How Your Hips Affect Your Confidence In The Saddle

The suppleness in your hips has a direct affect on your level of confidence in the saddle.  It also affects how your horse feels.

When riders talk about their “seat” on a horse they are often referring to keeping their butt in the saddle.  Their focus may mainly be on not falling off.   Really, it should be about being connected and in tune with their horse.

You’re probably aware that how you sit in the saddle affects your horse.  You’re sitting on the back on an animal that is not designed to carry weight on his back.  And, you’re sitting on the spinal column which, as part of the central nervous system, sends sensory messages to your horse’s brain.  So, how you sit has a direct affect on how your horse feels both physically and mentally.

But, did you know that your posture also affects your state of mind?  When you are unbalanced, your body stiffens as it holds tension and your mind becomes anxious.

Tension held anywhere in your body will cause your hips to tighten and not be able to follow the horse’s movement.   A good “seat” is really your ability to allow your hips to move with your horse’s natural motion.

Being able to follow your horse’s movement requires balance that comes from good posture – a straight, soft spine with your chest lifted, your head up and your shoulders dropped.  This posture projects a sense of confidence and alertness and is the foundation of good riding.  The more softness and suppleness your body has, the better you will be able to feel your horse’s body and tune into his rhythm.  Your horse will also be able to feel your cues more clearly.

Creating this posture is easy, but it takes focus and practice.  Try these exercises on your horse at the walk.  If you can, have a lunge line riding lesson so you can focus more on yourself and feeling your horse without worrying about steering or controlling your horse’s gait.  Go through each of these steps to develop more balanced and connection with your horse through your seat by really feeling your horse:

  1. While sitting on  your horse, breathe from your diaphragm.  Feel both seat bones pointing down into the saddle.  Allow your buttocks and hips to soften, your legs to hang out of your hips and your shoulders to drop.  Don’t “try” to make it happen.  Just release with each exhale.
  2. Ask your horse to walk and just feel your hips individually drop, move forward and back.  Allow your horse’s motion to move your hips.  Don’t do anything except tune in, relax and stay focused.  Keep breathing from your diaphragm.  Keep  your elbows, shoulders and fingers soft.
  3. Notice when your left hip drops.  This happens when your horse’s barrel is swinging to the right as  his left hind leg comes forward.Lunge Line Riding Lessons with Anne Gage
  4. Notice when your left hip goes forward.  This happens when your horse’s left hind leg is on the ground ready to push off.
  5. Do the same with your right hip. Feel when it drops and then when it comes forward.
  6. When you are feeling your individual hip movements consistently, add a bit more follow through to the forward movement of each hip.  Stay in time with your horse’s rhythm.  Just play with this and feel what happens.
  7. Next, stop some of the movement in your hips.  Stay in time with  your horse’s rhythm but hold back a bit in your core and slow the movement of your hips.  Play with this and feel what happens.
  8. Next, exhale as you completely stop your hips and elbows from following your horse’s movement.  Don’t stiffen or brace anywhere – just stop following.  Play with this and feel what happens.

If your horse is tuning in to you, then you will have noticed that he changed his rhythm when you changed how much your hips were following his movement.  In exercise #6 (add more follow through), his walk should have opened up a bit more.  If he is really sensitive, he may even have moved up to a trot.  In exercise #7 (hold back your hips), his walk should have slowed down a bit.  In exercise #8 (stop your hips and elbows), your horse should have come to a halt.

Don’t worry if your horse doesn’t respond right away as  you change the movement of your hips.  It may take a little while for him to tune in to you – especially if he has been tuning you out for a while.  

As you develop  your following seat, you’ll notice that both you and your horse feel more calm and relaxed.  You’ll be more balanced in the saddle and more connected to your horse.

Have fun playing with this and share your results by posting in the comments section below.

If you would like to help spread the word about a better way to work with horses, please share this blog with 5 friends, send a Tweet or post on your Facebook page.  The horses thank you.
You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you include my credit information:
Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (  
I would also appreciate it if you’d send me a copy for my media files.
Anne Gage
Confident Horsemanship

6 thoughts on “How Your Hips Affect Your Confidence In The Saddle

    • You can certainly feel your horse’s back more if you ride bareback. But, it is not always the best way to ride for either you or your horse. If you can feel your horse’s spine when sitting on him, then he will be better off with a well fitting saddle. That way, there is no direct pressure being put on his spine. Horses with wide, flat backs (like table tops) and without a prominent spine can be quite comfortably ridden without a saddle.

      After you try the exercise, I’d love to hear how it worked for you – with or without a saddle. : )



      • Thank you! I have wondered about that. My (leased) Arabian was so round barreled that I could NOT feel his spine. My current (leased) Thoroughbred has a spine like a roof top ridge, and I CAN feel it. I hadn’t thought that I may be hurting him, but in retrospect, you’re probably right.
        Just to balance things: my first leased horse, a Quarter Horse, was very round and I could not feel his spine. However, he had cold back…something I didn’t find out until he bucked and spun with me aboard, bareback…and I realized that, as light a rider as I am, and as meaty his back was, I was still hurting him.
        OK, I’ll dig out the saddle.

  1. We did this together with Nairobi,and I experienced the connection,along with understanding how my own body “rythyms” impact the motion of the horse.How we read from each other,(being a green rider ) helps me have a greater appreciation for what is really happening between myself and my horse.Re-reading this in print,is so timely !

    • It was wonderful to see you and Nairobi make the connection; to have that “a-ha” moment. When you were in your head, you “made up” what you thought he was going to do. When you got into your body and also became more aware of his body, you felt in the moment how he was really feeling in and could work with that. Once you get that, it changes everything. : )

  2. Pingback: Do You Go to Battle if Your Horse Doesn’t Listen? | Confident Horsemanship – The Blog

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