By Jenny Richardson BHSAI
As a rider, your posture when riding is vital. The ability to hold an upright and balanced rider posture at all times is critical for control and influence over the horse. It also sums up the difference between being a rider and simply someone who is along for the ride!
Why is posture important?
Firstly, when you get on your horse you have immediately lost all sense of gravity and support. The stability of the ground has gone and now you are at the mercy of your horse’s movement. Your horse also weighs around ten times more than you so complete body control is imperative.
The smallest shift in the rider’s centre of gravity may result in a loss of proper alignment and will compromise the rider’s control of the horse.
Take the sport dressage for example; here, it is essential for the rider to allow the horse its own self carriage. To gain influence over your horse, a strong and correct posture is key; this helps to maintain the core strength that is needed to control your horse and communicate cues to the horse.
Modern life conspires against good posture
Ideally, you should maintain good proper posture at all times. In an ideal world, if your posture is correct when you are sitting at your desk, out walking or during everyday activities, you wouldn’t have to constantly think about your posture when riding – you could concentrate solely on your discipline.
However, maintaining a good posture for non-professionals riders can be hard, because it isn’t enforced into our ‘normal’ jobs, or everyday lives. Modern life conspires against good posture! Riding is all about symmetry, so unless you are a truly gifted ambidextrous person, you will have a left or right sided strength, which will mean you will naturally lean to one side when riding.
To function efficiently, your skeletal structure needs to be aligned vertically; when you are standing, your ears should be over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, and your hips over your knees and ankles. When any body part falls out of this vertical line, other muscles will try to pick up the slack and therefore feel unnecessary strain. This is such a common problem for many of us!
Assessing weak postural areas
Yoga is a great discipline to take up if you want to develop good core strength and a flexible back and pelvis. The Yoga Journal provides a simple technique to assess your weak postural areas, as follows:
You can assess your spinal curves by standing against a door frame. When you stand with your heels very near the frame, you should have contact at your sacrum (the upside-down triangular-shape bone a few inches above your tailbone), the middle and upper back (thoracic spine), and the back of your head. With normal spinal curves, your lower back and neck won’t touch—there should be about an inch of space between the door frame and the vertebrae of your lower back.
A lesson on a mechanical horse would be an ideal way to assess your mobility and any weak postural areas – they are also lots of fun! I recommend that clients with weak postural areas try to do regular, targeted exercise at home or at a class to help improve their riding posture, and work with their riding instructor to improve balance and strength.
Why not consider a riding break at Ireland’s Castle Leslie Estate, where Jenny Richardson BHSAI is Equestrian Centre Business Manager? This venue offers luxurious training breaks, including horse simulator lessons, in the heart of Ireland. Visit www.castleleslie.com