First, we will look at the ideal posture we all should aim for and then look at what poor posture looks like, then I am going to talk about how your posture impacts your riding and how you can fix yourself, for riding. To understand what the ideal horse riding posture is, we need to look at the standing posture, the sitting posture, and the working posture.
As humans, we spend many hours in different, but ultimately the same postures. The way we work rest and play does have an impact on our posture in general but also our horse riding posture. Age, injury, and what we do repetitively impact our riding posture. The horse riding posture requires symmetry, flexibility, endurance, and strength in all parts of the body. It is essential to train the body for horse riding and learn what is required for the horse riding posture.
But first, I think it is important to look at what is good posture and also what your posture is. The outcome is the same for all of us as riders, but we are all different to start with. Gender, size, weight, flexibility, tone, injury, age, and passion all influence our best horse riding posture. What we do for a living impacts us most of all, though.
So what is the Ideal Posture?
With ideal posture, your head sits on top of your neck and shoulders. It is balanced with minimal demand on your neck muscles and joints for support. It should sit centrally so the muscles on the front sides and back of the head are all working equally. The curve of your neck is concave forward as in the photo on the right here.
Your chin should be down and not poking forward. The line of your shoulders, ears, and hips must be in the same vertical plumb line. This line follows down through the knees and ankles. This is the ideal posture in standing.
This alignment allows the muscles and joints to work in the best mechanical way. It is important to remember though we rarely just stand around in this great-looking posture, as humans, we are mostly moving when we are upright. The posture of the upper body in standing is the same ideal posture we want when sitting in the saddle.
We want our body upright and straight, but we also need it to be strong and stable enough to move with the horse and have the stability to allow the arms and legs to move independently. So before we look at the horse riding posture let’s look at poor postures and how this affects us in our daily lives, especially our riding posture.
The Ideal Horse-Riding Posture Can Be Trained In Every Horse Rider!
So What Is A Poor Posture?
There are many examples of poor posture, sway back, bow legs, flat back, pigeon toes, chicken neck, and much more we have all seen in each other. Typically though the slumped posture is the most common. This is the most common because people tend to be lazy and don’t stand up straight as often as they should. The longer we slump in the stand and in sitting the weaker our support muscles become and the posture becomes the norm.
This posture will cause pain in every person at some point in their lives. If we spend time working in these postures then repetitive injuries tend to creep in earlier. Back pain is the most common. Pain inhibits the postural muscles and the problem self-feeds and becomes worse. As a Physiotherapist, I see this pattern often. As a horse rider, the only way to fix the horse riding posture is to fix your standing posture.
Using the plumb line we can examine how deviations from the ideal line can result in poor posture, pain, stiffness, and injury from repetitive movements in poor alignment. The aim of all of this though is to identify what your posture is and then train you how to fix it, so the final outcome for you is to have good posture out of the saddle and in the saddle. Applied Posture Riding is a great program to teach you this.
The Horse-Riding Posture Needs To be Trained To be the best it can Be
Your job has a big impact on your posture. Manual workers spend hours bent over or lifting repetitively. If you are a desk worker or spend many hours driving then you will most likely have a forward head posture with tight shoulders and a poking neck, you may suffer headaches or shoulder pain, or back pain. This all affects your daily life and especially affects your horse riding posture.
Unless you learn how to correct this daily working position then you will ride in the same position. Your instructor will spend hours telling you to “sit up”. As mentioned above if our starting point is poor then we need to assess and identify the individual problems you have in order to fix them. A riding instructor does not have the knowledge to do this. Riders who have a weakness will have a tightness somewhere else.
The forward head posture and round shoulders are the most common posture when riding. These riders will need to stretch the muscles that are tight and strengthen the weak muscles. There are detailed self-tests for horse riders in the Applied Posture Riding Membership Program.
ALL riders need to strengthen their core muscles and learn how to use their core in the saddle. The core muscle is the single most important muscle for posture control. The tests for theses muscles are easy and can be done by you. Applied Posture Riding program has a file on how to test the Horse Riding Muscles.
Every horse rider needs to be able to use their arms and legs independently of their trunk. This is actually what is meant by the term independent seat. Riders who are tight and stiff back will have problems with moving with their horse and tend to jar up. Their instructors often tell them to “soften through the back”. This is a very common problem that cannot be fixed in the saddle.
As humans, we are not ambidextrous, but as horse riders, we are expected to be. The over-use of our dominant side will be evident in the saddle and also reflect on how our horse goes to both reins. Horse riders need to train both sides to be equal in the saddle. This is a very easy training program and can be done simply every day while doing other stuff.
The Horse-Riding Posture And Older Riders.
Older riders with arthritic joints or past injuries need to protect themselves from further pain and damage but at the same time keep movement and strength for riding. Riders returning from injury especially a back injury need to perform specific exercises to regain strength and confidence before they get in the saddle.
Pain is an inhibitor for the core. The core will switch off to work if a person is suffering back pain and the core is a must for riding. Many riders return to riding and realize they are not as safe and confident as they used to be. Horse riders must train the horse riding posture to be the best rider they can be.
Some people hold the reins between the baby and ring fingers—either way, is okay. Sit tall and relaxed, again many riders need to be taught how to do this. Don’t stiffen your back, there is a difference between erect and upright. If you learn how to achieve this, then all you have to do is breathe and be patient as your body uses new muscles and develops awareness.
The brain also needs to practice this posture so the movement pattern becomes natural, not new. Practice does make perfect, so expect to correct yourself frequently as you ride until your ‘perfect seat’ becomes perfectly natural.
This posture and the movement patterns use for riding can and need to be trained specifically for horse riding. To sum it all up, if we train our posture out of the saddle and aim for a very strong functional core as well as a strong natural upright posture then our riding posture will be better. But, to be a great rider with confidence, skill stability and talent horse riders need to train the movement patterns for riding to train the brain to be able to do these movements, naturally. The independent deep seat and the ability to apply independent leg, seat, and rein aids is a learned skill.
Pain, injury, and age and habit all affect the skills of the rider. Test yourself and fix yourself. Aim to be great and be great and have that great horse riding posture you want.
Good luck and enjoy you riding Annette Willson