Horseback Riding & Balance Ball Exercises

woman sitting on an exercise ball

A balance ball--an inflatable ball available from sports retailers in small, medium and large sizes--is a useful additional piece of exercise equipment in a horseback rider’s fitness training program. The instability of the balance ball replicates the constant, varying movements of the horse, keeping fitness training exercises specific to the needs of horseback riders.

Pelvic Rotation

Sit on a large balance ball with your feet placed shoulder-width apart on the floor in front of you. Position your hands on your hips and maintain good posture by sitting upright with a relaxed neutral spine. Rotate your hips in a clockwise direction to create a small circular roll in the ball under you; then rotate your hips counter-clockwise to complete the movement. Repeat the exercise 10 times, concentrating on achieving a greater range of movement without a loss of balance. In her book “Learning To Ride As An Adult,” riding instructor Erika Prockl uses a balance ball as a substitute horse and says, “The rider is continually displaced. . . . The ball is an excellent instrument to use when training one’s sense of balance.”

Trunk Extension

Lie face-down on a large balance ball, positioning the ball under your abdomen and keeping your toes on the floor with feet placed hip-width apart. Place your hands by your head with fingertips on your temples. Begin by allowing your body to relax over the curve of the ball. Slowly raise your upper body away from the ball by recruiting the muscles of your lower back, aiming to achieve a slightly above horizontal end position. Keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine and breathe normally. Hold the end position for three seconds before returning slowly to the starting position. Repeat the exercise 10 times. This exercise helps to improve riding posture by developing greater strength in your lower back muscles.

Wall Squats

Stand with your back to a wall and place a medium-sized balance ball into the small of your back. Lean back on the ball to press it securely against the wall. Position your feet on the floor slightly in front of the rest of your body and hip-width apart. Bend your knees to squat down, going no lower than forming a 90-degree angle in your knees. Return to the starting position and repeat the exercise 10 times. This exercise develops leg muscle endurance and postural stability. In the book “The Rider’s Fitness Training Program,” fitness professional and co-author John J. Cully recommends the use of a balance ball for postural exercises and states, “The ball provides instant feedback on weight shift and balance.”

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