What does “I want to sit better” mean?
I ask my clients and class members often what their riding goal is and very often the answer is “I want to sit better on my horse”.
What does that even mean? Sit better how?
Do you want to have better alignment –be sat up straight as the phrase goes?
Or do you want to feel more stable in your seat, move around less in the saddle?
Maybe it’s both, maybe they are both the same thing. Answers on a postcard……
Firstly, what is the ideal riding position?
Well it is often described as being in a neutral spine, thighs at about a 45⁰ angle, heel parallel or lower with the vision of a straight line from the ear, shoulder, hip and heel. The elbows should be slightly forward, bent but relaxed.
There should be equal weight and muscle tone through the body front to back and left to right.
Ok got it, now get into that position and maintain it whilst on a moving animal……..
So, how do we first achieve this position and secondly how do we maintain it?
In order to achieve it we must have adequate flexibility and movement in our spine, hips and ankles and to maintain it we must have stability throughout all of our joints but most notably our spine, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles.
Flexibility and mobility are the foundations of our basic movement patterns however in order to do these patterns well we need the stability to support the structures as we move.
I think most people are aware of what flexibility and mobility are. It is our range of motion at muscles and joints.
However what is stability? It is certainly not stiff, restricted movement.
There are several variations of the meaning of stability. The most relevant are.
- The strength to stand or endure
- The property of a body that causes it when disturbed of equilibrium or steady motion to develop forces or movements that restore the original condition
- Movement specialist Gray Cook describes stability as “The ability to demonstrate our flexibility under load.”
I think all of these are relevant when riding. Obviously riders need the strength to endure the force of the horse beneath them and they also need to be able to maintain their equilibrium (position/alignment) under constant disturbance. The Gray Cook definition I think can often be misunderstood. As flexibility does not necessarily mean doing the splits. The very act of sitting on a horse in neutral spine requires flexibility in the hips and spine. The ability to maintain this whilst enduring the force underneath from the horse is stability. You may have incredibly flexible hips on the ground but once on a horse they feel tense, tight or wobbly-this is lack of stability not lack of flexibility.
So, back to my original point. You say you want to sit better. I say you need to look at first your flexibility and then secondly your stability.
You must first have the flexibility to achieve the alignment and then once achieved the stability to maintain it on a horse.
Tune in next week when we look at some self assessment flexibility tests.
Just 4 spaces left for 1 2 1 training at the Studio so get in touch if you want some help to achieve your goals this year.