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During horse riding, an impressive array of muscles work in tandem to provide the necessary strength, balance, and control. Among these muscles, the core group stand out as the most important for equestrian enthusiasts. We wanted to delve into the primary core and stabilising muscles engaged while horse riding and discuss their significance for both horse and rider performance. 

Transverse Abdominus 

This crucial deep core muscle wraps around your midsection, connecting your hips, ribs, and pelvis, and ensuring a strong and stable foundation. Serving as a key component in the lumbar spine's support system, the transverse abdominus plays a significant role in stabilising your entire lower back
Its primary function is to hold your abdominal contents in place while providing essential support during movements, such as lifting, bending, and twisting. A weak transverse abdominis can be a hidden contributor to lower back pain, especially during activities like horse riding. When this muscle is not strong enough to support your spine, it can lead to discomfort and strain in the lower back region. 


These are our turning muscles. These muscles assist in maintaining proper alignment and balance while on horseback. Strong oblique muscles ensure that riders remain upright and centred, providing an even distribution of weight and preventing discomfort for both horse and rider. 
However, weak oblique muscles can lead to riders tilting to one side during their ride, causing an imbalance and potential compensatory problems for both the horse and the rider. This misalignment can not only impact performance but also lead to strain and injury over time. 


The psoas is one of the most important hip flexor muscles involved during riding. Its function is to flex and laterally rotate your pelvis. It also has a role in flexing your spine sideways as well as extending and rotating it. As its prime function during riding is to stabilise the forward and backward movement of the pelvis, any restriction or tightness will prevent the pelvis and lumbar region from shock-absorbing any movement from the horse. 


The iliacus, together with the psoas, forms the iliopsoas muscle group, which is responsible for flexing the hip joint and facilitating smooth hip movement. By effectively engaging the iliacus, riders can achieve better control and stability during their ride, ultimately enhancing the overall riding experience. 
Understanding the function of the iliacus and incorporating targeted exercises to strengthen it can significantly improve a rider's performance and comfort. A well-conditioned iliacus muscle ensures more efficient hip movement and supports the rider's ability to adapt to the horse's motion, creating a unified partnership between horse and rider. 


This muscle attaches to the front of your sacrum and to the top of your femur. Together with the Psoas, this muscle helps rotate and extend your hips as well as internally rotate and flex the pelvis. Tight or restricted piriformis muscles will be identified when riding by feeling an imbalance in the saddle or tipping to one side. Usually, riders will have a tighter piriformis on one side compared to the other. 

Gluteus Maximus and Glute Medius 

These muscles help control the balance of your pelvis. When tight, this can inhibit the horse’s balance. When weak, this can affect the rider’s balance within the saddle. If this muscle is weak or not controlled, movements such as a sitting trot will be difficult and will cause tension and cause the adductor muscles to engage in an attempt to stabilise the rider. 

Quadratus Lumborum 

This attaches to the bottom rib and to your lumbar vertebrae as well as the back of your pelvis. This has a major influence on how you move, stand, and ride your horse. This is a lateral flexor which means it has the control of whether you tip or rock to one side in the saddle. 
As a rider, it’s important to be aware of any slight imbalances or weaknesses you may have whilst riding. Not only do they have an effect on your own performance but it also impacts your horse. 
If you experience regular discomfort or injury when you ride, we can help. By visiting Fire & Earth and having regular sports massage sessions you can not only improve your own riding but improve the overall health, well-being, and performance of your horse too. Book online today and we’ll get you ready to ride! 
Tagged as: Horse riding, muscles
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