to work. If one piece isn’t working, the whole chain can’t work properly.

What is the biggest problem for you with jumping your horse? Are you looking for ways to improve your horses core strength and flexibility to improve your jumping technique? The details of my core engagement training are at the end of the article!

Hacking / endurance

Core strength for horses that are hacking or doing endurance rides is super important, due to the length of time we sit on their backs!

Horses aren’t designed for riding unfortunately, and we sit on the lowest, weakest part of their back. So it’s my belief that if we want to ride our horses, we need to strengthen them in their body to enable riding - we need to strengthen the bit we sit on!

In particular horses that are ridden for hours at a time, core strength is something that is essential and that we need to be working on daily, to develop strong muscles, ligaments and joints, to consistently lift the core and therefore the back, to build a strong platform for the rider to sit on.

Here’s a way to think about it…If you were going to get into weight lifting, you would need to fully strengthen your body first, and have a strong core to protect your back from injury.  It’s exactly the same with horses, if we want them to carry us, they need to be strengthened and conditioned FIRST.

Senior horses

Why is core engagement important for senior horses?

Older horses do much better by being in regular exercise, this helps to keep their joints mobile, and their muscles strong. A lot of senior horses suffer with wear and tear based osteoarthritis in their limbs, so helping the body to work as a whole helps to protect the injured / degenerated joints. We need to try and ‘lighten the load’ for the arthritic or stiff joints.

Working on flexibility and suppleness with senior horses also helps to prevent stiffening up through the body. 

You know when you see 90+ year old ladies doing pilates and yoga and they are super fit and flexible - it’s the same thing! Maintaining flexibility and strength enables them to stay fit and exercising!


If you purely do groundwork with your horse, either to keep their weight down, or you are rehabbing, or you don’t ride but want to keep your horses fit, posture and core engagement are again super important.

If you’re lunging for exercise/fitness/weight loss…if your horse is walk/trot/cantering/going over poles on the lunge in bad posture, you are just strengthening the bad pasture continually. Our horses need to be lunging with a lifted core and back, in good correct working posture.

If you are rehabilitating your horse after injury or time off etc, even at the early hand walking phase, if your horse is walking in bad posture and not engaging his core, you are strengthening the bad posture of high head / tight back / weak core.

If you do in-hand work or are trying it out, if your horse is resisting and is tight in his neck and back, or crooked, or both, this needs addressing.


Would you like to join my Online Learning Platform and VIP members group, where I explain in detail about posture and why it’s important, and show you how to implement my core engagement exercises with your horse?

CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS: Online Learning Platform

I look forward to meeting you in the group! Please do get in touch if you have any questions...Jenny x


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