How To Stretch Your Piriformis & Why It’s Important For Dressage Riders

It’s common for dressage riders to experience strain or tension in their piriformis muscle. Tightness in the piriformis muscle can cause and further pain elsewhere in the body.

The piriformis is a muscle located deep in the hip that runs in close proximity to the sciatic shutterstock_293555465nerve. When the piriformis muscle becomes tight and/or inflamed, it can cause irritation of the sciatic nerve. This irritation leads to sciatica-like pain, tingling and numbness that run from the lower back, to the rear and sometimes down the leg and into the foot.

When riding this muscle can become compressed and tight, especially if you are riding larger more wider horses. This is why it can be hugely beneficial to understand how to stretch it and include these stretches into your routine.



In this video, I share with you some simple exercises you can do to stretch and release some of the built-up tension of the piriformis muscle. I’ll also demonstrate some effective foam roller exercises which will really enhance the benefits of these stretches.


Keyhole Stretch

Lying on your back with your legs straight, bring one knee into your chest. Taking hold of your ankle, pull your leg towards to the opposite side. As you do so, you’ll feel a stretch in through your bottom.

If the stretch is too deep, bending your straight leg may help make the stretch more comfortable for you.

If you wish to intensify the stretch, bend your straight leg and place your heel on this thigh. Holding this knee, pull your legs toward you, deepening the stretch.


Lying Twist

Remaining on your back, take one knee over your body. Turn your gaze to the opposite direction and stretch out your arm. Allow yourself to sink down as your body eases into the stretch.

If you wish to intensify the stretch, you can straighten the leg crossing over your body.


Seated Twist

Sitting up, tuck one leg underneath you and cross the other over the top. As you hug your knee, twist your upper body right around to the back. Ensure both seat bones are down as you rotate your spine. Your back hand can be used as a support to keep your body lifted and your spine supported and straight.

If the stretch is too challenging, you can straighten your leg out while crossing the other over.


Pigeon Pose

Come around into a pigeon pose, with both legs bent at 90 degrees. Position one leg bent in front and the other leg straight behind you. Turn your body around to face the ground and lower yourself down over your front leg onto your forearms.

If the stretch is too deep, you can bend or straighten your back leg. Rather than lower yourself to the ground, you can bring yourself up higher with your arms straight.


Foam Rolling Glutes

Using your foam roller, place it under your bottom. With your weight to one side of the foam roller and knees bent, cross one leg over the other. Using your hands behind you as support, rock backwards and forwards to loosen the muscles in your bottom.


Foam Rolling ITB

Remaining on the foam roller, place it on the side of your thigh with your opposite foot resting on the ground for support. Roll backwards and forwards so the foam roller loosens up the muscles in the side of your leg.

To reduce the pressure, place more weight on the supporting leg.How to stretch your piriformis and why dressage riders should
To intensify the stretch, lessen the amount of weight you place on your supporting leg.

It’s best to conduct these stretches before you ride and after if you’re feeling particularly tight in your piriformis muscle. Try to perform each stretch for at least 1 minute to help loosen these muscles.

By loosening up these muscles, you’ll find yourself much more comfortable and stable in the saddle. This will help improve your riding so that you’re not the one holding your horse back.

Improving your rider fitness, strength and balance will not only enhance your riding, it will also keep you riding for longer. For more exercises, stretches and workouts to take your riding to the next level before to download our free guide. These specific dressage exercises are designed to help you take your dressage to a new level.


  • Andrea Hewins

    Love these stretches. I’m a para rider with one weak leg and a stronger leg which overcompensates. My piriformas is tight on the stronger leg and I’ve been doing the pidgeon stretch regularly for a while now. Before my strong leg would stick out when I rode and my toes would point out. It still does a little but nowhere near as much as it use daily to. 😍

    • Glad you are enjoying them Andrea, keep up the good work 🙂

  • Frances Scott Knotts

    This muscle in my seat bone is my major issue! I’m glad to find someone who knows anatomy and how or what to do to correct it. Seriously, I have had injections that mask my problem. I am now working on these exercises and hope that the hoping the muscle can be loosen up. I have two new horses, one being very wide! This is great. Thanks

  • westgapeachpit

    I have had issues with this, but I also have issues with other things. #1 My leg will draw up at least two holes on one side. My body involuntarily curves towards that side to compensate. I know that presents an ugly picture and cannot be good for my horse, but how to correct it? #2 on the same side, possibly related, when I stand, walk, or ride for any period of time, the TOP and OUTER portion of my thigh becomes painful proceeding to numbness. #3 tightness across the lower back below the waist but above the sacrum-can be painful.

    I’d rather be able to address these issues which seem to be mostly muscular on my own than pay $$$ for medications and useless words from an MD who basically is pushing pills. If it needs more, then I’ll deal with it. Thank you, love.

  • Amy Dalsin Rauch

    Hi – do you know of any stretches that can help with restless leg? I do some of these stretches and reading this article is a good reminder that I need to start doing them on a regular basis. I have lower back issues with degeneration as well as spondylolisthesis (fun word to say 10 times fast) and the pain I can handle, but not the restless leg. It is similar to sciatica in the fact that I can feel it down the back of my right leg all the way into my calf and the arch of my foot. My left leg is affected as well, but mainly the calf and the arch of my foot. It’s the worst feeling and I get it whenever I lay down or sit on a couch for too long.