The aim of this study was to investigate rider muscle activity in relation to horse movement. Electromyographic (EMG) activity of 12 upper-body muscles was recorded simultaneously with the horse's footfall timing for six riders, riding the same horse at trot. Data for five strides were analysed for each rider. Rectus abdominis, upper trapezius, middle trapezius, flexor carpi radialis, biceps brachii, triceps brachii and middle deltoid muscles had constant patterns with two peaks occurring in the same phase of the stride in all riders. Peak EMG values in the upper trapezius and middle trapezius occurred in early stance, and were considered to stabilize the rider's neck and scapula during impact of the diagonal limbs. The rectus abdominis showed peak EMG activity in mid-stance to stabilize the trunk and enable the rider to follow the horse's movement by swinging the pelvis forward as the horse's body reversed direction from downward to upward motion. The triceps brachii, which was active during late stance, and the biceps brachii, which was activated early in stance, stabilized the rider's hands and maintained contact with the bit. Teres major, extensor carpi ulnaris and serratus anterior muscles had a small range of activity (33, 26 and 37%, respectively), consistent with tonic activation or were inactive, suggesting that their function may be related to general postural control.