Horseback riding posture isn't just about looking pretty in the saddle — knowing how to sit properly plays an important role in how effectively you are able to communicate with your horse.
In other words, a rider's posture and biomechanics directly impact their equine partner, which is why posture is so important to good horseback riding. Knowing how to maintain good riding posture helps your horse feel better under saddle, which in turn helps them perform better — no matter if you are out on the trails or in the show ring.
Recognize the Issue
Every rider can take steps to improve their riding posture. First, identify your biggest problem area. Some of the most common problem areas for equestrians are the shoulders, back, arms and legs.
Many times, if you experience poor posture on the ground, it can carry over into the saddle as well, so pay attention to how you usually walk and sit. Other ways to help recognize potential areas to work on include:
- Taking a lesson with a trainer or biomechanics coach.
- Asking a trusted equestrian friend for feedback.
- Videoing yourself during one of your schooling sessions.
1. Rounded Shoulders
Rounded shoulders are a common problem for many riders. Whether the issue is a result of naturally sloping shoulders or poor posture in the saddle, rounded shoulders can cause riders to shift their weight forward. This will cause the horse to carry more weight on their forehand, making it harder for them to move forward.
To fix this riding posture issue, equestrians can focus on stretching out their chest area while incorporating strength training exercises for their back, shoulders and chest.
2. Over-Arched Back
Another common posture problem is riding with an over-arched back. When you ride with an over-arched back, your pelvis will tilt forward. Overall, this posture will cause a lot of stiffness and tension when riding, which can make it harder to deliver soft cues and follow your horse's motion at all gaits.
Because tight hips are often the cause of an over-arched back, fixing this posture problem involves focusing on specific stretches and exercises that will loosen your hip flexors.
3. Stiff Arms
Many riders, especially those just starting off, have a natural tendency to ride with stiff arms. When your shoulders, elbows and wrists are stiff, it's harder to maintain a soft, elastic contact with your horse's mouth.
When riding, think about letting your arms hang loosely from your shoulders, keeping your elbows bent. Especially at the walk and canter, allow your arms to follow the natural bobbing movement of your horse's head.
4. Legs Too Far Forward or Backward
Some riders may either keep their legs too far forward or too far backward. Both can contribute to an unstable lower leg, which can impact leg aids and stability in the saddle.
There are a couple of exercises you can do in the saddle to help you achieve proper shoulder, hip and heel alignment. You can practice skipping a beat when posting the trot or ride without stirrups to strengthen your leg muscles.
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