Stretches For Riders With Tight Shoulders And Upper Back

Here is a series of stretches to help improve tight shoulders and upper back in riders. As dressage riders posture is important to maintain, not just for the picture this creates, but also for proper alignment so that we can ensure all our joints and ligaments can move freely with the horse.

Often though we can find it’s our upper body that can get tight from activities we do during the week, be it with the horse or due to our lifestyle or job. So in order to prevent injury and to help enhance your riding, you may like to try these stretches out to help improve your riding posture and ultimate prevent any injuries or niggles in the future.

Here are all the stretches, follow along with the video as I demonstrate them and do this as a circuit. You may like to do this a few times per week to really help rebalance the body. Or if you find you have had a week with lots of desk work, do this to help rebalance before you head out to ride.


Foam Roller Butterflys

Great for opening up the chest and helping to rebalance the shoulders.

Open your elbows as wide as you can while letting your hands come by your ears. Now let your elbows drop down towards the ground to open up through the shoulders. Aim to hold this for 5 breaths.


Foam roller goalposts

Great for opening up the front of the shoulders and into the chest.

Similar to the above stretch, but this time take your hands wide like goal posts. Think about asking your forearms to drop down towards the ground and feel this open up and stretch the front of your shoulder. Try not to let your ribs pop and instead maintain a neutral spine. Relax as you allow your shoulders and chest to stretch. Hold this position for 5 breaths.


Side stretch

This stretch really helps to reset the shoulder position by opening up underneath the armpit.

Have your knees down on the floor with your bottom up, then reach one arm forward with the other out to the side. Press your chest towards the ground and feel this stretch under the armpit. You can also have your hand resting on something higher to get a deeper stretch. Hold each one for about 2 breaths before switching. Keep switching sides to stretch each side overhead 3 times.


Standing shoulder stretch

Great to open up the front of the chest and stretch through the front of the shoulder.

Stand tall with your feet about hip distance apart. Clasp your hands together behind your back and press your knuckles down towards the ground as you lift your chest. Keep your neck in a neutral position. Roll your shoulders back and down. Hold this stretch for 5 breaths.


Thread the needle

This helps open up through the upper back and stretch the back of the shoulder.

Start in an all-fours position. Thread your right arm through the middle until you can lay your head and shoulder down on the ground. Prop your left hand up on the fingertips for more and press into the ground to further the rotation. Hold this stretch for 5 breaths, then switch sides and repeat.


Puppy pose 

This helps to stretch under the armpits and into your lats to help rebalance your shoulders.

Start in an all-fours position and walk your hands forward as far as they can go without changing the position of your hips above your knees. Lay your forehead down on the ground and press your chest down to the ground to intensify the stretch. Hold this stretch for 5 breaths.


Baby cobra

This helps to strengthen your upper back muscles while opening the front of the shoulder

Laying on your stomach with your feet on the ground and together, slide your hands under your shoulders. Then lift up your chest and head while lengthening the back of your neck. Hold this stretch for 5 breaths.


Supine cobra shoulder lifts

Great for opening the front of the shoulder and stretching into your chest.

Start your cobra position as above, but slide your hands wider and tent your fingertips. Then lift your chest and rotate one shoulder forward while the other moves back. Aim to hold each stretch for 2-3 breathes and rotate each side. Do 5-10 each side.


Thoracic rotational stretch

Great for improving mobility through your upper back and opening your chest up.

Laying on your back, start with your knees bent and your hands together in front of your chest. Then with your top arm, circle it above your head to open right back behind you. Then circle down to your hips and back to the start. Keep doing these arm circles nice and slow at the rate of your breathe. Repeat 10 each side.

There are some great stretches to help improve your upper body posture and balance. When we are in balance and our body is aligned we can move freely. This is not just great for injury prevention but also for longevity to. So take care of your body and try out these stretches. Remember to watch the video where I give options for each of them and demonstrate how to do them.

For more exercises, stretches and information to take your riding to the next level, be sure to download our free guide to get started today.  Designed to help you be more aligned, fit and balanced each and every ride. Learn more about it here. 


The Ultimate

Dressage Rider Training Program

Join other participants on our 12-week 'step-by-step' online rider
training program. Improve the 5 components of your riding.

Only available 3x per year.

see full details & register your interest