If you think about it, cross training with Pilates exercises for horseback riding makes perfect sense. Key elements of Pilates like pelvic and shoulder stability, core strength, and flexibility are essential for the equestrian. And, the body/mind integrative aspect of Pilates reinforces the important and fascinating body/mind (and horse) aspect of horseback riding. The Pilates principles: centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow are directly translatable to horseback riding. No wonder there has been a significant rise in interest among equestrians in the benefits of Pilates training.
In the summer of 2010, on a bright morning after a huge rainstorm when it seemed everything but the fresh blue sky had turned to mud, I showed up at Cappaleigh Farm in Northern Colorado to join a Pilates for the Equestrian workshop. Never mind that I had not ridden a horse in 30 years. Our workshop leaders, Pilates instructor Pam Harrington of Good Life Pilates and riding instructor and Cappaleigh Farm owner Patty LeBlanc, seemed to think they had a horse that would put up with me (bless you Sammy). I was excited to find out how Pam and Patty were using Pilates to train for horseback riding - I figured I had the Pilates part going for me.
Pam Harrington led the first part of the workshop which was held in a little Pilates studio built right into the Cappaleigh barn! She started us off with Pilates mat exercises to get our cores strong and warmed up. Then we added in exercise bands, pilates rings; and the equestrian favorite, the exercise ball (about as close as Pilates equipment gets to simulating horse). Equipment like balls, bands and rings seems particularly appropriate for the equestrian because there is that relationship between oneself and something "other" - where we increase awareness as we gauge resistance and release, and our alignment with regard to something resisting or destabilizing us like a band or a ball, or a horse perhaps.
What I've done on the next few pages is create a photo and commentary series for you that I hope will show you some of the direct applications between Pilates exercises and equestrian training I experienced at the workshop.
Next Pages: Photos and Commentary