I have just got back in the saddle again after a good 10 years on the ground. After buying my horse I had a Society of Master Saddlers’ Registered Qualified Saddle Fitter out to check and fit a second-hand saddle but is there anything I can do to help improve my riding technique in the saddle?
The Society of Master Saddlers replies:
As riders, we are always looking to improve our technique and performance in the saddle. However, it is all too easy to develop bad postural habits which affect our position in the saddle. We have carried out a number of research projects to establish if physiotherapy can positively affect rider asymmetry and balance in the saddle.
It is quite common to see riders who are crooked, riding over to one side or gripping up with their knee more on one side than the other, and not even know it. These small misalignments can have a significant effect on how your horse moves and can cause him to become crooked too.
During our research half of our sample riders were selected randomly and given simple exercises to do by a physiotherapist to help correct their imbalances.
We found that those riders who received exercises significantly improved their postural stability by reducing sideways movement. The control group, who did not do any exercises, did not improve their stability measure.
At all four points of the biomechanics testing it was noted that those who had taken part in the exercises were sitting up straighter in the saddle.
The riders who exercised were significantly more symmetrical showing pressure readings that were much more even on both sides when tested again.
From carrying out the research we found that improving your core strength allows other muscles to work more efficiently, reducing fatigue, helping prevent injury and improving technique.
Improving your overall fitness and suppleness is very important; it is not all about strength. A strong pelvis helps riders to absorb the forces of their horse’s movement without losing control of their arms and legs.
Try some hip and knee exercises, such as squats, with resistance bands to help strengthen the legs and pelvic area.
Upper body exercises such as ‘upper body’ press ups can help stretch and strengthen the lower back and core muscles which can help you sit straight and balanced in the saddle.
Exercising two to three times a week can help significantly improve your posture in the saddle and hopefully help improve your riding too.
Most importantly you need to make sure you are exercising correctly and not encouraging a bad posture. If in doubt make an appointment with a physiotherapist for a personalised exercise programme.
For more information on research carried out by the Society of Master Saddlers visit www.mastersaddlers.co.uk