Breaking the Habit of Poor Posture in Your Riding

Breaking the Habit of Poor Posture in Your Riding

Breaking the Habit of Poor Posture in Your Riding

Whether you realize it or not, incorrect or bad posture is hurting your riding. And your horse’s way of going. And this habit will usually continue unchecked for sometimes years.  I don’t believe that riders ever initially set out to ride in a way that will negatively impact things. Usually what happens is that riding a certain way either produces a certain outcome or solves a particular challenge at some point… And then turns into a habit!

But, what happens if you get stuck there?  Stuck with thinking the thoughts that cause you to use or carry your body a certain way…  Usually never good things!

There are lots of reasons why you might have developed less than great posture when in the saddle.  Luckily, there are also lots of ways you can begin to both identify what’s going on – and how to begin remedying it in your riding.

Symptoms of Poor Posture in Riding

If you have started to ‘slip’ a little where posture is concerned in your riding, there will be signs!  Definite and obvious signs.  This is good because when you know what to look for, it makes it easier to begin to make those small tweaks that can make all the difference for you and your horse.

Lack of Balance in the Saddle:

It stands to reason that if you are struggling to carry yourself in the saddle, your balance will be affected.  You may feel yourself tipping or tilting.  This can be to the front, so tipping forward… Or it can be tipping backward, which then feels like you are being left behind.  You may also notice this around bends, corners, or circles as a sideways tilt or collapse.

Whatever way you are tipping or tilting, you will also most likely notice that your horse will struggle with this as well.  Your lack of balance can really negatively impact your horses own balance. 

He may speed up (especially through transitions or bends/corners).  Or he may slow down.  He can also fall in or fall out to try and compensate for your tilting to the side.  Finally, if you are regularly tilting back, he may being to hollow through his back to avoid any associated discomfort…

Tension and Stiffness

Poor posture will inevitably create issues with tension, and maybe stiffness in certain areas of your body.  And of course, your horse’s body if allowed to go uncorrected for any length of time. Many riders notice this in their shoulders, lower back, or hips.  However, this can also show up across your chest, your elbows, knees, and even calves.

Last week I spoke about ‘opening up’ and practicing expansion as a rider.  This can really be helpful for this, especially if you focus on your posture as well. And, keep in mind that incorrect tension can go both ways; excessive tension OR a lack of tension… Both can lead to poor posture in your riding and block or prevent your horse from moving and working forward.

Closed Down or Shut Down Position

Otherwise known as the hamster effect we least expect…! This is the reason I actually wanted to really address this topic today; too many riders are resembling hamsters while in the saddle! So what do I mean by this?   Well, if you are crumpled, contracted, hunched over, closing your shoulders and chest, riding with your hands touching each other, gripping with your knees, and overall ‘rolled up’, you are riding like a hamster!

Often this starts as a defense mechanism – although it only makes things worse, so it’s incredibly ineffective!  Maybe there was a time when you felt fear or anxiety when riding.

The natural thing to do is ‘play small’, roll into a ball, and wait it out.  Except, when we are riding, this is ineffective – and often downright dangerous.  Again, I am going to point you to last week’s episode on Opening Up and Practicing Expansion in the Saddle.

Ineffective Aids and Communication

If poor posture is something you’ve been struggling with, you are also most likely having communication issues with your horse.  Responsiveness, or the lack thereof, is something that is most likely showing up.  Coupled with your horse understanding your aids. Unfortunately, this often then increases the initial problem of poor posture and tension issues as the rider ‘doubles down’ on ‘making’ their horse do whatever it is they are trying to communicate… Frustration can run high; for both horse and rider… Not an ideal situation.

Back and Muscle Discomfort

Did you realize that your lack of posture can actually be contributing to muscle fatigue in your riding?  When you are not setting your body up to use itself in the best way, it gets tired – very quickly!  And then continual poor posture can even result in back pain or injuries over time. This will 100% take away from how much you enjoy your time in the saddle – and can even cause you to eventually stop riding!

