If you’re one of this blog’s dedicated readers, you may be wondering how I can talk about the rider’s seat (which I have for the last couple of days) without talking about the rider’s “core.”
Well, I can’t.
There is a current vogue to focus on “core strength” and how important it is. And while I agree that the core is important, I’m not sure that strength is the most important part of it, and I’m not even sure that I agree with most people about where the core actually is.
Some people consider the core to be the “abdomen,” with evidence of core strength in “six-pack abs.” These are often the same people who believe, as Robert Dover does, that one should ride from half-halt to half-halt and they’re so busy half-halting with their cores that their abdomens seldom come out of contraction. To my distaste, they will sometimes tell you to “go ahead, poke my stomach,” which makes me question their equestrian tact.
I don’t consider the core to be the basic abdominal muscles — the transversus abdominis, the rectus abdominis, the internal obliques and the external obliques — and I consider balance to be as important to good riding as core strength. The core strength that is necessary is the core strength required to maintain the rider’s balance regardless of the horse’s motion. And while this often involves quite a lot of muscle strength, it lies behind the abdomen, in the iliopsoas (if you’re going to share that aloud, remember the “p” is silent).