Horse Riding Exercises to Improve BalanceMar 23, 2023
The one thing I find horse riders need to focus on more is their balance while riding their horse. If they are not balanced then their horse riding position is negatively effected causing them to have a number of undesirable effects on not only the progress of their improvement but also on their horses physical and mental health.
If your horse riding position is unbalanced, you will inadvertently unbalance your horse. Now as horses are generally very giving creatures they will do their best to carry their unbalanced rider. If the horse rider's balance isn't corrected then the horse can develop uneven muscle and in worst case scenarios become unsound.
Young, green or out of work horses can be far less forgiving and can become frightened or confused by having a horse rider on board who isn't balanced. I have seen this many times over the years with professionally broken in horses returning to low level and inexperienced riders.
So how do I coach my clients to become more balanced? Well, for starters I focus on their horse riding position. I'm looking for an even weight through their seat and no twists or tilts in their pelvis. You would be surprised at how many equestrians are crooked through their hips. If they're crooked through their hips they apply un uneven pressure to the horses back through their seat bones which continues through their leg position.
If a horse rider has a twisted pelvis they will often sit with one leg more forward than the other, turn their toes out on one or both feet and collapse through one shoulder causing them to be a little lopsided.
Now I've probably painted a picture of an obviously crooked, somewhat deformed looking horse rider but that's not always the case. Yes, sometimes it is very easy to see the crookedness in a horse riders position but sometimes it is extremely subtle. However, even the most subtle unevenness in the pressure the horse rider applies through their seat can be enough to cause their horse to travel in a crooked way and struggle to train classically as its being asked to.
The other common result in an unbalanced horse riding position is when riders grip with their thighs. If they're unbalanced through their seat then they tend to hold themselves on via their thighs. This action actually blocks the horse from being able to go forwards. Next time you see a rider constantly kicking or using their spurs to achieve a more forward pace, look to see if they are squeezing with their thigh. They are usually gripping with their knee too! Once the rider relaxes their thigh and balances on their seat bones the horse will nearly always be more willing to go forwards.
What type of horse riding exercises improve balance? Well, the number one most effective and universal method is to ride your horse without stirrups. This is something you only want to train if it is safe to do so. By "safe" I mean your horse isn't going to be offended by you bouncing around until you find your balance. If your horse is going to be offended then locate a reputable riding school and book yourself into a series of lunge lessons so you can focus purely on correcting your position on a more forgiving horse who is used to teaching people how to ride.
IF you have a quiet horse then I suggest you ride your own horse without stirrups so you develop the feel and balance required for your own horse.
Other exercises involve putting your hands straight out to your side so your arms are in-line with your shoulders. Or stretching your arms up above your head to the sky. Both of these exercises help to straighten your torso out.
There are many other techniques and methods for horse riders to improve their balance. They range from the time tested methods above, to using gadgets such as Physio bands which use resistance training to even the riders use of aids, keep hands still and strengthen weaker parts of their body. There are also balls of various shapes and sizes that can be placed under the horse riders seat, thigh or in their hands to cause them to use certain areas of their body more effectively.
Some horse riding exercises for flatwork also help correct a horse riders position and improve their balance. There are many exercises for horse riders at home in which they can safely practice to improve their balance and position. Training a simple low level dressage test will soon highlight where your strengths and weaknesses are with your balance and position. I use a lot of pole work to help my horse riders correct their position and use their aids appropriately.
I would still promote riding without stirrups and reins, on a quiet horse in a controlled environment to be the best horse riding exercises for beginners in order to improve and establish their horse riding position.
I have now coached thousands of horse riders through clinics using pole patterns to not only provide a cross-training exercise for horses, but to also cause horse riders to improve their balance and horse riding position in each class. From this experience I have developed a six week training system that has proven to be very effective in creating more balanced, confident and connected horse riders. The challenge consists of daily training routines that vary with flat work, poles patterns, hack out days and dressage tests. This challenge has already proven to be exceptionally effective in correcting horse riders position and balance.
My AML Six Week Rider Balance Challenge is available for download via my website. Here is the link if you want to know more - AML Six Week Rider Balance Challenge
Another important point to be aware of in relation to improving your horse riding position is what your normal posture is like when off the horse. If you have a great posture off the horse while you're walking and sitting in every day life, then a good position on your horse is going to be easier to maintain. If you walk around with slumped shoulders, collapsing through your lower back or one shoulder then it will be harder for you to sit up straight in a way that allows you to have the most balanced horse riding position.
I hope this post has helped you think of ways you can improve your balance as a horse rider and if you want a little more extra help to be able to train from home with a coach in your ear, click the link to my AML Six Week Rider Balance Challenge and see what it's all about.
If you want an easy to follow, day by day road map to improving your horse riding position.. hit the link and find out how!
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