Emma Foyle from Focused Pilates has recently given up her full time job to become a Pilates Instructor and focus primarily on horse riders. Emma knowns the equestrian industry well – after leaving school she worked on a well-known eventing yard backing and brining on youngsters and has since successfully competed her mare up to BE Novice.

The video teamed with the benefits and tips below are just a few exercises to help the main problem areas that riders commonly face:

The Clam

  • Benefits – improves hip mobility and strength. This exercise works the Gluteus Medius (an essential muscle for pelvic stability). This exercise can help with smooth transitions and make you less crooked in the saddle.
  • Tips – lie on your side with your knees bent – keep the back of your head, shoulders, pelvis and ankles aligned. Put your head on a cushion to support it. Keep your pelvis from rolling backwards or forwards when opening your leg. If your pelvis rolls you may need to keep it lower and do smaller movements. You can use your hand to stabilise your hips to start with.

Hamstring Stretch and Leg Circles

  • Benefits – stretches your hamstring and mobilises your ankles. This exercise mobilises your hips, helps your legs to move independently of the pelvis and improves core stability. It also helps improve your ridden leg aids and improve an independent seat.
  • Tips – start small, feel like you are lengthening your leg out of the hip socket. Feel like you can start the circle from your hip so that you aren’t just using your foot and knee. Keep your pelvis stable and make sure you keep your lower back in contact with floor.


  • Benefits – core stability, abdominal and oblique workout, as well as helping coordination. Helps upper body rotation (important for turning whilst on the horse).
  • Tips – lie on your back, float one leg up at time while keeping your lower back in contact with the floor to support it. As you exhale roll your head, neck and shoulders up and support your head in your hands. The next time you exhale rotate your upper body to the left and draw your left knee into your chest and extend your right leg out and away. Breathe in, and then as you exhale swap to the other side.

Side to Side Swing

  • Benefits – increases rotation and flexibility of the spine, works the oblique (waist) muscles and core control.
  • Tips – Start with both feet on the floor, taking both knees over to one side. Keep opposite shoulder on the ground. Exhale and roll your legs back to the starting movement with your ribs feeling like you are winding your legs back in. Stabilise your trunk before lifting your legs one at a time, then keep your legs bent at 90 degrees. Roll a little way over to each side, but not so much that you become unstable. Again, return to your starting position by retuning your ribs, hips and pelvis. For an extra challenge extend your legs, making sure that your lower back is supported by the abdominals and is lightly touching the floor. As you exhale return to the start position.


  • Benefits – improves core stability, coordination and the ability to give more subtle ridden aids.
  • Tips – start on your hands and knees and feel like your arms are keeping your chest away from the floor. Feel the length from the crown of your head to your tail bone. Start with one arm then move on to opposite arm and leg.

Roll Down Reach on the Ball

  • Benefits – Helps find a good neutral position, helps with spine flexibility and hip flexor lengthening. Fantastic for balance and control.
  • Tips – Sit on the ball slightly forward of the centre. Sit in a neutral position so that your head and the ribcage are balanced over the pelvis and you have the natural curve in the lumbar. Feel like you are sitting with your seat bones “plugged” into the ball and that your bottom is out behind you. Keep your arms just below shoulder height with your palms facing each other, out in front of you. Inhale first and then as you exhale feel like you can wheel your pelvis along the ball so that the lower back starts to curve into a “C” shape. Walk your feet forwards a little as your lower back comes into contact with the ball, which will support your back. Go down as far as you feel comfortable with (it may take one or two goes to get all the way down). If you have gone all the way down, place your hands behind your head to support you as you come up. Once you are half way up and in no danger of hurting your neck, reach your arms back out in front of you and use the reach of your fingertips to help you roll back up. Feel like you can press each rib into the ball to help you return to the start position. Use the out breath to help you come up.

Plank to Pike on the Ball

  • Benefits – good for core control, balance and stability. A full body work out.
  • Tips – Start with your knees lightly resting on the ball and then walk your way down to the floor on the other side with your hands. You should then have your hands on the floor and your knees on the ball, with your feet off the floor. Take a breath in and as you exhale draw your knees into your chest, sending your bottom into the air so that you are in the pike position. Inhale to extend the legs out so that you are in the plank position and repeat as you wish. Be careful to maintain good alignment so that you don’t fall off. You should feel as if you are pivoting around the shoulder joint, rather than moving forwards and backwards over your hands. The harder version is to draw the knees into one side and then the other to work the waist muscles.

Want to see how your new exercise regime can help you in the ring? Search upcoming events near you now.