29 Dec Riding Posture: Easy Horse Riding Posture Solutions
How to Improve Your Horseback Riding Posture
When you’re just learning to horseback ride, you’ll hear over and over again how important your posture is while in the saddle! Even as you advance in riding, this is one aspect that will always be stressed in just about every riding discipline.
How can you improve your horseback riding posture? Here are some easy exercises you can use to improve your posture as you ride:
- Play the I Spy game to practice keeping your eyes forward.
- Carry a riding crop between your elbows and across your back to practice keeping your shoulders back.
- Carry a riding crop between your thumbs to practice keeping your thumbs up.
- Stretch your thighs away from the saddle as far as you can to practice keeping your knees loose.
- Tie your stirrups to your girth using yarn to practice stabilizing your lower leg.
These exercises are great for creating muscle memory in your body to develop the correct posture as you ride! I’ve personally tried all of these exercises at some point in my riding career and have found them very effective. To learn more about each exercise, keep reading!
Horseback Riding Posture Solution #1: Eyes Forward!
One of the hardest posture aspects to stay aware of is keeping your eyes forward! It’s so easy to suddenly start looking at the ground or at your horse’s mane, or shoulders…or a jump that may be in the way! When you look down, your posture immediately suffers; your balance pitches forward and your shoulders can become hunched. It also communicates to your horse that you’re unsure; which in turn will make them feel the same.
There’s a little game I like to play to help me keep my eyes up as I ride: it’s called I Spy! The way I play is as I ride, especially with jumping, I find an object in the distance to look at and focus on. From there, I will start to describe the object out loud to someone else in the arena with me.
You can also do this as your ride down the straight side of an arena; find an object in the distance on the side of the arena you’re traveling to and start describing it. This will help you to keep your eyes forward as well as keep your ride straight.
Looking down is just one of the common riding mistakes most riders make at some point in their riding careers. To learn about other common riding mistakes, check out my article Horseback Riding Mistakes: 11 Common Mistakes to Avoid.
Horseback Riding Posture Solution #2: Shoulders Back!
The placement of your shoulders as you ride determines your balance. If you keep your shoulders back and over your hips, your balance will remain securely over your horse’s back. If you hunch your shoulders forward, your balance is now thrown over your horse’s withers. If your horse trips, you’re more likely to fall off.
To get correct shoulder posture as you ride, think about rolling your shoulders back and down. An easy exercise you can do to secure this position is to take a riding crop and thread it through your elbows so the crop rests horizontally across your back.
Not only will this exercise help you to keep your shoulders back, but it will also help you to keep your elbows bent and at your side. Lastly, it will help you to keep your hands still. While this exercise has many benefits, it can also feel a bit restricting in the beginning, so you can practice this on a lunge line until you feel more comfortable.
Horseback Riding Posture Solution #3: Thumbs Up!
The direction your thumbs are pointing as you hold the rein can determine how well you communicate with your horse. If your thumbs are turned to the side as you hold the reins, you can lose control of the steadiness of your hands, which can lead to unwanted pulling on the horse’s mouth. Believe it or not, but also pointing your thumbs correctly upward can help you keep your shoulders back and your back straight.
To practice keeping your thumbs up, take a riding crop and hold it between your thumbs and your reins. By holding the crop like this, it should cross your horse’s withers. With the crop in between your thumbs, you won’t be able to turn them to the side.
Your reins are just one aid you have when riding your horse; what are other ways you can communicate? To learn more, visit my article Horse Commands: Top Horse Training & Riding Commands.
Horseback Riding Posture Solution #4: Thigh Stretch
Gripping the saddle with your thighs and knees can make you unbalanced and unstable. If you’re pinching with your knees, you have no control of your lower leg, leaving your leg to swing at your horse’s side. Pinching with your thighs and knees does not allow you to move your hips with the horse, so if the horse were to buck or trip, you will be shot out of the saddle. Correct riding posture requires a loose thigh and knee that will enable your hips to move with the horse as well as give you control of your lower leg.
This exercise is going to make you FEEL THE BURN. Start at a standstill with your horse. As you sit in the saddle with your feet still in the stirrups, pull your thighs out and away from your horse as far as you can and hold the position. You can start by setting a realistic time goal; initially hold this stretch for 30 seconds and gradually increase from there.
This stretch is going to help you stay relaxed through your thighs and knees to where you will feel more and more comfortable with not gripping the saddle. As you get more comfortable with this exercise, you can also practice it in motion, as you walk, trot, and canter. Take time to notice how well your bottom stays in the saddle when you do this exercise.
Horseback Riding Posture Solution #5: Stable Lower Leg
Your legs play a crucial role in properly communicating with your horse. A swinging lower leg can lead to miscommunication with your horse. Apart from that, it just doesn’t look good! While a swinging lower leg is usually an effect of a pinching knee, you also have to build lower leg muscles and muscle memory to have a truly stable leg.
This exercise may be a bit ol’ school, but I find it very effective every time I use it to stabilize my lower leg. In this exercise, I tie yarn to the girth and then to my stirrups. The yarn will hold my stirrups and keep them from swinging, which will steady a swinging lower leg.
The first time you try this, you may feel the muscles of your lower leg burn! This exercise can also help to keep riders from pointing their toes too far out. If you try this exercise, just be sure to use YARN instead of baling twine or wire. Yarn will easily break if you find yourself in a bind, but twine or wire will not. SAFETY FIRST!
One way to develop better control of your seat and legs when riding is to focus on using those aids over an emphasis on using your reins. Leg and seat aids can be much more effective in communicating with your horse than reins can be. To learn about developing a better seat, visit my article 10 Tips to Improve Your Seat on a Horse: Beginner’s Guide.
I’m a lifelong horse trainer and horseback rider who’s passionate about teaching others about the things I’ve learned. I grew up competing in numerous English horseback riding disciplines and am now a certified equine massage therapist. I currently own three horses.