There is so much to think about when we are riding that focusing on our own alignment can be really difficult. Also, we can’t see what we look like so what we think is happening is not always the case.
The basic principle of alignment is that the shoulder, hip and heel should be in line.
That is the bony middle point of your shoulder, the side of your hip bone and roughly the back of your ankle bone.
It is often said that you should ask if you would land on your feet if someone took the horse out from under you? I reckon the shock of my horse disappearing would make me fall over-he he!
How this looks in principle will actually look different on everyone as we are made up of different lengths of torso, legs etc. but the points should still match up.
So why do we sit in this alignment?
The answer is balance and security. If your legs are too far forward you are more likely to be leaning back and therefore behind the horses movement; if you are leaning forward with your leg back if your horse suddenly slams the brakes on well………..There are also many variants in between also and in some way they will either be unbalancing your horse or putting you in a vulnerable position-y’know more vulnerable than being sat on half a ton of muscle with a mind of its own!
So, if we are sat with our shoulder, hip and heel aligned we are more likely to be sat centrally in the saddle with equal weight on the seat bones.
Obviously this is not actually always the case as our bodies can make all sorts of compensations to make it look or feel like we are doing all of this but in reality we are not.
A great way to practice and get the feel of what is correct is obviously to be videod whilst riding, being told when your alignment is correct and giving feedback on your seat bones. Sometimes what feels all wrong to you is actually correct! You have to embrace the wrong!
Aside from doing this on your horse I often use a gym ball to teach riders to feel what balance is in their seat.
Sitting astride a gym ball lift your feet up. Firstly this should give you an idea of shoulder, hip heel alignment (roughly as if you have particularly long legs you may have to bend them quite a bit to achieve this!)
Once your feet are lifted-firstly can you stay upright on the ball?
Is it rolling one way or the other?
Maybe you are staying on but it’s quite hard work to stay still?
This when you start to experiment with your body, moving your pelvis, maybe your waist or your shoulders to find that point where you are sat astride, feet lifted and fairly relaxed with the ball pretty much still.
The front and the back of your body need to be the same length which will maintain your neutral spine, once you have got this you need to have just enough muscle contraction to hold it but not so much that you are tense and bracing. If you can start to move the ball around underneath you but still return to neutral without putting a foot down you’ve cracked it-think horse spooks and you regain control!
I know this can be tough-trust me I’ve spent hours! But it’s a really great way to play around with your seat at home and you can hold onto things for balance, do it in front of a mirror whatever you need to get some improvement and you can then build on it from there. Practice makes perfect!
Here’s a little video of me taking you through this.
Don’t forget it’s less than a fortnight until our Bootcamp starts at Warren Farm Formby, places are limited so to secure yours click here. www.equestrianfitness.co.uk/upcomingevents