Why is Developing and Maintaining the Horse’s 'Core' so Important.
Good core strength and posture, like in humans, allows the horse to function skeletally as it should. The core and abdominal muscles stabilise the pelvis, spine and back, by strengthening these creates a good top line (poll to dock) and good posture.
A strong core, consequently, a good top line, allows the spine to flex the way it should and the ribcage to sit where it should. Without a strong core and good top line, many things can easily go wrong...
Because horses are “rear-wheel-drive”, without a strong core they can’t get their hind legs under them far enough to properly engage their hind end. This results in poor collection, poor performance and weak hindquarters, which can lead to lower back discomfort, inability to pick up the correct lead as well as stifle and hock issues.
With Poor abdominal engagement from your horse’s core, the muscles of your horse’s back aren’t really strong enough alone to properly support a rider in the saddle. With weakened back muscles, the horse’s spine can dip behind the withers, the ribcage can drop and the spaces between the vertebrae can close, which could lead to problems like a sway back or kissing spine. A dropped ribcage could also mean reduced rib and spine flexibility, restriction to breathing and their reduced ability to properly bend around your leg.
Again, like humans, a horse will compensate. If a horse has weak hindquarters, they will raise their head and overuse their front end, which causes the shoulders to become locked making them a “front-wheel-drive” with most of the weight held on the inside front leg. This could lead to issues with the shoulders, tight neck, tendon and knee, as well as mysterious lameness, where you can’t identify the source.
Good News! Equine Pilates can gradually correct many of these issues, you’ll just need to be committed, because to develop and maintain your horses core requires focus, effort, consistency and time. The reward is a healthy happy horse performing to their maximum.