Pilates Projects: 3 Unbridled Demands of the Horseback

Pilates Projects: HorsebackWelcome to another installation of Pilates Projects.

In the Pilates method, the mastery of a complex exercise can require strategy.

What luck!

We’ve got a whole system of perfect tools for the job.

In February we began the Chinese New Year. 2014: The Year of the Horse.

Yes, I've got half a year left to wrangle my horse(back). I promise I will lose interest in these puns shortly.


Horseback is quite the doozy for me on any apparatus, despite my previous project on the Snake. Sheesh! What could make you shake in your boots more than that?

Horseback on the Reformer

Pilates Projects: 3 Unbridled Demands of the Horseback

Like the Snake, the Horseback is one of those exercises for me that is quite the work in progress. Not that the other exercises are a walk in the park, but you know me, I like to have a plan.

But let's remember that back in the day Horseback was deemed “men's exercise.”

And for that I must take comfort. For a moment.

3 unbridled demands of the horseback.

I wish to reserve the right to revisit this exercise at an undetermined point in the future. How's that?

I feel I am on the very precipice of learning this one, despite the many years of doing it anyway.

Oh I can get it done, but I enjoy the puzzle of the Pilates exercises, trying to get every part of the body to fit together nicely and do it's share.

And some of you body parts are doing too much work, and that's got to stop. 🙂

So today we begin.

Unbridled Demand #1: The Shape

The first demand of the Horseback is its shape: The Round Back. Of course, we have many wonderful exercises that exemplify this shape. Today I will choose just 2 or 3 of them to put us on the right path:

On the Mat: Spine Stretch and Open Leg Rocker

On the Reformer: The Teaser

By now you have probably noticed that all three of these exercises are the exact same position just slightly adjusted in orientation. My choosing of these 3 exercises in no way minimizes the Horseback done on the Ladder Barrel.

I assume if you are working on the Horseback on the Reformer, you have already been working the Barrel version for some time. Or you can use this post to work on your Horseback on the Barrel as well. Awesome!

Use the Round Back exercises to become an expert of the 2 way stretch. Really find the tug-of-war within yourself and wail on it for a bit.

Pilates Projects: 3 Unbridled Demands of the Horseback

Could you reach your limbs even further in opposition from the center?

Can you scoop into your center and perfect your Round Back even more strongly at the risk of falling over, say if you are in the Rocker or the Teaser exercise?

I am not suggesting you fall off the Ladder Barrel, just so we're clear.

Unbridled Demand #2: The Back Connection

Another hurdle is to get your back working and not reduce Horseback to a crazy arm exercise. Your shoulders will thank you later.

Find your back connection with the any or all of the following:

On the Mat: The Roll Up

Pilates Projects: 3 Unbridled Demands of the HorsebackThis simple useful tool – just the reach of the arms overhead with the pole. Keep your back in contact with the mat and stay within your range of strength. No flinging the arms at the Mat.

On the Cadillac: Arm Springs (Lying Down) Big Circles

Pilates Projects: 3 Unbridled Demands of the Horseback

These are the same circles that we do at the Wall. You've gotten your back connected in the Roll Up, now you can add the circles element. Continue to find the connection to your back at every point around the circle. The Mat behind you will again give you feedback as to whether you are successful or not.

On the Arm Chair: Circles

Pilates Projects: 3 Unbridled Demands of the Horseback

Now in an upright position, the circles on the Arm Chair will further challenge the arm connection into your back and also bring you a bit closer to what's required in our target exercise the Horseback.

Thanks Amy Kellow!

Unbridled Demand #3: The Lower Body

Currently this is the kicker in my Horseback. Making it a full-body exercise is challenging.

It takes a savvy combination of hugging the long box with the inner thighs PLUS getting the reach of the legs outward to connect fully into the center.

Here's how to take the first step:

On the Reformer: Footwork, Stomach Massage Series, The Short Box

Oh no, what a trifecta!

The Footwork and the Stomach Massage Series represent any exercise where your feet are on the footbar.

Pilates Projects: 3 Unbridled Demands of the Horseback

Whenever you have contact with the apparatus, you must seize the day!

Start to notice as you do your Footwork and Stomach Massage Series if you are really reaching into or pushing against the footbar.

As your legs extend out further do you feel a bit detached from the bar?

Can you push on the bar as you return the carriage home as well?

Or just on the way out?

Try using less springs and see how that affects your contact with the bar. Use the help from the apparatus to activate the trunk of the body and the seat to pull the carriage in.

Persevere in your Footwork!

It is the very first series of exercises we learn and what you learn from is valuable for every other exercise where you must connect the lower body into the center.

The Short Box is another great place to find the lower body's connection into the center. You'll get instant feedback from those noisy straps if you slack off.

Pilates Projects: 3 Unbridled Demands of the Horseback

In this series the lower body must work just as hard or harder than the upper body in all its fancy positions. Take a moment the next time you work on the Reformer to focus on the lower body during this series and see how it affects the exercises.

Cultivate these 3 demands of the Horseback as you practice and then see if you can put it all together and move through the exercise. What the mind understands, the body will eventually follow.

Patience, friends…the Pilates Method is a wild ride.

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  1. I like your blog and enjoyed it. It is really informative. What I believe is that life as a Pilates instructor is healthy and fun. I am also looking forward to take Pilates classes and become a certified instructor so that I can also encourage people to live healthy life. I live in New York city (US) so I am planning to join PilatesMastery for equipment teacher training program. I have heard lot about them.

    • Steven,

      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts here with us. MANY MANY thanks for your kind words on the blog. Truly appreciated. Also, your plan to further your training in the Pilates Method sounds like a good one. I wish you well in your studies and please feel free to leave a comment here if there are topics or Pilates concepts you would like to see tackled in the blog.

      Keep up the good work!

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