There are many styles of riding. Rider positions can be influenced by different disciplines. No matter what discipline you ride, if the rider is balanced and moving freely with the horse you can achieve harmony.
Top 10 tips for a better riding position:
- Stay centered in your body:When in neutral, a rider should feel like they are equally balanced right and left, back and forth. You want to feel like your body is relaxed, without leaning in any direction.
- Try leaning a little forward, backward, right and left slightly. Pay attention to when you feel tension and no tension. When you find the place of no tension, this is neutral.
- Sit on your seat bones: Equal weight on your seat bones when in neutral is important. This means tilting your pelvis so you sit on your seat bones. This allows the best connection to the horse for balance rhythm, and cueing the horse.
- Try doing a ‘frog swim’ with your legs while sitting in the saddle: lift your knees high (so your feet come out of the stirrups) and then open your legs wide – this should open your hips and rock you onto your seat bones. Then lower your legs and put your feet back into your stirrups.
- Wide shoulders: Keep your upper body wide so you can take full breaths, have a straight back, and be in a position of the best balance and to use your arms and legs.
- Try letting your arms hang at your sides with your palms facing forward (have someone else hold your horse if needed). Then reach back and out to the sides with your hands for a nice stretch across your chest. Breathe into the stretch.
- Turn with your body: when you turn your horse, turn your whole body on an even level so that your eyes and body look where you want to go. Your horse feels the weight shift and your body turn which helps to turn your horse.
- Try imagining that you have eyes on all of your major joints (knees, hips, toes, shoulders). Think about turning and looking where you want to go with all of your ‘eyes’. Be careful to only look as far as you want to turn so that your body can stay in alignment.
- Keep your feet underneath you: Balance keeps you on the horse. If your heels are under your hip, you are more likely to stay balanced and sturdy on your horse. Even when in jumping position your leg needs can be placed so your heels are directly under your hip. Keeping your heel under your hip will help you stay upright and not lean too far forward or backward.
- Try to imagine if you were to remove the horse from underneath you that you would land on your feet. You can try standing on the ground in your riding position and then moving into the different positions you do while riding (2 point position, 3 point position, deep seat, etc). You will notice that if you keep your heels underneath you (the way you do when you stand normally) that you will be more balanced in the other positions too.
- Wrap around your horse: allowing your legs to stretch out around the horse and fall naturally will help keep your joints relaxed. When riders force their toe in our out they can strain their joints and cause more tension.
- Try relaxing your hips and open the legs out and around the horse. You can do some stretches before you ride to loosen up your legs.
- Be soft and fluid with your body: As the horse moves you need to move. Think about allowing your joints to move with the horse. You want to be soft and still when riding, but at the same time your joints need to flex and bend to move with the horse. When riders focus on sitting too still or straight they often jar with the horse’s movements.
- Try closing your eyes and feeling the horse’s movements. Think about following the horse’s rhythm rather than making a rhythm. First learn to follow the rhythm the horse gives you, and then you can learn to influence the rhythm to be faster, slower, etc.
- Look where you are going: Looking where you are going helps to provide a focus to the horse but also when you look where you are going it shifts your weight. Even a slight adjustment of looking where you are headed can help the horse prepare for a turn or understand your cues better.
- Try using wide eyes to see the whole space around you which will help you stay relaxed and breathing. The opposite would be using tunnel vision which is when you are intently focused on something – this can cause you to hold your breath or become tight in your body.
- Breathe: did you know that by holding your breath you can actually cause your horse to hold their breathe? When we hold our breath we create tension in the body and it stiffens our joints and way of going. When we take nice regular breaths our body is better able to move with the horse.
- Try focusing on your breathing and taking regular deep breathes. If you tend to hold your breath, try talking or singing while your ride.
- Adjust your Stirrups: The position of your foot in the stirrup is just as important as the length of your stirrup. If your stirrups are too long your will be reaching for your stirrup with your toes which makes you contract the muscles at the back of your legs. If your stirrups are too short it can place a lot of straight on your knees, and make it difficult to cue your horse for lateral movements. If your foot is too far in the stirrup it will make it difficult to balance and could be a safety risk of getting your foot caught in the stirrup. If your foot isn’t in the stirrup enough it can make your heel drop too far which locks your ankle joint.
- Try adjusting your stirrups to find a comfortable length where you are not reaching for the stirrups and where your knee is relaxed (jumping riders can have a knee angle of 90-110 degrees). Then place your foot in the stirrup so that your whole foot feels supported, your ankle can still be springy, and you feel balanced.
True harmony comes from understanding yourself, your horse, and the language that connects you. I hope these 10 tips help you to understand yourself a little more while you ride. Lindsey Partridge.