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Beth Glosten

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Two Exercises for Core Stability Cross Country: An Excerpt from ‘The Riding Doctor’

In this excerpt from her book The Riding Doctor, rider, instructor, certified Pilates instructor, and medical doctor Beth Glosten, MD, gives us two exercises to help improve core strength, and therefore, stability in the saddle, especially when riding cross-country.

Photo by Tim O’Neal courtesy of Trafalgar Square Books.

Postural support comes from the deepest layers of abdominal and back muscles of the torso. These muscles are designed to support your upright posture throughout daily activities and to do so quite efficiently. While riding, for balance we need to access the efficient postural muscles. And it is the postural muscles that you access when guided to “Engage your core!” or “Stabilize your torso!”

In the saddle you want stability of the spine—that is, despite changes in forward or sideways energy, you want to keep your body in a balanced, upright position. Toning and learning how to use the core muscles that support your posture, torso position, arms, and legs in a coordinated fashion will help you steady your horse and collect his gallop stride in preparation for jumps. When stable and well-organized, you will help your horse develop security and confidence over fences. Integrating core exercises enhance this skill, such as the Plank on Mat: Knees and Plank on Mat: Feet.

Plank on Mat: Knees

This is a fantastic integrating exercise for core muscle function and shoulder and leg support. Plus, it does not require equipment.

1. Lie on your stomach on a mat.

2. Bend your elbows and keep them by your sides and place your forearms on the mat. Bend your knees so your lower legs are off the floor.

3. While keeping your shoulders stable, lift yourself onto your knees and forearms into a suspended plank position. Seek a long and neutral spine position and avoid pulling your shoulders up around your ears. Try to keep your pelvis level, not pushed up to the ceiling.

4. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.

Plank on Mat: Feet

This is a much more challenging version of Plank on Mat: Knees.

1. Lie on your stomach on a mat.

2. Bend your elbows and keep them by your sides and place your forearms on the mat. Keep your legs straight.

3. While keeping your shoulders stable, lift yourself onto your feet and forearms into a suspended plank position. Seek a long and neutral spine position and avoid pulling your shoulders up around your ears. Try to keep your pelvis level, not pushed up toward the ceiling.

4. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.

If Plank on Mat: Feet is too challenging, alternate between your feet and knees for the 30 to 60 seconds of the exercise. Gradually build up the time you can hold the position on your feet. Done correctly, either plank exercise is a good integrator of abdominal and back muscles, as well as the shoulder girdle and leg muscles. When I see a rider being pulled or tossed around by her horse, I say, “Think plank!” to encourage body stability and balance.

This excerpt from The Riding Doctor by Beth Glosten, MD, is reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books (www.horseandriderbooks.com).