Six Horseback Exercises to Improve Strength, Rhythm and Balance

Develop a secure seat, strong legs and incredible rhythm with these equestrian exercises.

For The American Quarter Horse Journal

If you do little bits without stirrups, you don’t wear out, and pretty soon you can do this more often and for longer. Journal photo.

How does that quote go? “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Tim Notke hit the nail right on the head.

While your competition is sitting around the house, waiting for warmer weather before they get back to riding, you’re already strategizing for how you’re going to dominate in 2016.

To help get you into show shape, we put together a three-part blog series for equestrians. (Check out “Seven Drills for Correct Riding Position” and “12 Yoga Tips for Equestrians,” too.) Here, we focus on developing a secure seat, strong legs and incredible rhythm. Be sure to click each link for more information on how to succeed at that exercise. 

  1. Trot figure-eights with one hand on your hip. When done properly, this exercise will bring your outside shoulder forward, holding your inside shoulder up.
  1. Make a game out of no-stirrup (or no-iron) work. If you do little bits without stirrups, you don’t wear out, and pretty soon you can do this more often and for longer.  
  1. Instead of standard posting, try “down, up, up.” You can also do “up, down, down.” The main trick is not to throw yourself back down into the saddle. 
  1. Do the “rope twirl.” For this killer trick to improve your rhythm, start trotting your horse. Take your arm and swing it over your head, as if you have a rope in it. Swing in rhythm with the horse’s feet. 
  1. Then try the “propeller twirl.” Ask a friend to longe your horse. While you’re horseback, hold your arms out to the side and swing them like propellers in time to the trot. As the horse’s inside front foot hits the ground, your arms should swing with the diagonal beat of the horse toward that front foot. As the outside foot hits the ground, swing your body to the outside.
  1. Use this trick to develop a secure seat. Again, as your horseback with a friend longeing, drop your stirrups and hold your legs in different positions: one leg forward, one back, one or two knees up, etc. This establishes your seat as your source for balance.

horseback exercises to improve strength, rhythm and balance