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The Principles

There are eight Principles of Pilates. My interpretations of these principles in relation to equestrian activities are listed below:

1. Relaxation - the ability to relax those muscles which shouldn’t be working, for example ‘bracing’ the muscles of the back to stay balanced which will reduce your back mobility/flexibility.

2. Concentration - it takes a lot of concentration to try and stay relaxed, work the correct muscles, feel if you are balanced and even, use your core muscles for stability, oh, and remembering to breath too!

3. Breathing - it goes without saying that breathing in itself is an essential activity, however, learning how to breathe well using the full capacity of the lungs will benefit the more physically demanding aspects of your life with horses (faster paces, pushing heavy wheelbarrows). Breathing deeply and fully also has the benefit of slowing the pulse rate which may help in situations where your sense of panic or unease could be picked up by the horse you are working with causing it to feel more unsettled or anxious.

4. Alignment - the correct, neutral alignment of the pelvis, spine and joints in the body. This is relatively simple to achieve in an immobile standing position but less easy to maintain, where indeed possible, during movement. We look for that imaginary ‘plumbline’ from ear, centre of ribs, centre of hip socket and ankle – but it requires concentration and body awareness to keep that during ridden work through the gaits or those day-to-day activities in the yard.

5. Centering - the use of core stability muscles (transversus abdominus, pelvic floor, multifidus) to maintain neutral alignment, to help you stay in a strong position on and off the horse.

6. Co-ordination - this has many connotations: the co-ordination of the eight principles; the precise timing and application of the aids; a combination of both!

7. Stamina - the ability of the muscles to maintain levels of activity, Pilates specific exercises or other activities.

8. Flowing Movements -when it all works beautifully!