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Activating the Core?

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  • Activating the Core?

    This may seem like a newbie question (I am one, after all), but I hear a lot of references to activating the core, but I don't think I fully grasp what this term means. If someone could define it, that would be wonderful - is it a voluntary action? Should I be tightening a certain muscle group? I'm clueless.

  • #2
    I may be wrong but to me it means your abdominal muscles. You use them for everything when riding dressage, you regulate your horse's tempo, use it in downward transitions...you really need to build up your abdominal muscles.

    Try some Pilates to see what I mean.
    Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!


    • #3
      But it's not just the ab muscles

      Your entire core is from your pelvis up to your ribs, all the way around. All those muscles are strengthened and stretched - both important for healthy strength - by working them in a variety of ways, not just up/down situps. You have to move sideways and back, in the whole 3-D plane, to get them all.

      Pilates is one way. Yoga is another. The Ab/Core work in the P90x Program is yet another.
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


      • #4
        Originally posted by JB View Post
        But it's not just the ab muscles

        Your entire core is from your pelvis up to your ribs, all the way around. All those muscles are strengthened and stretched - both important for healthy strength - by working them in a variety of ways, not just up/down situps. You have to move sideways and back, in the whole 3-D plane, to get them all.

        Pilates is one way. Yoga is another. The Ab/Core work in the P90x Program is yet another.
        Ditto not just the abs! Being able to engage your lats is the key to independent arms/hands.


        • #5
          The psoas is an important part of lateral stability.


          • #6

            try Debbie Rodriguez dressage website under archived trainer's notes on fitness.

            Debbie has a great workout that is designed specificly for the dressage rider to strenghthen your core and its only 20 min a day. Its called sucess in the saddle and there is a link to it on the first page of her website.

            she basicly explains it as not so much tightening any particular muscles but being able to utilize various muscles to make your self more stable on the horse, better responsible for your own balance and able to use your core to help give signals rather than pulling with your hands and pushing with your legs.

            for example, one thing she has taught me is how to post bigger and smaller to controll my horses gaits and to make my posting smaller by tightening the core muscles for a brief period. it works great for my strung out OTTb.

            I'm not sure how else to explain it since i'm still learning a more and more everyday but i agree with the above posters its about the area from your pelvis to your ribs and all the way around.

            That is the nice thing about Debbie's workout it focuses on all those muscles and more.


            • #7
              Not only all of the above but you will need to develope a sense of the degree that you core needs to be activated or engauged simalarlly like how much leg or rein is nessacar at any given time. There is possitive and negative tention and the right balance can mean a world of difference in not only in the way your horse moves but how much more comfotablely you are able to ride!! It's a journey well worth the miles!!
              "Success comes in cans, not in cannots!"


              • #8
                Here's a link that describe the 6 muscles of the abdomen, for those who think they just affect the front of your belly area

                Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!


                • #9
                  Great link, Sophie!

                  Which core muscles I work most (aka, where I hurt the next day) depends on what I'm doing. Now that my horse is starting to collect his canter, the rectus abdominus is sore from supporting me as his back end is dropping down lower. Sitting trot works the obliques more for me.

                  Your core really is your support system, which helps keep you upright and looking as if you're doing nothing. It takes strength to not flop, it takes strength to move with a horse and keep your body controlled and balanced. I don't have enough strength yet, and it's hard work to get there!
                  If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by sophie View Post
                    Here's a link that describe the 6 muscles of the abdomen, for those who think they just affect the front of your belly area

                    Great diagram/picture!!

                    Keep in mind that the whole core is all this AND the same space in back
                    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                    • #11
                      I LOVE the P90X Ab/Core workout...it's harder than blazes, but it truly gets to all the muscles. I also love using the Captain's Chair when I workout at the gym.

                      The core is abs AND back, as JB pointed out. A trick I use while warming up my horse at the walk is to clear my throat very deeply a couple of times...the muscles I use down in my pelvis (even as deep as your panty line...if you're a girl...or a guy who - oh whatever, you know what I mean) are the ones that I want to engage and work with over the course of my ride. Even in two point (I jump, too) I try to find that deep centering in my pelvis.

