Improve Your Riding With These Exercises

Here I share how you can improve your riding strength that will help you when you get back in the saddle. These exercises will ultimately help your seat and bring more balance in the saddle.

As horse riders, we are always working on building a stronger riding seat. With more time at home, and, with some stables across the country restricting people from being able to go to the barn to ride, use the following exercises to help you become the best rider that you can be.

Regardless of your discipline, you’ve probably been told “sit up,” “shoulders back,” and/or “heels down,” at some point in your riding career. Practicing out of the saddle can help to build the muscle memory so that you are able to do these things correctly when in the saddle.

Our bodies work as a central unit, where your core is the center hub. This means that core strength exercises are important – but it is combination of exercises that is going to improve your riding. Building your core strength is creating the strong connections between your limbs that you need to ride well.

Here are some great exercises to help you improve your riding strength

Try doing these exercises twice a week, and then you will begin to notice changes in your riding position and strength. Here are some work out gear we recommend for this workout:

Exercises to Help You Improve Your Riding Strength

Do each of these exercises a circuit so that you do the recommended amount of reps and go through the circuit 2 times through every workout for the best results.

Cat-Cow Exercise

  1. Start on your hands and knees, aligning your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
  2. Think of the spine as a straight line connecting the shoulders to the hips. Try visualizing the line extending forward through the crown of the head and back through the tailbone. This is the position of a neutral spine.
  3. Keep the neck long by looking down and out.
  4. Curl your toes under.
  5. Tilt your pelvis back so that your tailbone sticks up.
  6. Let this movement ripple from your tailbone up your spine so that your neck is the last thing to move.
  7. Your belly drops down, but keep your abdominal muscles hugging your spine by drawing your navel in.
  8. Take your gaze gently up toward the ceiling without cranking your neck.
  9. Release the tops of your feet to the floor.
  10. Tip your pelvis forward, tucking your tailbone. Again, let this action move up your spine. Your spine will naturally round.
  11. Draw your navel toward your spine.
  12. Drop your head.
  13. Take your gaze to your navel.

Repeat the Cat-Cow Stretch on each inhale and exhale, matching the movement to your own breath.

Continue for 5 to 10 breaths, moving the whole spine. After your final exhale, come back to a neutral spine.

Use this video as a great visual example of Cat-Cow


  1. Plant hands directly under shoulders (slightly wider than shoulder width) like you’re about to do a push-up.
  2. Ground toes into the floor and squeeze glutes to stabilize your body. Your legs should be working, too — be careful not to lock or hyperextend your knees.
  3. Neutralize your neck and spine by looking at a spot on the floor about a foot beyond your hands. Your head should be in line with your back.
  4. Hold the position for 20 seconds. As you get more comfortable with the move, hold your plank for as long as possible without compromising your form or breath.

Use this video as a great visual example of how to do a plank

Squat to Toe Raises

  1. Stand with your head facing forward and your chest held up and out.
    Place your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Extend your hands straight out in front of you to help keep your balance. You can also bend the elbows or clasp the fingers.
  2. Sit back and down like you’re sitting into an imaginary chair. Keep your head facing forward as your upper body bends forward a bit. Rather than allowing your back to round, let your lower back arch slightly as you descend.
  3. Lower down so your thighs are as parallel to the floor as possible, with your knees over your ankles. Press your weight back into your heels.
  4. Keep your body tight, and push through your heels to bring yourself up onto your toes and hold for 3-5 seconds.
  5. Drop back to the starting position.

Start with three sets of 10 squats, and then add more reps (12, 15) as you get used to the motion. It’s definitely awkward at first, so don’t expect to master the squat right away. Focus on your form, and then worry about adding reps.

Use this video to help you visualize how to do squat to toe raises

Jumping Jacks

We all may know how to do a jumping jack, but here are the instructions, just in case!

  1. Stand upright with your legs together, arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your knees slightly, and jump into the air.
  3. As you jump, spread your legs to be about shoulder-width apart. Stretch your arms out and over your head.
  4. Jump back to starting position.
  5. Repeat.

Here is a video to show you how to do a proper jumping jack:

Step Ups

  1. Find a step that is about knee height
  2. place one foot up on top of it with the other on the ground.
  3. Now without plunging forward push through the top foot to lift the upper body.
  4. Try not to let your front knee travel over the line of the toes. Use your bottom to lift you up.
  5. Do 12-15 reps each side.

Use this video to help:

Do these exercises, to supplement your riding, if you are able to ride during this COVID-19. Doing these 2-3 times per week will help you build the strength needed to improve your riding.

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