Simple exercises at the walk and trot can improve your posture and position in the saddle. When you find that sweet spot where you can balance in a half-seat without gripping or tension, you feel balanced, secure and supple. This not only improves your confidence, but also allows your horse to soften as she also feels more balanced.
Your horse mirrors you. If you want your horse to be supple and without resistance, then you must ride with suppleness and softness. But, if your base of support – your seat and leg – are not in the right place, you will be off balance, your leg will not be stable, and you will have tension in your body. As a result, your brain automatically and unconsciously triggers the alert and alarm responses in your body which affects your confidence.
In my coaching and at clinics, I often meet people whose major complaint about their horses is that they either won’t go forward or they are too forward. In cases where the problem is not poorly fitting tack or some physical issue with the horse, the problem is the rider’s imbalance and/or tension in the saddle. Once the riders’ position is corrected and they find that magic ‘sweet spot’, they are surprised at the change in their horses. High headed, braced, short stepping horses level out, relax and lengthen their stride.
The rider finds she isn’t working as hard and is getting more from her horse.
The reason is simple – when you are unbalanced, you will grip with your leg muscles, brace in your shoulders and arms and have little movement in your joints. This all prevents your from moving with your horse and makes it difficult – even uncomfortable – for your horse to carry you and be relaxed.
Your joints – ankles, knees, hips, elbows and shoulders – need to operate as shock absorbers. The absorb the horse’s movement and allow you to move with it. It’s like jumping on a trampoline or a diving board. The softer your joints, the more bounce you get.
So here’s the simple exercise to find that sweet spot in the saddle and improve your riding position. The half seat. You can try this with your horse standing still first or at the walk.
Lift just your seat bones off your saddle and push them backwards. As you do this, your hip angle will close and your torso will move slightly closer to your horse’s neck.
Breathe and drop your shoulders away from your ears. Watch you don’t stiffen your arms. Let your elbows be soft and act as shock absorbers, too. As your horse moves at the walk, focus on ‘down, down, down’ with each step and feel your joints moving as they absorb the motion. Once you feel balanced, try lifting your hands off your horse’s neck (you can do one at a time if you like) and see if you can maintain this posture. Remember to breathe and release tension from your body.
Don’t try to lift yourself all the way out of your saddle. There should be no daylight visible between you and the saddle. Your inner thighs close in the front a bit. Your calf gently hugs your horse’s barrel. Soften your ankles, knees and hips as you sink down at the same time you’re pushing your seat bones up and back. You may need to rest your knuckles on your horse’s shoulders until you find your balance. Keep your fingers closed and your wrists straight to avoid injuring your hands. This also prevents you from pulling on your horse’s mouth if you lose your balance.
When you feel balanced in the half seat at the walk, try it at the trot.
I would love to hear your comments after you’ve tried this exercise. I’m happy to answer your questions, as well. Just post them in the comments section below.
Enjoy the journey.
P.S. You can improve your posture with exercises off your horse as well. I’ve just released an audio lesson you can download to your mp3 player so you can listen to it and practice anywhere and any time it’s convenient for you. Click here to check it out.
Watch for my book coming soon – “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”
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Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship