Pilates is dressage for people. Again, my horses snicker at this turn of the tables.

Here’s what Cassandra Thompson,  owner of ABSolute Pilates, has to say about applying Pilates to becoming a stronger, safer rider. Cassandra, you may remember, is one of us — getting her horse, Murphy, just last year after 40 years of longing. What’s interesting about Cassandra — and what makes her a perfect resource for us — is that she is a very accomplished Pilates instructor with lots of experience and insight under her belt as she approached midlife horsemanship.

As she faced the things we all encounter as we set forth on this journey — wanting to be safe (translation: stay out of the dirt as she learned to ride), wanting to be stronger and able to give clearer cues to her horse,  wanting to maintain that relaxed balance that makes riding the joyful experience we all want it to be, and wanting to advance her learning and skill development — she went to her own Pilates drawing board to see how she could apply what she knew professionally to what she personally wanted to learn. Here’s what she has to say about that:

“I find Pilates on the equipment fascinating and the more I teach, the more amazed I get. It is not just a series of exercises- it is a philosophy, it is biodynamics, it is restructuring and correcting your body and the way in which you move.  Imbalances, which almost all of us have, show up when we ride. In Pilates, we learn how to change from moving from peripherals (arm and leg) to moving from our core. These exercises are very subtle AND very powerful in how they change our internal structure. Pilates corrects issues coming from past injuries and also works to prevent future ones. As the old saying goes, “the more you learn about Pilates, the harder it gets!”  Also Pilates is sneaky — the easier the exercise looks, probably the harder it is. Is it any wonder that ballet dancers find Pilates so effective?”

Cassandra is also a fantastic resource for us because she has had her share of injuries — including a hip replacement! (This sure takes away some of our whiny excuses, now doesn’t it?) With the help of Pilates, not only does she ride dressage now with Murphy, but she is a serious snow skiier  and was able to ski in Argentina three months after surgery and was on a horse in four months. So Cassandra knows firsthand how well Pilates works to repair and address physical challenges to reclaim and extend our years of active riding time!
“I spent over 10 years doing Pilates and yoga to put off the operation and then I had to rehab the hip and straighten out many huge imbalances. And I wanted to ride as an adult. Without having Pilates, I would never have been able to stay on a horse or even contemplate trying to do Dressage. But having that body language and awareness is an immense help. Pilates is more than just getting fit — it is getting in touch with muscles we never think about and may not even know are there or certainly have lost touch with. Pilates also is highly modifiable —  you can make it work for everyone, regardless of their level of fitness or severity of issues. You start how lying down on a reformer — how much more comfortable can you get?”

There are two quotes from Joseph Pilates Cassandra particularly likes — and I also find them very appropriate for our Midlife Horses journey:
“In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 you’ll see the difference, in 30 you’ll have a new body!”


“You are as old as your spine”  (meaning that you can be 90 and have a spine of a 30 year old.)

Both of these are quite shining promises to Midlife Riders!


Stay tuned as we visit more with Cassandra and explore some specific exercises she has identified as particularly helpful to the Midlife Rider. As our little horsemanship group plays around with these concepts, we’ll share our trials and tribulations and insights in the wonderful (deceptively challenging) world of Pilates!

Do you have Pilates experiences, insights, advice or routines to share? Let us here from you! Comment here, on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube! I can’t wait to hear what you guys know about this strange but world-altering form of exercises and how it applies to Midlife Horses!

Happy Trails!
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