Becoming a more balanced and secure rider starts with your seat.
You may know that feeling of holding on too tight, feeling a bit nervous and unstable when you ride? Riding with the handbrake constantly on, or sometimes struggling to give your horse some free rein? 🐴
It’s quite natural for us to want to hang on to the contact if we are feeling nervous or insecure in the saddle – and although the intention is well meaning - we are trying to keep ourselves safe and our horse under control – but we are actually doing the exact opposite of keeping ourselves secure and balanced in the saddle.
Why? Because when we are holding on to too much contact we are not sitting sufficiently deep in the saddle. We are unconsciously tipping ourselves forward, curling slightly into a more fetal position, where we are being pulled off our seat bones and our centre of balance.
We are also unwittingly transferring the bulk of our weight plus some of the horse’s weight (via the contact) into our shoulders and upper torso, meaning our centre-mass is perched precariously on top of the horse (a bit like a slingshot about to be fired). This makes us harder for the horse to carry – AND we also make ourselves considerably more unstable in the saddle – and perpetuating our feeling of insecurity and need to hold on tight – it becomes a viscous cycle!
Instead when you hop on the horse take a moment to really sit down deep into the saddle, where you can feel that your weight is balanced evenly on your seat bones. To do this well, imagine your lower body from your last rib down FLOWING a bit like a waterfall down so your lower limbs mould around the horse.
Stretch your lower legs down towards the ground (toes in stirrups). This will result in your shoulders coming back into the correct alignment (your lower legs and shoulders are a counter weight to each other and if you rock your shoulders forward your legs will have to tip backwards towards the horses flanks to counter balance this weight adjustment and vice versa). Direct your weight into your seat and legs. This becomes your stability anchor and your shock absorber in the saddle and give you that beautiful, connected and stable position. ✨
Now that you are more secure in the saddle, and much easier for your horse to carry, you can hold a softer contact without pulling or balancing on the horse’s mouth. Think, take the handbrake off, while still holding the steering wheel. This will allow the horse to be significantly more relaxed and content, while also making your aids more clear and understandable to the horse.
Adopting this new position in the saddle will have the added benefit of helping you to feel more confident and in control in the saddle (trust me, it works!) – as soon as we take ourselves out of the ‘fetal position’ and adopt the physiology of a confident rider, our brain is tricked into becoming a more confident, connected and centred rider, and so it is. Magic!
Try it – I’m sure like mine, your horse will thank you! 🍏
Let me know how you go!
Happy relaxed riding,
Hello, I'm Stef Winwood, and I love to help riders regain their riding confidence and ditch fear and nerves in the saddle, for good!As a rider, breeder, coach and ex 'nervous nelly' myself,I know how debilitating and frustrating fear and nerves can be, especially when they are robbing us of enjoying our pride and joy - our magnificent horses!