Calling All Equestrians: Pilates Really Is Awesome For Body And Mind!


Some Whys and Hows Equestrians Can Benefit From Pilates… pilates-cute-dog-on-mat

Did Ya’ Know

Pilates was developed by a gentleman by the name of Joseph Pilates.  Joseph Pilates’ original and trademark sequence of 34 mat exercises is still going strong in studios across the nation. Exercises such as the “Hundred,” the “Roll-up,” “Single-Leg Stretch,” “Double-Leg Stretch,” and more.  I’m sure many of you can probably recite many of these exercises in your sleep – and these strategic body and mind exercises still remain the very ‘core’ of Pilates. There are some similar exercise programs that have sprouted up since that incorporate a variety of Joseph Pilates original exercises.

When Joseph Pilates was working on developing Pilates as a system of physical fitness, the term “Contrology” was coined by him as its second name.  I think the connection is quite evident in that he believed whoever was practicing Pilates should be in constant control of each and every movement. All of this results in enhanced muscular control of the back, limbs and those ever-essential abdominal muscles.

Pilates is a type of anaerobic exercise that is designed primarily to increase the strength and flexibility of your core muscles. One of the fantastic aspects about Pilates is that it can be performed by just about anyone of any age and fitness level. You can gradually work your way up through the levels (not unlike our horses as they are trained and conditioned in a logical, progressive sequence). While you can purchase any number of pieces of Pilates equipment, this is a program that involves very little in the way of exercise equipment – the mat and “magic circle” are quite sufficient basics.

Resistance training, the true essence of Pilates is proven to create lean muscle and rev up your metabolism to burn calories all day long, Cardio work is great; however, one typically does not reap the long-term (like all-day!) calorie burning benefits because you begin to burn calories when you’re finished your Pilates exercise routine! 

Pilates isn’t just for the young, athletic equestrian either. Because it doesn’t put undue strain on the heart, Pilates benefits riders of all ages and levels (not to mention non-equestrians too) and can definitely improve the health, fitness level and flexibility, not to mention core strength for the more ‘mature’ rider too since it is a more ‘body-friendly’ exercise protocol…

So, Exactly Why Is Pilates Good for You?

There are quite a number of reasons why Pilates is so beneficial to incorporate it into our daily exercise habits for equestrians and just about everyone. Some of these benefits include:

Pilates involves an invigorating mind-body workout and places heavy emphasis on using proper deep breathing techniques, aligning your spine correctly, and of course keeping your pelvic area properly aligned. It involves significant mental concentration to execute flowing, smooth movements that help you become more in tune with your mind and body.

When you perform Pilates exercises, you learn to control your body movements more effectively, including the practice of specific, targeted exercises that focus on that all-important core. The focus on proper breathing in sync with your movements teaches you to use your power to efficiently and correctly move your body, always keeping correct alignment in mind at all times. Based on personal experience in practicing Pilates for a number of years, it seems to be the perfect blend of exercises that really helps to better discipline the body and mind for riding at every level.

Another big plus since Pilates is a mind-body workout, you learn how to breathe correctly and more efficiently, which is super beneficial for your entire body since you’re getting lots of oxygen streaming throughout your body and brain! Just this benefit alone is so significant in helping you to reduce stress and to keep your body healthy due to increased oxygen intake, not to mention that many diseases cannot survive in a well-oxygenated environment (i.e., cancer).

As you know, Pilates helps you develop strong core muscles, which is one of the main pluses to incorporate this routine into your cross-training regimen. The core of your body is the central part of your body — mainly your abdominal muscles and back muscles (benefits that pelvic floor too!). Pilates helps you to strengthen all of these muscles so that you can move with ease as you go about your day with complete control over these essential core muscles. I think Pilates can help you find integration between your pelvis, trunk and shoulder muscles, assisting them to function as a strong yet flexible unit, which is so beneficial for all disciplines of riding.



