Savitsky and Ballou on rider fitness

As part of our Focus on Fitness, we spoke with accomplished riders and teachers, Christina Savitsky and Jec Aristotle Ballou.

Christina Savitsky and friends

Christina Savitsky and friends

When not running a ranch and raising a family, Christina Savitsky is busy with Buckaroo Balance clients.

Buckaroo Balance combines good riding with therapy, mindfulness, and body awareness. Savitsky has a background in centered riding and therapeutic riding and spoke to us about rider fitness and core strength from her home in Watrous, New Mexico.

Fitness is a choice that I make for me and my horses. We have a partnership. If I need to fix fence or if it’s a blizzard and a cow has just calved in the back pasture, I need to get out there… Riding with my core allows me to ride all day. Core strength is definitely an endurance thing. It has to be almost a lifestyle. You have to be mindful about it all the time.

With clients, core strength is huge for me. In their competitions, it presents a prettier picture and allows them to be more in tune with their horse. Finding relaxation and balance in the pelvis is my first step with students.

Pelvic rock to find best neutral pelvic position

Pelvic rock to find best neutral pelvic position

An effective use of core allows us to keep our pelvis in a neutral position so we have better feel and timing, and are able to use our extremities more effectively.

Savitsky described an exercise she often guides riders through, of tipping the pelvis forward and back to find a neutral posture. “Women often sit too forward of their seat bones. With lengthening of the lower back and zip up of front, we can engage the core and let that pelvis rock back to neutral,” said Savitsky.

Learn core strength exercises here.

Jec Aristotle Ballou teaches classical dressage from her California home base. She’s also an endurance competitor and author of 101 Dressage Exercises for Horse and Rider. She writes:ballou_jec_aristotle-218x300

An equine bodywork practitioner once explained to me just how dynamic the horse’s musculoskeletal system is. We riders tend to think of it as a firm structure like beams and trusses and immovable components. In reality, the horse’s muscles and bones and connective tissues are always shifting, moving.

They’re always adapting and changing, for better or worse. This practitioner used the analogy of a water balloon:

When a filled water balloon is kept in balance and left alone, it holds its shape. However, when we push on it from one side, a place on the opposite side is going to bulge out. It is a careful game to keep all the pressures and forces equal so that the clubhorseridertilt.jpgballoon does NOT bulge out anywhere.

Think about this when we sit our big bodies on top of a horse, upon his back which was not designed to bear weight:

The larger we are, the more pressure and force we will create with even small movements of our weight or limbs. Every wiggle will affect the horse’s tissue under us as he tries to balance out the load.

The lighter we are, the fewer ripples of disturbance we send down in to his body; and he can therefore carry us easier!

Learn core strength exercises here.


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  1. I have a physically demanding job ( self employed logger age 63) and I am an avid rider and enjoy problem horses. I enjoyed your article but noticed that you didn’t recommend some core excersizes , I would like to know specific exercises that would prolong my future as a rider. Thanks Rob

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