Animal Care

Sit in The Saddle Correctly

Your security and your control of the horse depend greatly on having a “good seat” while sitting in the saddle. Horseback riding is a lot like good posture and position are essential. Position your hands, body, and legs while horseback riding.

Time Required: Plan to spend at least 30 minutes working on the correct position of your body, hands, and legs.

What You Need

  • An riding helmet, and safe boots or safety cages on the stirrups.
  • Your horse, saddled and bridled.
  • Someone to hold your horse while you get the feel of things.
  • A safe spot in an arena or riding ring where you can concentrate.
  • Nice to have: a mirror or video camera so you can see what you look like.
  • A coach to correct you when you get out of position.

Here’s How

  1. Start Safe: Have someone hold the horse so that you can concentrate on getting the correct position once you have mounted and are sitting in the saddle.
  2. Find Your Balance: Sit squarely, with your seat bones comfortably in the middle of the saddle seat and your legs hanging loose on each side. Make sure you are not slouched to one side and are feeling relaxed.
  3. A Foot in Each Stirrup: Lift up your feet and slide them into the stirrups. You can do this one at a time or at the same time if you are feeling balanced and co-coordinated. Your feet should lightly rest in the stirrups with the widest part of your foot. Your heels should be angled, but not pressed down. As you take lessons, “heels down” is something you`ll hear a lot of from your instructor.
  4. Check Your Position: Look down and check that you cannot see your toe or your heel. Your feet in the stirrups should be pointing in the same direction as your knee is lying, but not excessively gripping the knee roll of the saddle. Don’t let your ankles cave in, or swivel so your toes are pointing in.
  5. Holding the Reins: Pick up the reins, one in each hand, or if Western riding, with both reins in one hand while the other rests along your thigh. The rein end that is attached to the horse’s bit should be coming out under your little finger, with the buckle or loose end coming out past your thumb and forefinger.
  6. Fingertip Control: Hold your hands at about a 30-degree angle to the ground with your fingers closed around the rein in a relaxed fist. Holding your hand upright or too flat decreases your flexibility and strength. Some people hold the reins between the baby and ring fingers—either way is okay.
  7. Perfect Posture: Sit tall and relaxed with your shoulders back. Don’t stiffen your back and try not to slouch—bad posture is as much a problem when riding as when walking or running.
  8. Sit Tall in the Saddle: Look up and past your horse’s ears. Looking down stiffens the spine and causes your horse to feel like he is carrying a heavier load.
  9. Practice Makes Perfect: Smile, breathe and be patient as your body uses new muscles and develops awareness. Practice does make perfect, so expect to correct yourself frequently as you ride until your ‘perfect seat’ becomes perfectly natural.

Tips

  1. Don’t jam your feet too far into the stirrup. You should be able to take your feet out without too much struggle.
  2. Ideally, the angle made by your shin and thigh bone should be no more than 100 degrees and no less than 90 degrees.
  3. If you are nervous or tense don’t forget to breathe. Your horse will pick up any tension and be less likely to want to stand while you practice getting your position.
  4. As you hold the reins your arms will be hanging relaxed at your sides, your elbows close to, but not touching your body, and your hands slightly below your navel. Ideally, your thumbs will be about six or seven inches apart.
  5. A string attached to your earlobe would fall down the middle of your shoulder, hip, and heel. The red line on the photo shows the alignment.

Before Sit Professional

As challenging as posting the trot may be, many riders find sitting the trot even more difficult. We are discussing some tips to help you learn to maintain a secure seat at the trot.

Sitting the trot is a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time. You have to relax your leg muscles so that your grip is not pushing your seat out of the saddle while using your abdominal and back muscles to absorb the motion and to follow it. Bareback and no stirrup lessons will help you get the sitting trot faster.

Lunge Line Training

It helps to start on a lunge line so you don’t have to worry about your horse and can concentrate on your position. Remove the stirrups and leathers as crossing them over the pommel usually leaves an uncomfortable lump under your thigh. Removing the stirrups helps you deepen the seat and improve your balance. Alternatively, try lengthening your stirrups a hole or two to help relax your legs.

Stretching

You want to be sitting as deeply as possible, so do some stretching exercises before you mount—particularly a sideways lunge, where you start with feet apart and slowly transfer most of your weight to one foot, bending the knee and stretching with the other leg straight. You should feel your inner thigh muscles protest a bit. After enough repetitions, you should also feel as if your pelvis has spread a bit wider.

Mounting

Once mounting, place your palms on the pommel and push yourself up out of the saddle, at the same spreading your legs in a wide “V.” Lower your seat back into the saddle with your legs still stretched and feel the difference in your seat.

Next grasp the pommel (or a strap running through the D rings if that’s more comfortable) and pull yourself even further down and forward into the saddle. Now you’re ready to sit the trot.

Riding

At first aim for only a few strides before repositioning yourself. Gradually add more strides, but always stop with the first bounce and regroup. This will be easier on both you and the horse. Stop as soon as you feel yourself starting to bounce. Once you begin to bump with every stride your horse’s back will stiffen in defense and the bouncing just gets worse.

At first, you just need to completely relax, like a wet noodle, and learn to follow the horse’s motion. Relax your back, seat, legs, shoulders, and arms. If you start to bounce, relax, breathe, let your muscles relax, and follow. Resist the temptation to tighten up. Be conscious of when you are tightening your knees and thighs and don’t turn your toe out.

Instructors recommend leaning back as far as you can comfortably, keeping your shoulders open. Dangle your legs until you find your seat and rhythm. Sit back up once you get it.

Think of reverse posting. Drive your seat down into the horse on every beat instead of rising up. Try to really feel your horse’s stride and push down and forward into the saddle with each stride. This will help you get the feel of the rhythm.

Horse Selection

If you can borrow a horse that works through his back at the trot, so that the motion is more longitudinal than up and down, you’ll find your “Eureka” moment will come much earlier and more easily.

President

The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
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