Unable to Effectively Use Your Core

We all know how important your core is when it comes to riding.  It really does impact EVERYTHING.  Good and correct posture requires core strength and engagement. And, without this, you will find it difficult to be independent through your seat and aids.  This can lead to confusion between you and your horse – and can actually set you up for a fall or an accident in the long run.

Improving Your Poor Posture

Okay, so there are so many ways this can show up and none of them are beneficial when it comes to improving your skills as a rider or training and developing your horse. So, let’s work on actually improving your posture in the saddle.  Investing time here will both enhance your riding experience and help you more effectively train your horse.

Body Awareness

Again, we chatted about this last week HERE.  When you begin to become more aware of your body’s alignment and position while riding, you will begin to feel and notice when things are not ‘right’. This is also where practicing exercises off the horse can help.  Especially those that promote body awareness, such as yoga or Pilates.  And they have the added bonus of strengthening your core muscles and improving your flexibility.

The 100% FREE 2024 Equestrian Fitness Challenge will help you with this.  This year’s challenge includes a daily yoga practice from Emma-Jane Leeson (yep, my sister), a qualified yoga teacher.  And an equestrian just like you :) Make sure you get signed up for the 2024 Equestrian Fitness Challenge HERE

Riding Lessons with Focus on Posture

Get help when you need it most by investing in lessons with a proven instructor or trainer who can assess your posture and provide corrective feedback. I realize that this can be a challenge for many riders, especially when time/schedules and location are an issue.  If this is the case, think about video reviews or live virtual online lessons.  Both of these are available for riders inside of Connection; My Online Membership for Equestrians.

Regular riding lessons with a focus on proper alignment in the moment and balance can significantly improve your posture over time.

Using Mirrors or Video

I know, in an ideal world, we would all have mirrors strategically placed around the arena.  If you do have, make use of them by paying attention to your posture and alignment.  If you don’t; use video.  You can either invest in something like a PIVO – use THIS LINK to get $20 off your purchase (this is an affiliate link and we will receive a commission on your purchase but it won’t affect how much you pay).

Being able to watch back over your work will allow you to begin to see where things are falling out of alignment, and where you can make improvements. 

Of course, you can also use the PIVO (affiliate link) to have virtual lessons in real-time online with a coach or trainer (again, this is part of the Connection Membership with me)

Increasing Fitness & Stamina

Do you walk? Walking is one of the easiest and most effective ways of moving your body and improving your overall well-being and fitness.  I LOVE walking.  Whether it’s on the road, on the trail, hiking, or just out to the fields to collect or turn out the horses. It helps to keep my body toned, and move my hips, and it is hands down amazing for my mental health and well-being.

If you would like to walk a little more and see where it takes you and your riding; the 2024 Equestrian Fitness Challenge is ALL about walking.  Join me for 21 days as we take a daily walk together and chat about all things riding and training horses related :) It’s 100% free and it has the potential to transform your riding. CLICK HERE
to sign up


Mindfulness & Connection Techniques

Recently, I ran an in-person program on my farm here in South Africa all about connection and energy techniques on the ground with your horse.  The results were amazing.  The difference then in the rider’s and horses’ performance when being ridden afterward was mindblowing.

Just a simple practice of grounding before working with your horse can be transformational for both of you.  Couple this with the power of intention…

I have packaged up this full program into a short email course that you can use with your horse.  The Connection Partnership Program Mini-Course lays out all of the techniques in step-by-step audio episodes.  And all delivered via your email.  You can get more details HERE

Improving Your Poor Posture

Phew, that was a lot.  I would love for you to take just one of these resources this week and begin working on it to help change any habits you may have in the saddle.  Remember, improving your overall posture and alignment in the saddle will not only help you but also have a positive impact on your horse as well.

And, over time, improving your posture will result in better communication, clearer aids, and increased understanding between you and your horse when working together.

Happy Riding

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