Improving The Seat
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   30th Oct 2010   •   5,086 views   •   14 comments
As we all know, horses are amazing creatures. They prance around a dressage ring, performing complex movements, they bend between poles, race around barrels and fling themselves over massive obstacles – simply because they are so desperate to please us. They do so much for us, put in such effort, so is it not only fair that, as the passengers, we should do more than just sit and lump around like big sacks of potatoes? We ought to help our horses, and this is how we can do it:

We can ride. Ask yourself now: Are you a passenger, or are you a rider? If your horse makes a mistake, can you help it out of trouble? If your horse takes a big jump, can you trust yourself not to be left behind, and if you are left behind, can you avoid catching your horse in the mouth? The truth is, very few of us can give our horses as much assistance as we would like to, because let’s face it: This is a difficult sport we play, and nobody can be perfect. But what we can do is polish our own skills to give us the best chance to help our beloved horses out of trouble. It may be hard work, but it is worth the effort – trust me!

The first thing to do in any situation is to find the position you want. Get an experienced and trustworthy horse-person to lunge your horse with you in the saddle. This allows you to get used to your horse’s movement and perfect your position without having to worry about keeping your horse under control (Which we all know is not always easy!) It is often a good idea to take the reins off your bridle for this exercise so that you have no use of your hands. To test your balance, you may want to try things such as putting your hands out to the sides or on your head while cantering around. Not only will you improve your seat and balance with this exercise, but you ought to become more in tune with your horse’s movement and be able to sit softer in the saddle – thus sparing your horse’s back.

Once you know what you’re aiming for, the next step is to combine ‘riding’ and ‘position’ into one art. While riding your horse, try to concentrate on your position more than you normally do. Are you looking up? Where are your heels? Are your lower legs still? Are you riding with soft hands?
Ask yourself the questions all the time, and try to train your mind to multitask.

The lower leg

This one has given me such trouble for such a long time. I used to ride rather like a duck – lower leg flapping back and forth and feet poking out to the sides, but since I started with these little exercises, my seat has improved beyond recognition, and I already feel like I can ride more effectively!

Duck Feet
Duck Feet

First off, and I know you will NOT be pleased to hear this, take the stirrups off your saddle.
That’s right – yank them right off! Let me warn you: If you do this right, it will hurt, but it is worth it in the long run, so if you are serious about improving your seat, then you can tolerate it.
One the stirrups are off your saddle, mount your horse, if at all possible. (Trying to vault onto your horse is not advised. I learned this the hard way, since – being the very blond creature that I am – I forgot that a saddle not only adds a fair deal more height to a horse, but also that it has a rather hard pommel, which – and trust me on this – you do NOT want hitting you in the ribs… You’ll need some air in your lungs for this exercise, so try not to get winded like I did…)
Well, if you succeeded in mounting your horse, continue to this next step. If not, go back and try again. It may help to get a leg up at this point.

Working without stirrups
Working without stirrups

Start by simply walking around with your legs dangling. It may help to do some ankle flexion exercises – point your toes as high and as low as they can go alternately, and spin your ankles in circles. Once you feel comfortable in your seat, get down to work. Ride your horse just like you always would. You needn’t do anything different – because you will need to automatically improvise your seat to keep your balance without stirrups, especially in trot. This trains you to use the correct leg muscles and to develop the proper seat. In short: You are training your muscle memory so that your legs will automatically take up the correct position and stay still. Aside from that, you are strengthening the muscle in your lower leg so that you have more powerful aids with which to command your horse.
I’d suggest doing a lot of schooling exercises without your stirrups – serpentines, figure eights and so forth.
Repeat this exercise as often as possible. Perhaps even leave the stirrups off your saddle for an entire week – and a guarantee that you will see definite results before long.
Finally, to train your leg muscles even more – there is a leg exercise you can do at walk or halt. While seated on your horse, keep equal weight on both seat bones, and lift one leg away from the saddle. Hold it there for 3 seconds, then replace it and repeat the procedure with the other leg. Finally, try it with both legs. This ought to hurt quite a lot, and you should find that each time you do it, it becomes easier and your legs can stretch out further.

More work without stirrups
More work without stirrups

Well, if your seat is looking good by this stage, you may take your stirrups back! Hallelujah! But wait, don’t start celebrating just yet.
Now, you must take a piece of baling twine, and tie each stirrup to your girth. Mount your horse and correct your position, then get riding! This is likely to feel quite strange at first, but you soon get used to it. I would recommend riding with a whip, since you may find your leg less effective than usual without the use of your heels. Of course, as you strengthen your lower leg, this problem should become less and less. This is just another method to train your muscles to take the correct position, so you need do nothing besides ride as per usual.

Good luck, riders! Enjoy your suffering!
Horse News More In This Category:  Horse Training      Horse News More From This Author:  Polo the Weirdo
Lol!! Those are good ideas!! I will enjoy my suffering!!! I can't wait to try this stuff!!
  Oct 30, 2010  •  4,008 views
lol thank you! :) i definetely want to tryy this
  Oct 30, 2010  •  4,018 views
Great article :) I used to ride a lot without stirrups, we also jumped without them... it hurted a lot at first :)
  Oct 31, 2010  •  4,154 views
Polo the Weirdo  MOD 
Good luck guys! :P I've been given even more exercises now... The torture continues! *dies* Haha! It really helps though. :) Totally worth the pain and suffering!
  Oct 31, 2010  •  3,970 views
Lol. xD
Sometimes I actually feel better if I don't use my stirrups at all... and when I start using them again it feels really awkward. =P I still have to work on a few things though...
  Oct 31, 2010  •  4,119 views
BTW, great article =) I'll try and remember these excercises for next time!
  Oct 31, 2010  •  4,119 views
Seven Nights  
Thanks so much for the tips! And thats exactly what my riding instructer says 'Are you the passenger or the riders?'
  Nov 2, 2010  •  4,055 views
Rein or Shine  
Great tips. :) I ride without stirrups quite frequently, though I don't take them off since I ride Western. It hurts a lot. :P But it does strenghten your legs, that's for sure!
  Nov 8, 2010  •  3,990 views
Rein or Shine  
I worked without stirrups a few days ago (nothing new to me). However, I am quite angry with you Polo, for indirectly applying such pain to my legs in the second exercise. :P
  Nov 14, 2010  •  3,989 views
Polo the Weirdo  MOD 
Haha! It's quite intense, isn't it? :P Oh, just you wait for the follow-up article... I'll be introducing my instructor's new torture methods, and her "If you feel like you're about to cry, then you can stop" policy. ) Hehe!
  Nov 15, 2010  •  3,968 views
Painted Destiny  
Great ideas! The no stirrups one is torture!! :P
  Feb 5, 2011  •  3,975 views
Wanderin Boy Memorial  
Wow ! Great article ! I've always wanted to improve my seat
  Feb 14, 2011  •  3,974 views
Seven Sins  
great article
  Jun 3, 2011  •  3,993 views
I'll definitely have to use this!
  Apr 3, 2013  •  4,001 views
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