Good posture is essential to good riding. The way you sit in the saddle has a direct impact on your balance, your ability to communicate effectively with your horse and ultimately your potential to influence its movements. Improving your posture is key to improving your performance as a rider. Fortunately, you can improve your horseback riding posture through several simple, unmounted exercises.
Recruit core, posture-stabilizing muscles to strengthen your abs and back, develop greater flexibility and enhance alignment and balance, leading to better balance in the saddle. Position yourself on all-fours on the floor with your shoulders lined up over your hands and your hips directly over your knees. Keep a neutral curve in your spine, avoid sagging, and position your head so that your neck remains in line with the rest of your spine. Raise your right hand and left knee from the floor simultaneously and aim to stretch and straighten both your arm and leg to form a straight line with your back. Try to hold this position for 10 seconds, but don’t be disheartened if you begin to wobble. Return to the starting position and then repeat the exercise using your left arm and right leg.
Lie face-down on the floor and bring your arms under your chest to prop your upper body on your elbows and forearms. Keep toes turned under as you raise the rest of your body to create a plank effect from heels to the crown of your head. This exercise requires considerable control, so you'll need to practice regularly to master it. Begin by holding plank posture for short periods until you can progress to 60 continuous seconds or longer. U.S. Endurance Team Coach and sport physiologist Daniel Stewart points out that "...unmounted exercises improve mounted performance by helping to develop the strength, stamina and suppleness of the muscles used while riding."
Lisa Champion, author of "Riding From the Inside Out," notes that "A well-supported core on the horse holds the body still ... leading to that look of softness and stillness that is so apparent in naturally gifted riders." Stand with your feet placed hip-width apart and keep a slight bend in your knees. Position your arms by your sides and focus on upright posture -- avoid tilting forward or backward. Hold a small dumbbell or weight in your right hand and lean over to your right, allowing the weight to move lower down your leg until you feel a stretch in the muscles on the left side of your body. Hold the stretch for three seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat the exercise eight times before switching sides. Increase the challenge by standing on a wobble board.
- "Ride Right"; Daniel Stewart; 2004
- "Riding From the Inside Out"; Lisa Champion; 2003