Fit to Ride: Core Strength

Julie Luther on the chest press.

This month, we begin our journey to a stronger core.  The core muscles consist of the back and chest muscles along with all the abdominal muscles – the rectus, internal and external obliques, and the transversus.  All of these muscles have specific jobs to do to keep your torso strong and centered.  Our torso speaks to the horse with every movement so mastering the isolation of muscle groups in your core is essential to becoming the best partner to your horse.

Let’s begin this process with a learning how to isolate the pelvic girdle with the pelvic tilt exercise.  The easiest way to learn this exercise is while lying on the floor.

Begin with your legs flat on the floor and a natural curve in your spine.  You will notice that your waistband is not on the floor.  Maintain this position as you slide your feet towards your fanny until your feet are flat on the floor.  Now, to perform the pelvic tilt, round your back and place your waistband on the floor, avoid letting your shoulders round off the floor, return to the start position.   Repeat this and add in your breath, breathe out as you round your spine to the floor, and breathe in as you return to the start position.  Finally, as you round your spin and breathe out pull your belly button in as you place your waistband on the floor, and breathe in and release the contraction as you return to the start position.  Continue to practice this until you can rock your pelvis front to back with no movement in your chest, shoulders, or head.  Voila! You have learned how to isolate your pelvis!

Now we can move this to a standing position.  Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders and your knees soft, (horseman’s stance.) Tilt your pelvis forward by rounding your spine and backward by extending your spine, breathing out as you tilt forward and inhaling as you tilt back.  Keep the movement small and do not allow your shoulders, chest, or head to move.

Finally, we can move this to a chair and add a bit of intensity.  Sit on edge of kitchen table chair with your feet on the floor as wide as you would be sitting on your horse. Engage your pelvis by tucking it under you to tilt the chair forward on to the front 2 legs. Be sure to use your exhale and your core muscles at the same time.  Then allow your pelvis to return to neutral and the back legs of the chair to come back to the floor.

Learning to control your pelvis off the horse will not only make you stronger but will help you communicate with your horse much more effectively.  Once you have mastered this exercise, you can begin to translate it to your half-halt and halt. 

Julie Luther is an Exercise Physiologist, corrective exercise specialist, and dynamic flexibility certified personal trainer, as well as an equestrian.  She owns PurEnergy Fitness Center is Greensboro, NC and has been helping folks reach their fitness goals since 1985. You can reach her at and check out her website at


Leave a Reply