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Pilates for the Equestrian - Featured Exercises

Create a deeper seat and an ideal riding partnership with your horse.


Featured Mat Exercise »
Featured Reformer Exercise »


Featured Mat Exercise

This Month: Single Leg Stretch
Benefit: Spinal flexibility helps prevent rigid posture and allows you sit up tall while in the saddle. Increased core and back strength prevents slouching and leaning the body too far forward, and keeps your body relaxed.

Starting position

Sit on mat with both legs pulled into chest. Place inside hand on knee and outside hand on ankle and roll down with control as the free leg straightens. Keep leg at a height that allows lower back to remain on mat. Keep head up.

Movement sequence

Exhale - Release leg held into chest, straighten it out below you and pull other leg in. Sink abdominals as you bring leg in, keep elbows wide and back steady.

Inhale - Switch legs.


To challenge abdominals, draw leg in only until it forms a right angle with hip and place hands lightly on leg rather then pulling it in toward body.

Optimum form

Keep torso as still as possible, head supported with a minimum of strain, and legs level with eyes.


  • Keep shoulders down and the elbows wide.
  • Keep your torso still. Imagine you are holding a glass of your favorite beverage on your abdomen and don't spill it.
  • Pull abdominals deeper in with every repetition. Don't let the abdominals rise!


For neck and shoulder injuries: Support the head, neck and upper body with a C-shaper, wedge pillow or towels and work the lower body only.
For low back injuries: Work with an imprinted spine or use a supported neutral position of the low back.
Avoid with osteoporosis.


Featured Reformer Exercise

This Month: Feet in Straps
Benefit: Create a more independent, deeper seat by:

  • Increasing pelvic stability and strengthening abdominals
  • Strengthening hamstrings, adductors, deep hip external rotators, gluteus maximus, hip abductors
  • Increasing flexibility of the hamstrings, adductors and hip flexors
  • Developing balance in the hip musculature.

Equipment setup:

Springs: 2
Footbar Position: Any bar
Straps: Regular
Prerequisites: Adequate hamstring flexibility, ability to stabilize the back, Hundreds on
the mat

Starting position

Lie supine on carriage with head between shoulder rests, and straps on arches of feet. Lower legs to approximately 45 degrees of hip flexion.

The exercise

  • Exhale and engage abdominals to stabilize back and start exercise.
  • Maintain position of back and pelvis throughout movement.
  • Inhale to return legs to starting position.


Leg Lowers: With pelvis stable and inner thighs together, lower and raise legs.

  • Leg positions - Parallel, turned out or turned in.
  • Variations – Place a Pilates ring or ball between ankles to increase adductor work.

Scissors: With pelvis stable and inner thighs together, open legs out to sides and return.

  • Leg positions - Legs stay over hips and carriage stays steady.
  • Legs move down toward bar as if drawing a "V". Carriage will move.

Circles: With pelvis stable and inner thighs together, move legs down, open legs out to sides and circle them around to starting position. Do 6 to 10 circles in each direction.

  • Leg positions - Parallel, turned out or turned in.
  • Place straps around knees to warm up hips and decrease the challenge.

Frogs: With the pelvis stable, the legs turned out, the knees bent and the feet together, raise and lower the legs.

  • Breaststroke: From frog position, straighten legs into a "V", bring inner thighs together and bend knees to start again. Reverse direction.


Hamstring: Place one ankle in strap and opposite leg on footbar. Straighten leg in strap to stretch hamstring. Straighten leg on footbar to decrease stretch.

Adductor: Place both arches in straps and open legs to stretch adductors.

Hamstring and Psoas: Place one ankle in strap and straighten leg to stretch hamstring.


  • Engage abdominals before legs lower, and keep them engaged.
  • Scoop abdominals to begin and don't let them pop as legs lower.
  • Lower legs only as far as back can stay stable throughout exercise.
  • Monitor low back position with hands.
  • Move legs symmetrically.


For low back and sacroiliac joint problems: Make sure low back is not changing positions as legs move. Support low back in a neutral position with a towel. Limit range of motion as legs lower. Avoid if symptoms increase.
For hip flexor injuries and arthritis: Work only in a range of motion that does not increase symptoms. Work with knees rather than feet in straps to decrease load on hips, or avoid if symptoms increase.
For limited hamstring flexibility: In order to avoid stress on low back, hamstring flexibility needs to be great enough to allow back to stay stable as legs move to approximately 65 degrees of hip flexion.