A horse is only as balanced and disciplined as its rider. Anyone who has spent a significant chunk of time in the saddle learns to be very aware of their body. Often, we know the little quirks we need to fix – sit up taller, put your heels down, look up – but turning those improvements into muscle memory can be challenging. Here are six fun and interesting tips to help you create good riding habits. Comment below with any of your own!
1. Stick loonies under your thumb
It’s good to ride with a soft hand, but your thumb needs to hold the reins securely so they don’t slip through your fingers. Stick loonies between your thumb and the rein. Concentrating on holding the coins in place will teach you to pinch the reins tightly between your thumb and the knuckle of your forefinger.
If you brace on the reins or use them for balance, try this simple change: carry your reins like you’re driving a team of horses (see example to the right). This will immediately soften your wrists and forearm, making it impossible to brace on the reins. Eventually your muscles will make a habit of riding with a soft, elastic contact and your horse will thank you!
3. Hold newspapers under your arms
Holding arms your close to your body helps keep your elbows and wrists soft, so your hands can gently follow the movement of the horse’s head. If your horse doesn’t like to accept contact on the bit, check your elbows. If they’re sticking out like a chicken, they’re locked up and your horse can’t relax on the bit. Place rolled up newspapers under your arms and concentrate on holding them in place. It will help you form a habit of keeping your elbows close to your body.
4. Post with just one stirrup
If your saddle always slips to one side, you’re probably riding with more weight in that stirrup. Most people have one leg that’s stronger than the other. Mine is my right leg. When I post, I push off my right leg more than left. After about 15 minutes, I’ll notice my saddle sliding to the right. If you’re like me, here’s a simple fix. During your warm up, drop the stirrup on your strong leg and post the trot using only your weak leg. It’s pretty challenging at first – the stirrup under your weak leg will feel like its swinging all over the place. But after a few sessions, your leg will get stronger. Soon, you’ll be more balanced in both stirrups and your saddle with stop sliding.
5. Stick a towel under your butt cheek
If you tend to lean or collapse your body to one side, here’s a quick and easy trick to help you level out. Fold a dish cloth into a small square and stick it under your butt cheek on the side you lean into. That will teach you what a level pelvis feels like, and it will also lift your weight back into the centre of the saddle.
If you bounce all over the place at a sitting trot, you’re holding tension in your hips. Interestingly enough, the only way to sit still on your horse is to move! Swallow your pride and thrust those hips like you’re Beyoncé. Your hips should swing up with the up movement of the trot, and down with down beats. Concentrate on following the motion of the horse and pushing your pelvis into the the deepest part of your saddle. Trust me – you won’t look as silly as you feel.