                      Another image I like is to think of my spine pressing forwards do my belly. That helps engage those long muscles on either side of the spine that help us stay erect when we walk.


                      • Original Poster

                        Thank you for the explanations, everyone, they've been very enlightening. I've been working out and focusing on my abs/back, but I was wondering if there is something I should be consciously altering about my body while riding to 'activate' the core - in my mind, I associated the word activate with a voluntary tightening of the muscles or something, but it sounds like it's just a matter of proper position, which will activate my core. Is that right?

                        Guess sometimes I just need things explained in great detail so there's no ambiguity.


                        • #13
                          Well, how do you activate your rein aid, or your leg aid?

                          If you are in the proper position, it will be partly because your core is activated. But even then, once you start to move, in order to ask the horse to do something, you have to change your body to use the aid, and you cannot do that without further "activating" your core to keep everything stable.
                          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                          • #14
                            Your trans-abdominal muscles work like a girdle around your lower body (front and back), and you can do Pilates exercises to strengthen them. Proper breathing has everything to do with it, specifically while audibly exhaling you should pull your navel back to your spine, engage your trans-abdominals and then your pelvic floor (sometimes called the Kegel - the muscle you engage to keep from urinating).

                            You will get the feel for it within a pretty short time, but it's important to keep exercising to strengthen your core muscles.

                            Good luck!
                            Siegi Belz
                            2007 KWPN-NA Breeder of the Year
                            Dutch Warmbloods Made in the U. S. A.


                            • #15


                              If you get the opportunity to take Pilates, either a group or individual lesson/workout, with a Pilates trainer, try that. This will really help you understand how to activate your core and understand what muscles and parts of anatomy are involved. I have not seen that mentioned specifically in the other posts. This is what continues to help me. The trainer I work with understands activating the core as related to riding, so we have a common language.
                              *Every horse is a self-portrait of the rider....Autograph your work with excellence.*
                              Supporting Nokotas www.nokotahorse.org
                              Lipizzan's rock! http://rigitta.blogspot.com/


                              • #16
                                My instructor uses the "help" of "blowing a candle out" -- take a little breath and then blow it and notice how your ab muscles will tighten just a bit--that's the degree of core 'activation' that you want when you're "just riding" (i.e. maybe a simple circle at a medium walk or posting trot.)

                                I liked the "clearing your throat" that another poster mentioned above. that's a very good tell for finding those muscles.


                                • #17
                                  Off topic, but OP - do you read the message board upside down? (Love the user name! )
                                  If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                                  • #18
                                    OP - I'll point you towards the work of Mary Wanless. Any of her several books is helpful but especially her Ride Your Mind:Rider Essentials.

                                    Clearing your throat is one way to 'find' and engage some muscles you will need. Also "suck in your stomach to make a wall, then push your guts against the wall."

                                    There are also issues to be dealt with about how you breathe. You should not breathe shallowly into your upper chest, but deep into your belly in a way that also helps reinforce your muscle usage.

                                    She goes into a lot more detail in Rider Essentials.
                                    "Friend" me !



                                    • #19
                                      My trainer just mentioned a good way to identify your core muscles the other day -- while driving a vehicle, sit up off the seat back, WITHOUT using the steering wheel for support. The muscles you use to hold yourself upright and in balance in opposition to the momentum of the vehicle are the same "core" you use in riding. So if the car goes uphill, say, or you accelerate, you have to engage them more to hold yourself upright.

                                      Just to get a feel for which muscles they are, and what it feels like to "activate" them.
                                      Ring the bells that still can ring
                                      Forget your perfect offering
                                      There is a crack in everything
                                      That's how the light gets in.


                                      • #20
                                        Your "core" is your whole torso...from shoulder points to diagonal buttock points (seatbone). Activating it simply means learning how to correctly position your shoulders in relationship to your seatbones so that your weight aids for a particular movement are correctly in balance with what you are expecting the horse to be doing. If you are fairly fit, this positioning of your torso becomes easier, but the fitness to the degree that some riders take it, is really not all that necessary for good balance.