#MasterclassMonday is a collaboration between Horse Network and NOELLEFLOYD.com to empower equestrians to help troubleshoot your training, master your mindset and up your game. This month’s instructor: show jumping trainer Simone Starnes.

In our previous two articles, we’ve gone over body control, the three main parts of a rider’s position, and you’ve tried a balance-challenging exercise over trot poles.

Establishing a soft yet effective position requires repetition, hard work, diligence, and a lot of patience.

Remember that when you see riders with incredible body control like my fellow Equestrian Masterclass instructor, Ian Millar, that position and effectiveness is the product of years (sometimes decades!) of work and practice. I’m here to help you better understand how you can make progress in your own position, which is one of the biggest assets a rider can have, no matter their goals

Your core is bigger than you think 

When you think about your core, what do you think of? Where does it start? Where does it end?

If you’re like most people, you probably think that the core runs from about where your sports bra ends to your waistline. When it comes to riding, that’s false. Your core doesn’t stop at your waistline, but rather your inner thigh.

Think about it. Your core consists of so many muscles other than your abdominals, including the external obliques, diaphragm, and pelvic floor muscles (to name a few). Especially when you are trying to remain stable over a jump, your entire core all the way down to your inner thigh play a huge role in your overall stability both in the air and on landing. 

This is just the teaser! Learn all things body control with Equestrian Masterclass: Simone Starnes Teaches 3 Exercises for Better Body Control

Keep it soft, yet effective 

A big concept to come to terms with is that the word control and stability do not necessarily mean strength. When a rider relies solely on strength, they are setting themselves up for stiffness and lack of softness.

The first step in achieving both effectiveness and softness is keeping your core engaged (of course).

Next, having your shoulders back, but arms soft and flexible will allow you to follow the motion and relieve any stiffness you may be holding throughout the body. A great reminder that you can tell yourself while riding is core straight, elbow soft. 

The exercise 

Some riders really struggle with keeping a stable body while still allowing movement through the arms, and that’s okay! Like anything, it takes practice and consistency.

A great exercise to help you achieve this is by holding a stick horizontally with both hands, thumbs on top, and the reins through the fingers. You can have a trainer or friend help you situate the stick or hold your horse if you’re having difficulties. 

Keeping your core engaged, shoulders back, and thighs securely on your horse, try riding like this without bouncing your hands. This can be difficult to do, but this exercise will encourage you to be tight in your core and loose in your hands while stretching down with your heels and legs. 

If possible, have someone video you without using the stick, while using the stick, and after using the stick. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make and see what you need to tweak by comparing your position between each video. Disconnecting your arms and elbows from your core takes time, but once you establish understanding and put the proper techniques into place, you’ll be there in no time. 

This is an excerpt from Simone’s Equestrian Masterclass, 3 Exercises For Better Body Control To access the course, as well as a full library of courses from the likes of Ian Millar, Anne Kursinski and more, go to equestrianmasterclass.com.