Your Position In the Saddle, by Chris Cox
When you’re shopping for a horse, one of the things you look for is a well built, well balanced horse. The irony is that an unbalanced rider can negatively affect a beautifully balanced, athletic horse.
I’ve found that frequently when a rider complains of a sore back it’s usually due to the way he rides and not that he has a rough horse. Many of the problems people experience with their horses stem from the fact that the rider is not balanced correctly in the saddle to effectively maneuver the horse.
If you’re out of balance in the saddle, you also are going to be out of time and rhythm with your horse’s movements. On the other hand, when you are balanced in the saddle, you can better help your horse remain balanced as you ride.
I often see people working on maneuvers when they are off balance and out of time with their horses. When you are out of rhythm and balance with your horse it makes it twice as hard for your horse to understand what the rider is asking the horse to do. A balanced rider stays out of the horse’s way and moves with the horse’s flow and stride. When a rider is balanced in the saddle, he can better feel the horse’s footfall underneath, and this makes it easier to pick up the correct lead or do various maneuvers.
Many people are under the impression that a rider just sits on a horse. In reality you should actively move your hips in rhythm with the horse’s motion. Your hips should move and your lower back should roll slightly, you don’t want to stiffen your back. If you don’t move in sync with your horse’s rhythmic motion you will start bouncing in the saddle, and this makes for a rough ride as well as throwing you and your horse off balance. When your hips move in rhythm with the horse you have a much more comfortable ride since your hips can absorb the shock.
Although your hips should work in a forward-and-back motion with your horse’s movement, your upper body should remain still. Your shoulders always should be square and in line with your horse’s shoulders. Many riders unconsciously twist their shoulders to one side. Doing this can twist your seat in the saddle and immediately put you off balance. Men often ride with a wallet in the back pocket and that can offset the rider’s balance, so leave the billfold at home.
Remember to be conscious of your breathing when you ride, and make it a point to breathe naturally. If you breathe shallowly or hold your breath your body tenses, affecting both your balance and position. On the other hand, breathing deeply allows you to have a deeper seat in the saddle and to relax into your horse’s movements.
You must be able to ride comfortably in balance and in rhythm with your horse before trying to teach maneuvers. You should be a good rider before you become a trainer. You can’t expect to perform advanced maneuvers on a horse if you don’t have correct centered balance.
Learning to ride balanced and centered is so important. It takes time and practice to improve your timing and skill in the saddle. Your position in the saddle has a great deal to do with riding correctly. Hope this helps you become a better horseman or horsewoman.
Visit www.chris-cox.com or call Chris Cox Horsemanship Company at 1-888-81-HORSE for information about the Ride the Journey book, upcoming course dates and appearances, equipment and training DVDs/videos.