Eleven years ago, about a year after having my son, I gave Pilates a shot, and WOW! All I can say is it did amazing things for my body and my riding. I’m a fan.
TSB author Laura Reiman has been practicing Pilates since 2007. She completed her Comprehensive Teacher Training Course with BASI Pilates (Body Arts and Science International) in New York, then spent six months in Brisbane, Australia, teaching and continuing to learn from BASI faculty members before opening her own studio in Alexandria, Virginia. Well, Laura is also an eventer, and when her When her young horse was diagnosed with extreme back pain and a neurological disease, she turned to her knowledge of Pilates—the method she’d used to ease back pain in human clients for years—for help. She began to find ways to “bridge the gap” between the horse’s mind and body to help increase his body awareness and core engagement.
In Laura’s new book PILATES FOR HORSES, she shares the Pilates-inspired exercises she determined can offer the horse the same benefits they offer humans. They can be taken in parts or as a whole and seamlessly incorporated into an existing training program to be a preventive tool to increase the horse’s strength, balance, mobility, and stability, or a framework for a new program to help ease a horse back into work following an injury or time off.
Here, Laura shares one of the stretches from her program:
Human athletes know that stretching is an invaluable part of any training program to keep muscles elastic, and a tight muscle is more prone to injury. Stretching helps to improve circulation, range of motion, and overall health of your horse’s muscles, while also decreasing muscle soreness and fatigue. As an added benefit, spending a few minutes stretching your horse can help create a stronger bond.
Also known as “carrot stretches,” incentive stretches use treats or a clicker to ask your horse to stretch himself through flexion (rounding), lateral bending (side to side), and even extension (hollowing or reaching). Try this incentive stretch called “Chin to Chest” as an easy way to start incorporating stretches in your routine on a regular basis.
Ask your horse to bring his nose toward the center of his chest using a treat, creating flexion and stretch in the upper neck muscles.
l Increases mobility in the upper and middle neck muscles including the trapezius cervicis, cervical rhomboids, and splenius muscles.
1 Stand beside your horse, facing forward.
2 Offer a treat near the horse’s nose to get his attention.
3 Slowly move your hand back toward the center of the horse’s chest, covering the treat so he cannot grab it.
4 Make sure the horse’s neck is straight and his nose is pointing down.
5 When using a clicker, activate it right at the center of your horse’s chest.
6 Hold the stretch for 5 seconds to start, working up to 10–20 seconds over the course of several weeks.
7 Repeat 2–4 times, changing sides each time so your horse’s head doesn’t begin to tilt to one side in anticipation.
Every day, after your horse is warmed up. Hold for 10–20 seconds and repeat 2–4 times.
Learn more stretches, in-hand exercises, and ridden lessons to help build and maintain a solid foundation of strength and comfort for your horse in the book PILATES FOR HORSES by Laura Reiman.
CLICK HERE for more information and to download a free chapter.
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.