If there is one concept that comes up over and over again in dressage, it is the concept of the rider’s core. Use your core. Hold with your core. Sit the trot with your core. Do piaffe with your core. In fact, if you don’t know the answer to what you should be doing as a rider, the answer is probably “do something with your core.” It’s also quite helpful when you are trying to impress someone else. If they’re having trouble, you can just up to them, nod wisely, and say, “Try engaging your core.” And then walk off mysteriously.
However, one thing we as riders talk less about is our horse’s core. This is what Hilary Clayton has attempted to remedy in her book and accompanying DVD, Activate Your Horse's Core: Unmounted Exercises for Dynamic Mobility, Strength and Balance
. Although I have not seen the book, I did watch the DVD and found some great information in it.
The video is broken up into several sections.
Mobilization Exercises is the first part and is mostly luring the horse with a treat into particular positions that both stretch and strengthen his muscles, covering three positons:
- Rounding positions
- Lateral positions
- Extension positions
The next part is Core Strengthening Exercises, using pressure on certain body points of the horse to get him to engage certain muscles. The subsections of that part are :
- Sternal, Withers, and Thoracic Lifting
- Lumbar and Lumbosacral Lifting
- Lumbar Lifting and Lateral Bending
- Advanced Comined Rounding Exercises
The final part of the DVD is on Balancing Exercises. Here you shift the horse’s weight and manipulate his body during those weight shifts to cause him to actively keep his balance.
The DVD itself was relatively low quality, but nevertheless easy to follow. The woman showing the exercises talked nearly the whole time and repeated the exercises multiple times, so for the length of video, there were not as many exercises as perhaps one would have thought. However, even so, there were a great many exercises and many that I had never seen or even considered, despite being very involved previously in such stationery exercises that would improve my horse’s flexibility and strength.
Overall, Activate Your Horse’s Core is a great resource, but unless you take extensive notes on the video, to remember all the exercises in a more efficient way, the book might be a better source. Could any of you who have seen the book let me know if that is the case?
Either way, Activate Your Horse’s Core is essentially Pilates for horses, and as we know, the rider’s core is the answer to every equitation problem, so it follows that improving your horse’s core might be the key to a dramatically improved performance by your horse. With this book and DVD, you can learn to do just that.