Monday, November 30, 2009

Being Balanced in the Saddle While You Ride

I have some students who are new to riding and one of the things that all riders, especially beginners, need to learn is to get balanced in the saddle. It's often referred to as 'developing your seat'. And as a coach that can be hard to describe in just words sometimes without having other perspectives to explain this ideal position.

Being balanced when you ride means that you are not interfering with the horse but rather in rhythm with the horse. It also helps to communicate better with your horse. It greatly increases your enjoyment of the ride... and not to mention to help prevent you from falling off :)

To help all my students understand better, I point out to them when it looks to me & when it feels awkward to them, that they are not balanced or in rhythm with the horse. It feels not right to them. Words like rough, choppy, bumpy etc.. can be used to describe this unbalance. As most of us experienced riders know it takes time to develop that feel. It's one of the signs of a truly great rider - projecting an effortless - smooth - flawless visual of graceful riding, with a great performance as a result.

I often demonstrate this from horseback to give a pictorial view of balanced riding as another perspective since describing the sensation or feeling cannot be explained, it has to be experienced. (The technical words are left brained and the feeling is right brained activity. The sign of a balanced mind. How can you teach a sensation or a feel? One of the challenges when teaching riding. But I digress... Articles for another time. :)

Likewise, when they are particularly in sync with their horse (as my view from the ground indicates), I also let them know when they are balanced so they can memorize that feeling. It's one of the important things I do to help my students. To teach them to 'feel' what they are doing, to become aware and to memorize what the right thing feels like. And to recognize when it's not.

It speeds up the learning process and it teaches the student rider a skill to use & particularly when they are working on their own. I encourage you to learn this skill; this ability to 'feel' when things are right or wrong. A good skill to use in all areas of life in my opinion.

I believe 'memorizing the feel' is what Larry Trocha means when he says muscle memory. See article here.

Proper Saddle Design - Factory or custom made with incorrect design
Another interesting article from Larry Trocha explains the fact that an ill designed saddle or ill fitting saddle will contribute to a rider's improper balance as well. To a large degree in fact. And I agree.

Larry explains: " I got on her horse and as soon as my butt settled in the saddle I knew exactly why this poor lady was having so much trouble. Her saddle was absolutely TERRIBLE. I’ll tell you, I couldn’t even begin to sit the stop.
I could barely stay in balance enough to lope the horse. I mean this saddle made riding well almost impossible

It goes along with the common saying that if you want to do a proper job, you need the proper tools. That goes along with other tack as well. The article (mentioned above) is well worth the read.

Larry also had other tips with regards to an ill designed saddle. He mentions falling forward, getting out of balance, not a comfortable rhythm & not feeling secure in your seat.

And as it so happens, the students I'm referring to have an ill designed and ill fitting saddle as well. As Larry mentions in the article, it's pretty hard to get a properly made saddle. Most saddles are factory made by expert leather crafts people but unfortunately are not riders.

And like all new horse people, it takes a while to acquire all the good tack needed.

So perhaps Santa will bring these people a new saddle! Who knows!

Ride on in balance!
Questions and comments are always welcome.
To learn more about balancing, & to memorize the feel please contact me for lessons.
If you need help with riding or acquiring the correct tack, please contact me.
©KISS Reiners

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