Training out of the saddle is slowly becoming popular with the Horse Rider. Pilates for Horse Riders, and Core Strength Training for Horse Riders are the type of courses popping up all over the world. Many of these courses seem to be very successful ( I have not done them, therefore I do not comment on content). My course “Applied Posture Riding” is also very successful.
So Why Train The Rider Unmounted?
Let us look at the paces of the horse and examine what is required of the rider. The walk and the trot are what I call symmetrical paces. The canter is an asymmetrical pace.
The walk is four-beat and the horse’s footfall is even and equal in stride length and at push-off. The horse will also have a head nod to assist balance and power through the hindquarters. The riders will have equal weight on both seat bones, and equal weight through both heels, and as the rider’s hips move with the horse’s hindquarters stepping, the rider’s shoulders have a counter-movement to stay in rhythm with the horse’s movement. Therefore it is a symmetrical pace.
The trot is a two-beat pace. The diagonal footfalls also strike the ground opposite but equal in stride length and push-off. The rider can count one-two, one-two in time with the footfalls. The rider will have equal weight through their seatbones, have equal weight through their heels, and have a centered line of vertical balance.
The rider will rise with symmetrical weight and movement and do the same in the sitting trot. The rider needs to be balanced through their lower leg and not through their hands. The unbalanced rider will swing through the lower leg and or use their hands for stability. The trot is a symmetrical pace.
The canter is a three-beat pace. The footfall is asymmetrical. The three-beat movement does not have more elevation through the hindquarters than at the walk or the trot the rider is often pushed forward and hence loses contact in the saddle.
Galloping and jumping are not addressed in this article, but the same principles apply.
So Why Train The Rider Unmounted?
Every sportsperson will train away from the competition arena. Riders certainly do the same. But, riders tend to do hours of the same. Dressage training in circles on an arena, having riding lessons over and over again. I even know of riders who only ride when an instructor is in their area once every two months. Progress can be slow when the focus is only on the horse and not on the rider.
Dressage training starts with the basics, forward movement, equal stepping, pushing through from the hindquarters, and balance. The horse is trained to be flexible both laterally and longitudinally. The horse is trained to use his hindquarters and be soft and balanced in front. The horse is trained to move away from pressure and be sharp with their response. The horse is trained in the basics before advanced training starts. So why doesn’t it happen as easily as it sounds?
The rider is the team player that needs to train themselves first. The rider often neglects to train themselves in the basics. The rider needs to be flexible in all body parts, especially through the pelvis and lower back. The rider needs to have a strong core to maintain stability through the spine so they can apply aids with independent isolation. The rider needs to have ambidextrous skills in strength and efficiency. The rider needs endurance, coordination, and synchronization in all postural as well as dynamic muscles. The rider needs to manage pain from injury or muscle soreness.
When a rider is strong through the core and understands functional core stability they will be a better rider. Add flexibility, endurance, postural awareness, and strength then the rider will have much more success training their horse. Learning independent isolation of riding movements will allow a rider to apply correct movement patterns in both their training and competition riding. The horse responds to repeat aids, so it is up to the rider to apply the aid the same every time. The unbalanced rider will not do this.
Training unmounted has huge advantages over just training mounted. My Applied Posture Riding Membership Program will train you to train yourself. If you want to chat about your riding, contact me, I love this topic.
Blame yourself before you blame your horse.
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