While this is no news flash, Pilates definitely assists us in becoming more equally balanced in our bodies – ambidexterous. Like our horses, the majority of us riders, and people in general are not equally balanced in our bodies. And there are many reasons that contribute to these imbalances – things that we do and have done in our everyday lives for years from improper posture, sitting for lengthy periods of time (a major health problem these days – the “new smoking”), injuries we’ve sustained that create imbalances – the list goes on…

Pilates helps increase your flexibility and allows your muscles to lengthen (as with a ballet dancer who needs to develop that long, lean muscle). Many more anaerobic workouts, such as weight lifting or using weight machines can lead to developing muscles that are bulky and short – not desirable or effective for riding. Tight, short muscle tissue tends to be more likely to be injured and aren’t the kind of muscles you want to have as an equestrian. Instead of bulky “body-building muscles”, Pilates helps you elongate your muscles, strengthening them at the same time and creating better flexibility. Your muscles will become more elastic and you will have increased flexibility of your joints, as well. When you achieve these kinds of muscles, not only you are less likely to become injured, you will become a more effective, well balanced and supple rider – your horse will definitely thank you! Lest we not forget that our horses always mirror our bodies…

Pilates can help you prevent muscle injuries and also improve your performance in other sports and daily life activities. Some workouts focus on working the same muscles over and over again, such as the biceps muscles, quadriceps muscles, hamstring muscles, calf muscles, etc. Sometimes these muscles are exercised to the exclusion of other muscles. You can easily over-strengthen certain muscles, while other muscles are under-strengthened, which results in significant imbalances throughout your body, which in turn creates a snowball effect. With the correct practice of Pilates exercises, your muscles and tissue will become more in sync and will more effectively complement each other throughout your body – all big pluses for riders.


Pilates conditions your entire body in a more body-friendly, more evenly balanced way. You strengthen not only your core muscles, you also strengthen the muscles of your extremities. Pilates doesn’t emphasize one set of muscles to the exclusion of other muscles. When you correctly perform Pilates on a regular basis, you can function better in daily living and will become a better, more effective, supple and balanced rider with a decreased chance of becoming injured – all important benefits to keep us riders in the saddle for many years. 

So, as you can see, Pilates is an activity with many benefits for riders of all ages – even more so for the more ‘mature’ rider because your body will get and stay properly strengthened and stabalized with the right type of muscle development, keeping you more flexible in and out of the saddle. And all of this equates to major  benefits you can reap for you and your equine companion – happy athletes! 

If you are interested in incorporating Pilates into your daily exercise routine and have not embarked upon it before, take a Pilates class and/or purchase DVDs that can teach you how to safely and effectively perform each exercise. There exists a great variety of Pilates DVDs and other resources out there from which to choose that are tailored to the beginner, intermediate and advanced person, and DVDs geared specifically for equestrians too. When done properly, you can practice Pilates every day with a significantly lower risk of suffering overuse injury and/or imbalance to your muscles.

Your body and mind will thank you and your horse will thank you – over and over! We hope you enjoyed this article and benefit from it in some way. If you take away even just one helpful piece of information, that’s awesome! Oh, and be sure to check out the videos below – they offer some super and free information!  We also included some excellent resources you can purchase via our Amazon store below too!  

Until next time, CUTE BROWN CLIP HORSE


Happy Riding & Healthy, Happy Living!

The above is an excellent basic introduction to Pilates. The instructor does a super job to educate using clear, easy-to-understand terminology.
Video Courtesy Of Pandora Pilates. All Rights Reserved.

Here’s another great full home Pilates workout for you to try!
Video Courtesy Of PilatesLearn. All Rights Reserved.

I have a couple of Janice Dulak’s Pilates instruction videos. While this short clips demonstrates an exercise on the Pilates Reformer, she offers an instructional DVD for mat use too, which is challenging and effective! Video Courtesy of Janice Dulak and All Rights Reserved.

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