More stability in the saddle – as riders we are all guilty of being a little like Oliver Twist when it comes to it; we want more, please sir! This is none more true than when it comes to jumping as it is often the activity that makes us feel most unbalanced and ‘wobbly’ in the saddle.
As riders we want to be as effective as possible in the saddle. We are working towards having aids and general communication that cannot be confused or misunderstood by our horse.
One of the most rewarding results of developing better stability is that riders find their effectiveness and overall application of their aids increases dramatically. This is due to the rider being ‘quieter’, which allows the horse to distinguish better between an actual aid and a random move or shift.
An easy way to see the benefits of a stable load is to imagine having a schoolbag or backpack strapped over both shoulders; and then going for a jog. If the bag does not fit correctly, perhaps the straps are too loose or there is too much play inside the bag itself, it is going to bounce around quite a bit as you run. This is going to have a direct effect on how you run and also your balance while running. Imagine trying to jump a fence or jump with this same loose, moving backpack – pretty difficult, right? This is similar to how it feels for your horse when you are unstable or unbalanced in the saddle.
However, when it comes to riding, there is the added problem of your horse having to try to decipher between your actual aids and your ‘speed wobbles’
He is also going to become more unbalanced himself, as he struggles to keep both of you upright while working through certain movements while being ridden, regardless of if they include jumps or not. This is often very obvious through corners and transitions.
Very often when riders progress plateaus it can be traced back to the rider being less balanced in the saddle than they should. The impact of which, as mentioned, is very often muddled and conflicting aids being given to the horse.
So it goes without saying that these challenges are compounded where jumping is concerned. It is not unusual to see riders who have a somewhat secure seat when working on the flat experience a major lack of stability when fences are introduced. All balance and stability is completely undone as soon as a pole or jump is attempted.
Become familiar with your 2 point seat
One of the best ways riders can begin to develop more stability in general in the saddle is to work in a correct 2 point seat. It is difficult for many riders initially to hold and ride.
However, the 2 point seat will allow you to become very secure in the saddle, through literally standing on your own two feet. It requires a secure and correct lower leg in order for it to work; which overtime will strengthen.
The 2 point seat is also a great way to both see and feel the relationship between different parts of your body. For example, how an open chest can directly influence your backsides position in the saddle. Or how the position of your lower legs will dictate how balanced the rest of the body is while the horse moves underneath.
Your chest area will basically balance out your backside when in the 2 point seat. If you don’t have the correct ratio of balance between the two, you will lose your balance in the saddle
Your brain needs time to ‘recalibrate’ the factors needed to keep your body balanced when in the saddle. Riding in the 2 point seat helps this process to happen a little faster; and for the rider to understand the process as well.
Realising ‘Cause and Effect’ is Happening
When we are jumping we need to be in complete control of our body, so we do not feel like the loose backpack to our horse. A lot of riders make the mistake of relying on the horse for balance over the fences. They will lean on the horse’s neck or ‘hunker down’ into the saddle, which will inevitably hinder how the horse can use himself over the jump.
Of course, the added problem with using the horse for balance is if the horse stumbles, runs out or perhaps has a refusal at the fence. The rider is completely ineffective to help; and often ends up on the ground because their balancing aid – the horse – suddenly stops working!
Developing a secure lower leg is key to beginning to take responsibility for your own stability and balance when riding your horse. The 2 point seat, and the ‘burn’ that often accompanies it, is a fantastic way of working this part of your body in the saddle.
Knowing how to adapt the use and position of your lower leg when in the saddle, will directly affect what happens to the rest of your body in the saddle.
The difference between ‘secure’ and ‘fixed’
When initially beginning to work on this particular aspect of riding, many riders mistakenly try to ‘fix’ themselves in the saddle. They become rigid and stiff. This, unfortunately, will result in a marked decrease in their overall stability and balance.
You definitely don’t want your leg doing the ‘hokey pokey’ when you are riding – but fixing your leg in one place will not work either.
You need to rather focus on suppleness through your body and leg. When you are supple in the saddle, you will be able to move with your horse, all the while remaining in the best possible position for your body to make the micro adjustments needed to stabilise and balance you in the saddle.
You need to allow and move with your horse, rather than fix and bump against your horses motion
This suppleness comes from your joints; ankles, knees and hips. Working in the 2 point seat will help you notice and then begin to use your joints to stabilise your position and body in the saddle as your horse moves underneath you.
I think it is also worth mentioning at this point that your contact is important when working in the 2 point seat. Many riders seem to think that the 2 point seat is rather a jumping position on the flat. It is not!
Your contact will remain consistent with your horse throughout your 2 point seat, which will allow you to, again, effectively communicate with your horse while you ride
Once you have begun to master the 2 point seat on the flat, through walk trot and then canter, you can begin adding some ground poles to your exercises.
Becoming more secure on the flat is the key to being able to move with your horse in a balanced way, rather than relying on, your horse over fences. The ground poles will allow you to work up to some jumps later; but I strongly suggest waiting to move forward with your training when you have mastered this on the flat initially.
This podcast episode is the first in a series of 5 on the topic, available for you inside of Daily Strides Premium. The remaining 4 lessons will take you step by step through different exercises that will help you become more secure and balanced in the saddle.
Those audio programs can be downloaded onto your phone and then listened to as you ride your horse. They are filled with reminders on what to do, step by step instructions on how to do it – can have the added bonus of being replayed over and over again! You can find out more about Daily Strides Premium by visiting www.stridesforsuccess.com/join/.
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