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Training essentials: 5 common seat problems

May 12, 2018

“Proper horse riding starts with a correct posture and seat” Barbara explains. “Your arms and legs must be able to move freely and separately from your midframe in order to give aids. Your back should be in its most natural position, which is a slight arch in the lower back and neck, a slight bowed upper back and the head straight on your neck.”

Problem 1: An arched back
“The first contact with your horse in the saddle is via your pelvis, which determines the position of the lower back. When as a rider you arch the back too much, you’re not sitting on your seat bones but in front. Which means the horse’s movement is moving through your lower back, while it should be moving through your pelvis. This can sometimes cause health issues.”

The solution: “To solve this issue you have to stretch your breast bone less. Sit straight on your seat bones. Can you not feel these when on your horse? Sit on a hard chair and place your hands on your seat bones. Move your pelvis to the front and back and feel when you are sitting straight on the seat bones.”

Problem 2: A Bowed back
“If you are on your horse with a bowed back, you’re probably sitting on your chair with a bowed back. It has become a habit, which means your upper back muscles are no longer used to carry your breast bone.”

The solution: “Try and improve your posture by stretching out your upper back and neck. Stretch your breast bone out and forward. Drop your knees when in the saddle. Is the inside of your leg touching the saddle? Often people with a bowed back turn the legs towards the outside. Make yourself a lighter ballast to carry.”

“Not sure if you are sitting steady? Let someone try and push you forward in between your shoulder blades and push backwards up against your chest. Are you steady and not out of balance? Mission accomplished!”

Problem 3: Sitting imbalanced
If your seat is imbalanced, you lean more onto one cheek than the other and therefore are sitting crooked. You should find out if this is your anatomical position, a habit, a crooked saddle or an imbalanced horse. Nobody is 100% straight and neither is your horse. The goal is to sit as straight as possible together.”

The solution: “Check if your saddle fits your horse correctly and rests straight. If you look in a mirror while on your horse, check if your feet are at the same height. Make sure you are sitting equally on both of your seat bones. Make yourself long from pelvis to armpit on the side that you bend inwards, this will make you stronger on that side.”

“The question is of course, who is causing who to be imbalanced? Is it you putting your horse out of balance or the other way around? If you bend inwards on your left waist, your horse will usually also bend to the left. Try and prevent this. Feel yourself leaning on two stirrups and seek support on both bum cheeks evenly. Be conscious and make yourself longer on your weak side.”

Problem 4: Moving lower legs
“Moving lower legs are really the result of an underlying issue; instability in your core. If you are unstable in your core, your lower legs will move. Riders often have the habit of following the horses rhythm and giving forward aids at each step. Especially with a low energy horse. This creates a moving leg.”

The solution: “To keep your legs still you need to learn and feel what you are doing. Are your stirrups the right length? You can check this by doing a sitting trot and see if your stirrups are not moving and slipping away. Make sure to keep your legs long and keep seeking support in your stirrups.”

Legs can never be completely still. The movement of the horse needs to flow through your legs and be most visual in your ankles. Keep your legs long coming out of the hipbones, keep the knee bend with a light contact against the saddle and keep your heel as the lowest point underneath your pelvis.”

Problem 5: Moving arms
“This problem arises when you don’t have an independent seat or if you arch your back or bow your back too much. With a bowed back you don’t have as much stability, meaning you can’t move your arms freely and they move around in all directions. A back that is too arched causes a lack of relaxation in the shoulders, making your arms too strong and not moving with the horse’s movement. While riding, your arms belong with the horse. You need to move your arms slightly forward with the horse to keep a still contact with the horse’s mouth. Feel during the rising trot that you ride in between your arms.”

The solution: “To tackle the issue of wobbly arms you first need to check the rest of your seat. Furthermore, a little trick is to grab hold of the saddle tree with your pinkie fingers and do a rising trot. You can then feel how your body should move in relation to your arms. You can also sit and hold your arms in a 90-degree position. Then turn your arms sideways. The muscles you’ll feel are keeping your shoulders in place and these are the muscles you’ll want to train.”

Source: BIT Magazine - the Netherlands

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