What is the purpose of a good riding position?
Think about it. Pause for a while and consider your answer(s). Dig deep and think of all the reasons you think a proper position is necessary for your riding. Think of all the different parts of your position you may be trying to improve right now. Are you trying to improve your leg? Maybe it’s your hands. Or is it your slouching shoulders. Think hard and ask yourself what is the purpose of changing your legs, hands, shoulders or whatever it may be. What is your answer? Take a moment and write down some reasons for your hard work to change or improve your position. Hmmmmmm?? No, it’s not because your trainer told you so. Nothing against your trainer. They are telling you to fix something that needs fixing. But why? What do you expect to happen once you improve this part of your position?
What is the real reason for improving your position?
Nope! Still not giving you the answer. Hopefully you do know the answer. But many riders in my clinics give me these answers when I ask them the same question. Some answers are to keep me safe from falling off, to stay in balance, to help slow the horse down or speed it up, to do better in equitation classes. None of these answers are wrong, but they don’t get to the essence of needing a good position on the horse.
Yes, these answers are right, partly. But what is the real reason for improving your position? Why have so many riding masters throughout the years fine-tuned the position? It was not to look pretty on a horse. Though a good position is beautiful, but that is because it is serving its purpose. Do you have an answer yet? Have I sparked a sense of curiosity in you? If I have I am well on my way to my purpose in writing this. I want readers to truly understand the purpose of developing a good position.
Spark a sense of curiosity…
I also want to spark a sense of curiosity in riders, so they don’t just follow instructions, but instead they ask why something is needed, happening or expected. Don’t just ask your instructor why. Though that is a good first step. Ask yourself and try and see if you can come up with the answers through critical thinking, trial and error and most importantly, through listening to your horse. Your horse will give you the answers to most of your questions about riding. You just need to listen and keep asking different questions and then by trial and error keep what works and let go of what doesn’t. There is nothing wrong with asking your trainer why something is happening or what you should do. But begin to analyze what is happening with you and your horse and when you change a part of your position pay attention to how it affects the horse. Watch other riders and analyze how something that happens in one part of a ride can affect an outcome 40 strides later. Watch videos and study and question what works and what doesn’t. Read books and understand how a horse functions anatomically and how they behave in all different situations. Question how your mindset might affect your position and thus affect your horse.
So what is the answer?
So what is the answer to the purpose of a good position? It is so you can stay in balance with a horse, stay out of its way and yet stay subtly connected. It allows you to listen to what the horse is saying and understand what it needs and then respond in each moment smoothly in order to help guide the horse and successfully accomplish whatever it is you want to do. A rider’s position needs to be fluid, not fixed in space or “tight” on the horse. It is important to develop strength and be balanced and secure on a horse, but when a position becomes tight the horse will either tense up and get quick or shut down and get backwards. That tightness often creates a tense rider who is not breathing in a relaxed manner and not receiving communication from the horse. The locked muscles lock out any feel. A feel and relaxed connection allows a rider to hear the horse and keep making changes as needed in a ride. The understanding that a correct position allows you to properly communicate with a horse will shift your perspective from thinking position is about you towards understand it is about developing a great connection with your horse.
Start asking why, how, what, when and where.
Begin to study how problems in a rider’s position are more complicated than people often realize. For example, you may be struggling with slouched shoulders and are always trying your best to lift them up and sit taller. It may well be a never ending struggle because the slouched shoulders are coming from pinch knees and thighs that lock up your hips and your back creating the slouched shoulders. Until you learn to relax your thighs and knees and address the underlying cause, you will always be in the struggle of trying to fix your slouched shoulders. This is one example of how the root to one position problem often stems from another part of a rider’s position. A curious mind will again help you discover what is going on. Keep your mind curious and opened to looking for causes for what is really happening with both you and your horse. A sense of curiosity makes riding so much more fun and you will retain more of what you have learned because you learned it through self-discovery and analysis. A curious mindset makes life more interesting! So when you are riding don’t look for all the answers to be given to you. Start asking why, how, what, when and where.
Grow your curiosity!