A Balancing Act: Two Simple Ways to Improve Proprioception in the Saddle

Having a good idea where your body is in space and being able to coordinate your aids while balancing is important part of riding. Laura Crump Anderson of Hidden Heights Fitness shows us two exercises to improve this:

I have always been taught in the school of thought that the best way to improve your balance is to build the muscle mass you have on your body. By building muscle mass, you actually improve your body’s proprioception — it’s ability to tell where it is in space. An upper level rider who I have A LOT of the respect for told me I should do a blog post on improving balance, so here it is.

The best way to improve your balance on a horse…is to ride as much as you can.

There is no exercise that you can do on the ground that will work your balance in the tack as well as being on a horse. It is a sport-specific skill, and standing on a bosu ball is not going to improve your balance on the horse, unfortunately. However, having a good idea where your body is in space and being able to coordinate your aids while balancing is an important part of riding.

There are a few exercises that you can do that get you working on your balance outside of the tack. I am a fan of working on a bosu ball but if you do not have one, no worries! Here are some great exercises that get you balancing without any special equipment.

The first is a great warm-up exercise called high knees, where you are marching in place and bringing your diagonal elbow and knee together. Any exercise where you are standing on one leg will work on your balance. This is great exercise to do at the beginning of an exercise routine because it helps you with coordinating your movement and stabilizing through your core.

The next exercise is one of my favorite balance postures in yoga. This is the tree pose, a very good, grounding exercise that gets you thinking about being still. I find a lot of riders have a lot easier time doing balancing exercises that involves movement, but still balance postures are really good for stabilizer muscles and teaching your to quiet your mind. It is important to pick a “dristi” or a spot that is unmoving to focus your attention.

Tree Pose

  1. Pick a spot that is unmoving to focus your attention
  2. Stabilize through your core, think of an inward upward lift that starts at your pelvic floor and zips up through your belly button
  3. Bend your knee and bring your foot forward like you are dipping you toe in the water (this is a great starting point that works your balance feel free to hold here if this feel challenging to you)
  4. Bend your knee and place your foot on your straight leg between your knee and your ankle, press the foot of the bent leg into your straight leg to create positive tension if these feels like a good challenge stop here and hold anywhere for 30 seconds to a minute
  5. If you want to create more challenge, bring the bent food above your knee but make sure you are not putting any pressure on your knee
  6. Do what you want with your hands: they can be on your hips, out to the side or reaching up toward the sky

Laura Crump Anderson is an avid equestrian who realized from a young age the importance of taking care of our bodies like the athlete we expect our horses to be. Laura has competed up to Training Level in eventing on a horse she bred and started herself, and has the goal to get back out competing again on her 2019 homebred Still Stanley. She holds her degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science from Longwood University, is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and has her 200-hour yoga teacher certificate. Laura’s goal is to help riders be connected with their horse and be fit sound and ready to ride. Laura works with riders across disciplines from weekend warriors to Olympic athletes. She is the Owner and Founder of Hidden Heights Fitness, where clients can participate in one-on-one Virtual Personal Training via a virtual platform for which all that’s necessary is an internet connection, the space the size of a yoga mat, and a dash of determination.