Pilates Exercises for Horseback Riders

Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc/Getty Images

Horseback riding relies heavily on the muscles in the upper and lower legs, as well as the biceps in your upper arms for holding onto the reins and controlling the horse. It also requires strong core muscles. If you're looking to create a Pilates routine that conditions your body for horseback riding, it's important to include the right exercises for these particular muscle groups in your body.

Go for a Skate

The ice skater is a well-known move in Pilates and is one of the best for targeting the core, hips, butt and legs. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, resting your hands on your hips, toes pointing forward. Lower yourself into a side squat, bending your left leg and lowering down until it forms a 90-degree angle. Return to your original position, then repeat on the other leg to complete one rep. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Make Circles

Leg circles help tone the muscles in your thighs and calves, both which are used in the sport of horseback riding. Start flat on your back on the floor, arms straight down at your sides and close to your body. Engage your core, raise your right leg off the floor and extend it straight up so it's perpendicular to your body. Make a full circle with your leg, moving it in a clockwise motion until it's back in its starting position. Bend your opposite leg during this movement if needed, to give yourself more lower-back support. Repeat for two to three sets of 12 reps, then repeat on the other leg.

Bend to the Side

The side bend is a simple Pilates exercise that helps strengthen your abs and core. Stand straight up with a narrow stance and hold your arms down at your sides with a dumbbell in each hand. Raise your right arm up straight, then arch it to the left over your head. Bend your arm and your torso toward the left until you feel a light stretching in your right side. Hold, return to your starting position, then repeat on the other side. Do three sets of 12 reps.

Do the Dip

Tricep dips are one of the most effective Pilates exercises for working the upper arms. Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you, toes pointed away from you. Position your hands palm down just behind your chest, with your fingers pointing toward your buttocks. Engage your core and straighten your arms, raising your body off the floor but not lifting your feet. Keep your body as straight as you can and hold, then lower yourself back down. Repeat for one to two sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Put Your Safety First

You should feel a light stretching in the targeted muscles during Pilates exercises, but never any pain. Spend about five to 10 minutes warming up before your workout, to prepare your muscles for exercise. Stick with dynamic stretches, which increase movement of your muscles and joints. Walking lunges, scissor stretches and arm circles are all effective dynamic stretches for the legs and arms. Even with a less intense exercise workout such as Pilates, it's a good idea to talk with your doctor first.