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What is balance, and how does it affect us when riding?

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Balance is a term used to describe the body's ability to maintain equilibrium against the
force of gravity.




In biomechanical terms balance is the ability to maintain a centre of gravity,
often likened to maintaining a vertical line through the body. This central alignment
provides a base of support which minimises postural sway and keeps the body
upright and in control.


The basic skill to balance is essential in everyday life and your body constantly makes
subtle adjustments in order to keep you in balance and maintain postural control.


The centre of balance is found within the inner ear but the muscles and joints contribute to
stability as well. The muscles provide strength whilst the receptors within theear; the vestibular system, and the eyes; the visual system, provide vital information to the brain and body. The somatosensory system which allows us to sense touch, pressure and pain offers us "proprioception" which passes sensory messages to the brain to ensures the body responds appropriately.


Balance and core strength


Though horse riding keeps you fit it is important to also be "fitto ride"! Having good core strength is fundamental to quality horse riding and goes a long way to promote a balanced, stable and effective riding position. Your balance and core strength contributes to the position of your
hips, seat-bones and shoulders and allows you to cope with the horse's variation in pace, jumping, not to mention when they spook, leap or throw their heads up! It is also important to remember that your balance has significant effect your horse's balance, so if you are lacking poise in the saddle your horse will find his work more difficult.


So which muscles are involved in core strength?

The abdominal muscles are the main muscles associated with good core strength. These muscles include the rectus abdominus, the abdominal obliques, the diaphragm, and the iliopsoas. The abdominals control your pelvic movements and allow you to flatten or brace your
back, and follow equine movement. The iliopsoas attaches to the front surfaces of our lumbar vertebrae and coccyx as well as the inner surface of the pelvis. This muscle contributes to pulling the seat bones forward and helps you to flatten your lower back providing strength and stability.


So how can you improve your core strength and balance?


Adding "out of the saddle" core strength development exercises into your daily routine will help to improve your balance and your ability to maintain proper alignment and posture in the back, chest and abdominal muscles whilst riding. These exercises can include such as stability and co-ordination activities, sit ups, knee tucks, abdominal crunches or leg presses.


If you are unsure about what exercises would suit you why not consider joining the gym or a Yoga or Pilates class? A knowledgeable instructor can guide you to improve your core strength and balance safely. Remember good balance and a strong core go hand in hand, and a strong core usually means better posture, reduced back pain and an improved performance. In addition the more superior your balance, the less likely you are to fall off!


The RS-tor rider safety aid, which helps riders gain confidence in the saddle, boots stability when riding, and helps prevent a rider being unseated. Visit www.rstor.co.uk


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