How to maintain balance while sitting on a horse
Keeping your balance on a horse is no more difficult than, for example, keeping your balance while walking along a curb – just in this case, you need to learn to move with the horse.
Our natural balancing reflexes will eventually allow us to adapt to the horse’s movements, which will be convenient for both the horse and rider.
Why we often can’t find the right balance while sitting on a horse.
There are several reasons why we feel uncomfortable riding at first.
Holding on with your hands is a mistake
The first and most obvious reason is to grab something with our hands when we feel that we are losing our balance. But when you are on a horse – this is highly undesirable, because here your hands are responsible for managing, and the horse has a very sensitive mouth. If you grab the reins, trying to hold on, you will cause the horse pain and inconvenience, causing psychological stress. Also, your active pulling on the reins will simply prevent the horse from moving forward. This is not an effective way to maintain balance on a horse, because the horse’s body is very flexible and not stable, and to maintain balance, you need to find a connection between your body and the horse’s body through the saddle. When you are sitting on a horse-do not lean forward, you may lose contact with the horse’s body and lose your balance.
Leaning forward is a mistake
The reaction that keeps you from finding the right position on the horse is your instinct to lean forward when you feel the horse moving under you. This is because when you feel the horse’s strength passing through the horse’s back (from front to back), you instinctively counteract this movement and shift your weight forward so that you don’t feel any deflection back. Try to relax and keep your balance in the pelvic area (forward, following the movement of the horse) with your shoulders slightly leaning back. You seem to be moving your center of balance forward, following the momentum of the horse’s body.
Leaning forward is also a natural human reflex, such as the well-known fetal position to protect ourselves when we are under threat. In the horse position , it is also a defensive position, when the rider’s shoulders are brought forward relative to the pelvis.
But the problem is that leaning forward loses our connection to the horse’s body because we shift our weight from the pelvic area, where we can best connect to the horse’s movements. Only when we become one with the horse can we be completely safe on the horse, and be in harmony with its movements.
Tilt forward even slightly from the vertical axis – the tilt of the rider’s pelvis. In this position, the pelvic bones that participate in the movement point back against the direction of the horse’s energy, which increases the load on the spine, compression of the vertebrae on impact, and possible damage to the spine. Balancing in the saddle occurs due to the correct position of the pelvis, finding it in a suspended state and the work of the muscles.
Another reason why leaning forward does not help the balance of the horse and rider is that the horse already moves about two-thirds of its weight forward (on the front legs) and this is good for the natural balance of the horse without a rider. But when the rider adds weight, the horse is forced to compensate, and the rider’s tilt forward and shifting the center of gravity even more forward only makes the situation worse.
Horses can’t do what they can’t do
The change in the horse’s balance from the seat comes from the shoulder, we balance by lifting the pelvis from the saddle and straining the muscles. When the pelvis passively falls on the saddle, it does not help the work of the horse’s hind legs, and instead moves in the opposite direction of the movement of the horse’s hind legs, not participating in the movement, but rather interfering.
Proper balancing of the rider on the horse is more important for the horse than for the rider. Otherwise, the horse will feel tension and anxiety.
Lifting the center of gravity is an error
Sitting on a horse, we lift the weight up from the saddle, and from the horse’s own center of gravity. Often this is the result of the rider’s tense state, when we do not feel balance and control in the upper part of the horse, and it is an instinctive desire to lift our weight of the horse’s back. The shoulders are strained, and the pelvis is even less connected to the horse’s back. The rider’s center of gravity is further separated from the horse’s center of gravity. In this case, you will also feel tense.
All these errors in the technique of proper mounting are the result of a lack of unity between the rider and the horse, and the rider’s deceptive feeling that he must hold on to the saddle by force in order to control the situation and maintain some balance. This approach is not productive, on the contrary, because it blocks the energy of the horse’s movement and makes the horse tense. This does not allow the rider and horse to connect correctly in the end.
The basis for a proper fit
The position of the pelvis
The most important thing you can do to start becoming a part of a horse’s movement is the correct position of the pelvis with the correct orientation in the saddle. This means that your weight is at the back of your sciatic bones, and is lifted forward and up from the saddle by the abdominal muscles. Your lower back should be stretched and elastic. However, at first you may feel unstable or unbalanced. First, because it puts a strain on the main muscles, and to maintain this position the rider must strengthen the muscles over time, consistently make an effort to subsequently sit so effortlessly. Only in this position can your body follow the cycle of the horse’s movement without resisting it, and eventually adapt to balanced riding, true gathering, and balance with the horse.
Deflect the upper body back
On your first trip, you probably won’t be able to do this because your core muscles don’t have the strength and coordination to maintain this position. It is important to keep the upper body tilted back to help yourself maintain balance by keeping the weight on the back of the sciatica. When trotting, if you gradually lean back, you will feel at some point the correct angle of inclination, which you will maintain later. After your muscles get stronger, you can gradually take a more vertical position without losing balance in the pelvic area.
Hold on to the horse with your hips
The hip joint is probably the most important joint in the rider’s body, because it acts as a hinge between the rider’s legs and upper body. To create a balanced position on the horse that does not depend on the reins, the rider must use the work of the joints in full.
The problem is that our thighs very often lack elasticity and our lifestyle is largely to blame for this, TK. how we spend a lot of time sitting on our hip joints in a closed position and immobility leading to joint stiffness. Some of us have more stiffness in our hip joints than others, but all riders must develop a stretch in this joint.
What happens when our thighs don’t have elasticity when we ride. We try to keep the balance with the shankels, the upper part of the body stretches forward, which leads to problems. In the same way, when the rider tries to shift the upper part of the body back, without having elasticity in the hips – his legs are stretched forward as when sitting on a chair. The position of the pelvis also depends on the position of the hip joint and the rider must make a lot of effort to reach the correct position of the pelvis and legs. Any rider can achieve flexibility in the hips if they know how to train correctly and consistently and do not spare any effort.
The displacement of the center of gravity
The rider should always strive to give up his center of gravity in favor of the horse, so that the Union of the two body masses is achieved. Only when the rider can fully adapt to the movement of the horse, you can start training to develop the correct balance when riding a horse.
Quite often when training dressage, there is a misconception that the rider should try to get up in the saddle to help the horse lift its back without overloading it. This is a misunderstanding, because a horse is much more comfortable with a rider who has completely become part of its movement than carrying someone who is trying to hover over it.
There is no secret here and the rider can physically become lighter sitting on the horse, but by harmonizing with its movement and creating a single overall mass, when the negative effect of the rider’s weight is removed. To do this, the rider must give up their weight completely and direct the center of gravity down on the saddle, while keeping the neck, shoulders, and lower back relaxed.
The fact is that the front part of the rider’s pelvis is fixed by the muscles of the press in combination with the tension of the hips, while the weight of the rider passes into the saddle not as a dead weight, but as the glue that binds the rider to the horse.
We sit in the center
Both horses and people have a natural asymmetry, which means that when we sit on a horse, we almost always slightly curve to one side or the other. In fact, as a rule, the saddle is displaced in relation to the horse’s spine, and you can sit on another part of the saddle to compensate for this.
There are several things that help align this asymmetry:
Horse curvature – all horses have one side that is naturally convex and the other that is concave. The rider tends to move to the concave side
The curvature of the rider – we all have one side of our body that is more down, we take this into account when sitting on the back of a horse