I find rider biomechanics fascinating and have seen the huge benefits of pilates and yoga on my riding. So I contacted Equipilates and rider fitness instructor Nicola Stuart from Equestrian Fitness to ask her to share some of her knowledge with us all! I am delighted that she agreed to write a blog and do a video of her favourite Yoga flow movement. Have a go and let us know how you get on!

You can follow Nicola on the links below and don’t miss out on her FREE 5 day yoga challenge starting soon. Nicola teaches at her studio in Lancashire and also runs online courses.

Hi, my name is Nicola Stuart and I run Equestrian Fitness.

I help riders just like you improve their fitness and performance for riding.

Rider Fitness combines 4 important Factors.

  • Mobility/Flexibility

  • Stability

  • Proprioception.

  • Cardio -cardio fitness required varies largely between whether you are going cross country, show jumping or happy hacker so I’m not going to focus on that here. Although in my classes and with 121 classes we do some cardio work.

So we will start with mobility.

Although in very technical anatomical terms mobility refers to joint range of motion and flexibility to muscles and tendons they are essentially both related to a range of motion so I have combined them as one and the same. You need a good range of motion throughout your body whilst being able to maintain neutral spine and absorb the movement of the horse. You do not need an abnormal range of motion at all but you do need mobility from top to bottom as immobility at the top can affect the mobility of the bottom. So a good range of motion from head to foot is a good base for riding.

Second stability. Now what do I mean by stability. Well there are a couple of definitions of stability.

  • Balance

  • Firmness

  • Strength

  • Resistance to change

In terms of riding it is all of these things. We want to remain balanced, which requires strength and firmness to achieve this. Another definition that I like is from a well-known physical therapist and researcher on human movement-Gray Cook.

  • Stability is the ability to demonstrate mobility under load.

Which terms of riding I think means the ability still use our bodies efficiently and under control to give precise aids, still in neutral spine to remain in good balance whilst sat on half a ton of wild animal……it’s not a lot to ask is it?

You see what can happen when we lack stability is our body tenses and braces to absorb forces which in turn limits our mobility and flexibility so what can often appear as lack of flexibility is actually lack of stability and the bodies respond to that. -I see this a lot!

So, we need good range of motion and the strength to control it.

Finally proprioception; which is basically awareness of your body and its position within the space around you.

Of course when riding this can be a huge asset-the first step in being able to stop your lower leg being too far forward or being sat too right to the right is to know that your lower leg is too far forward or that you are sat to the right!

It of course helps in giving precise aids and being able to co-ordinate them effectively-being able to give leg and hand aid at the same time is a different aid to a leg aid and then a hand aid.

I know you are now asking “How do we train for all of these things??” Well there are actually lots of different things you could do but with my clients I like to do Sports Yoga. Sports Yoga can be made sports specific and in this case we can make small adaptions to more mainstream yoga and ensure a focus on neutral spine, and both flexibility and stability work whilst the very action of performing a yoga flow improves your proprioception and body awareness-clever huh!

If you would like to see more of me I can be found at: I have a Free 5 Day Yoga Challenge about to go live so if you want in head over to my social media where I will be posting the links to get involved.