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Pilates For Horses

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

A couple of weeks’ ago I spent the day at Horses Inside Out HQ assisting Gillian Higgins with the Pilates for Horses Course.


This is a live course Gillian runs several times per year offering horse owners a chance to learn ways to help their own horses develop flexibility and strength using Pilates style excises.


The course is held at Gillian’s home, official headquarters of Horses Inside Out in Leicestershire.


The Pilates course was held the day following the Horse Owners Massage course and compliments the massage course so well.


Some of the participants were the same but there were a few new faces arriving on this day.

The group was smaller than usual and everyone had to complete a lateral flow test prior to the course due to COVID restrictions.


After assisting with welcoming participants to the all new indoor classroom facility the day began with with some theory.


gillian higgins horses inside out pilates for horses day course for horse owners

We began with brainstorming the purpose of Pilates style exercises, including:


· Comfort

· Control

· Lateral Stability

· Flexibility

· Suppleness

· Core Strength

· Balance

· Body Awareness

· Spatial Awareness

· Posture

· Improving Range of Motion


Pilates is a great way to give the horse’s body support in order for them to be able to perform the tasks we are asking them to do as riding or driving horses.


We also discussed the importance of assessing your horse’s posture in order for you to be able to select the most appropriate Pilates exercise in order to benefit your particular horse.


And how, by nature, horses are designed to go forward, in straight lines. Therefore lateral stability exercises are really important, as when we train and ride horses we are often asking the to go in circles and to do sideways manoeuvres.


Pilates exercises are also great for supporting joint health, as taking the joints through their full range of motion on a regular basis will help to keep the joint healthy, as the saying goes – ‘if you don’t use it you loose it’


We even all had a go at moving our own bodies in certain postures to see how the horse may feel.


gillian higgins horses inside out student participation pilates for horses, core stability strengthening exercises, course with Gillian Higgins Horses Inside Out Posture

I think some of the main take home messages from this part of the day were:


· Core muscle recruitment doesn’t have to be a big movement

· Exercises do not need to be dramatic to be effective

· Pilates can be preventative – why wait until there is a problem?

· Lateral stability will help with posture, and that will help with flexibility


Of course a session with Gillian Higgins would not have been complete without an anatomy lesson too, and being able to look at real life pony bones and life size models of parts of the horse’s anatomy really does help in understanding what is being achieved on the inside of the horse when we are applying techniques and exercises to the outside of the horse.


gillian higgins horses inside out classroom lecture pilates for horses, core stability strengthening exercises, course with Gillian Higgins Horses Inside Out Posture

gillian higgins horses inside out classroom lecture pilates for horses, core stability strengthening exercises, course with Gillian Higgins Horses Inside Out Posture

After the theory session, a welcome cup of tea and one of Gillian’s mum’s fabulous home made cakes we were ready to get our hands on some horses!


We worked with all of Gillian’s horses throughout the day.


Freddie Fox, Arty, Pumpernickel and new addition Toby.


gillian higgins horses inside out carrot stretches pilates for horses, core stability strengthening exercises, course with Gillian Higgins Horses Inside Out Posture

gillian higgins horses inside out tail pull stretch pilates for horses, core stability strengthening exercises, course with Gillian Higgins Horses Inside Out Posture

gillian higgins horses inside out classroom lecture demonstration pilates for horses, core stability strengthening exercises, course with Gillian Higgins Horses Inside Out Posture

On the course participants learnt a combination of:


· Exercises using reflexes

· Weight transfers

· Carrot exercises

· The ‘equine gym’


Gillian partnered me up with Arty for the ‘Equine Gym’ demo.


After spending a few days now with Arty for painting & filming and also the massage course, we have developed a little bit of a rapport so managed to demonstrate some quite tricky tasks for everyone to watch.


It was actually pretty cool that new horse Toby was also there, and Gillian’s husband Doug was able to also demonstrate the tasks with him.


gillian higgins horses inside out toby demsonstrating raised poles pilates for horses, core stability strengthening exercises, course with Gillian Higgins Horses Inside Out Posture

As a horse that had never done any of these things before it was amazing to see the comparison in Toby’s ability to complete the challenges compare with Arty’s!

This was such a fun day to be a part of, I think everyone went away feeling inspired and excited to get home and have a play with their own horses!


 pilates for horses, core stability strengthening exercises, course with Gillian Higgins Horses Inside Out

If you would like to take part in one of these courses check out the Horses Inside Out course schedule.


The benefit of attending a live course is that Gillian does encourage participants to ask specific questions relating to their own horses and is then open to sharing and demonstrating exercises that may help your particular horse.


However for an overview of some of the exercises you can also purchase the Pilates for Horses Book or the online video download from the Horses Inside Out Academy, which is free to join and has loads of great resources.


Look out for more blogs coming soon, all about my adventures with Horses Inside Out :)






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