It can sometimes be so easy to forget all about yourself and focus mainly on your horse. We all do it. We get drawn into the 'issues' and forget that they most likely are being caused by our own position in the saddle. Quite often I find myself becoming frustrated only to realise later that it was all down to me flapping about in the saddle and giving mixed signals.
So.. why is your position in the saddle so important?
We always highlight how important it is for your horse to stay balanced. Your horses weight is naturally split between 60% on the front legs and 40% on the hind legs, so it's easy to see how our position and weight in the saddle might affect this. If you're leaning forward you are placing more pressure on his forehand, this is detrimental especially when in most disciplines we want them to carry more weight behind! It can also create problems for you. Personally I have a habit of hollowing my back and quite often I finish a ride with lower back pain. How you carry your arms and hands can also play a huge factor as this can interfere with the bit and send mixed messages. Weak legs, which you struggle to keep still, can also cause issues making some horses become less likely to react when needed as they are so use to your legs always being 'on' and not 'off'. Always ask yourself, when something isn't going to plan, what is my body doing?
So ... what can you do to help improve your seat in the saddle? Here's a few tips!
- Consider some form of exercise when you're not on the horse! Pilates is a great way to help strengthen your core and it helps you to become more aware of your body. Yoga is also beneficial as it can help increase your suppleness. You don't have to go to a class, there are plenty of videos on YouTube so you can do it in your living room for FREE!
- If you're in pain, consult a physio! I quite often struggle with my back and have been told numerous times if my back is not good, neither is my horses! So we both have regular sessions at the physio, to make sure neither of us are sore or 'out of place'.
- Video yourself! We don't all have the luxury of area mirrors so set that phone up on the side and video yourself riding. You'll have a better idea of faults in your position, so you can focus on them next time you ride.
- Grab that gym ball! Gym balls or Swiss Balls are great to help improve your core, you could even just be sat on it watching TV! Obviously, there are also some great exercises (YouTube comes up trumps again!) that engage your core as it's a unstable environment underneath you, plus these can be picked up for as little as £7! You have nothing to lose here!
- Check your stirrups! Make sure your not making life more difficult for yourself. Are your stirrups too long? Are they too short? When your feet are out of the stirrups and your leg is relaxed, the bar of the stirrups should hit your ankle bone, as a rough guide. Make sure you play around with this until you're comfortable. Too long causes your leg to be unstable, too short can cause your muscles to work too hard, meaning you tire quickly and can cause some discomfort in your joints.
- Practice. You won't improve unless you become more self-aware as you're riding round. It's about training yourself to think about each movement, each position change and be conscious of your body and your horses body. It's only through repetition that you will re-train yourself to sit correctly and therefore become more effective. It is always an area that can be improved upon, but the results you see will always be worth it.