How Important Your Position is In The Saddle ft. Wild Atlantic Rider & Smyth Breaking & Schooling

From Owning a young, unpredictable & unreliable horse there are some things that automatically go out the window. Your money being one & my riding position to be in at a close 2nd. Adjusting your body to survive some of the plunges, bucks or rears your young horse puts in at the beginning of their riding career can have a massive effect on your riding position.  

As the years have crept by, both Dante & Coco no longer belong in that “young Horse” category anymore, so I think its safe to say all of our excuses are well & truly out the window! While It is hard to let go of that small excuse it is an eye opener to see how much a young horse can damage your so called “perfect” riding position. The habits you pick up can be brutally painful to reverse. 

Drooped shoulders, which in turn puts my legs into a bad position not to mention my hands!

Step in one of my newly appointed instructors Anne Hatton. I have began doing lessons with her after seeing a great success rate in Orla, lets just say I am thrilled. It has been very refreshing to hear the focus in our lessons being put on me & not on my horse. From this. I realised how many bad habits I have picked up from the fear of Dante’s bad behaviour in the past, adjusting my ways of riding to suit him without realising, but now I am realising that my bad habits are nearly effecting us moving forward.

My position, This is something I struggle with BIG TIME. I have been focusing more on myself these last few weeks, I even took up Pilates in a hope to strengthen my core! We thought it would be a great idea to reach out to some of our fellow bloggers/equestrians & ask them their weaknesses, their tips & most importantly how do they maintain that “perfect” position?

Keep scrolling to see what they have to say! 

What are your tips for maintaining a good position in the saddle?

Amy & Katie – Smyth Breaking & Schooling

Smyth Breaking & Schooling – Amy: I find getting someone to video when I’m on the horse is the best way. Then I can pick up on any faults and work on them, while also getting someone else’s view. Practice, Practice, Practice!! Katie: my tips for maintaining a good position in the saddle is the allow your body to be supple and to move with the horse. You have to think of your hips down belonging to the horse whilst from your hips up belong to you. This means that you are allowing you horse to move under you while keeping your upper body in a quiet and still position. This has helped me mainly for canter work and especially trot work. 

Wild Atlantic Rider: There are many tips for checking your position but for me it’s really important to be self aware. I try to speak to myself when I’m riding the same way I would if I were teaching. I also believe in taking what you learn from your training sessions and actively working on them. We spend so much money on training and lessons, but unless you can take those tips and advice home and consciously implement them you’ll continue to slip into bad habits and will find it hard to improve and progress. 

Do you have any bad habits in either your flatwork or jumping position? If so, what have been your go-to techniques to get rid of them?

Smyth Breaking & Schooling – Amy: At the moment, I’m a terror for letting my reins get loose as I jump with one of the horses. You’ll sometimes hear me going round the course saying “shorten your reins”! I have a point on my martingale that I try to keep my hands above that point to work on improving this bad habit. 

Amy Smyth on Sully at Mullingar Equestrian Center

Katie: My bad habit in flatwork used to be that I relied on my outside to ‘pull’ the horse out more so than push them out with my leg. I’ve overcome this habit by carrying a short whip horizontally and holding it with my thumbs,  as that allowed me to be more aware of where my hands where and what I was doing with them. Leg yielding on both reins with my horses has got me to use my leg more. Circles were a great exercise to do whilst straightening my habit out. I was more aware of my outside Rein and had to use my leg more to get a better, more balanced circle. By working on my bad habit and constantly correcting myself every time I felt myself going back to using my outside rein, I have now buried that habit.

Catherine on her horse Giselle

Wild Atlantic Rider : With Flatwork – my biggest thing was focusing too much on the outline instead of getting my mare, Giselle, more forward off my leg. This was causing me to be too “handsy.” Last April I was lucky enough to have a lesson with Judy Reynolds who really got after me to ride her forward and getting a reaction, while keeping the outline – it was harder than it should have been!! This is something my dressage trainer has said to be before, but From that lesson I have focused on the feeling we achieved that day, that Giselle should feel like she’s pulling me forward into the contact. When it comes to Jumping – Giselle loves her jumping, and it can be very easy to let her take over sometimes. However, if I don’t keep a good forward rhythm in my canter I feel my lower leg can get loose. My heels come up a bit and my toes stick out. So for me, the biggest thing is to ensure that your horse is taking you forward and keeping a good rhythm in your canter so you can sit still and move forward and sit back when you need to. When the spokes start to come off the wheels, that’s when your position goes out the door!

Wild Atlantic Rider Top Tips: – Grid-work, put a few bounces and a line a jumps in front of you and you have no choice but to learn to sit still, keep in balance and keep your weight in your heel.And you cannot underestimate the power of working with no stirrups – for both disciplines. Riding off your seat, strengthening your core and improving your balance will help on all fronts.

Do you do anything out of the saddle to help with your work in the saddle? 

Katie of Smyth Breaking & Schooling

Smyth Breaking & Schooling Amy: I do yoga/Pilates to work on my core & balance. Then go for walks/runs to maintain a level of fitness. Everyone works on their horses fitness but a lot of riders forget about their own. Katie: Fitness is key. I keep myself fit so when I’m out competing I can hold my own position (esp out cross country)  and I can stay alert and focused for quick decision making out on course. By staying active during the day and keeping to a somewhat healthy diet this allows me to be on form for the horses.

Wild Atlantic Rider: At the moment, I don’t do enough! But anything that will improve and increase your own fitness level is a bonus. I used to swim a lot, I found that helped as it’s a lot easier on your joints, while making you use every muscle in your body!


Orla’s journey with her position…

Before my recent fall, I had been putting A LOT of effort into sorting out my riding position. There were a number of elements of my position that were really bothering me – my hands, my shoulders and my lower leg – and I knew they were having an impact on Coco’s way of going so I needed to do something to fix them. For so long, the focus was always on jumping so it wasn’t until I started my lessons with Ann that I suddenly had someone shouting at me nearly every step, “Look up!” “Don’t get handsy!” “Shoulders back”. And I’m not even exaggerating when I say it was literally every step. So I knuckled down and on Ann’s orders, I started taking a minimum 10 minutes of every riding session to just focus on me and forget about Coco. In those 10 minutes I decided to try something that was recommended by one of our followers on Instagram.

Not perfect, but definitely an improvement!

I noticed that the issue with my hands was actually coming from my elbows. They were too ridged and were causing my hands to move with my whole body when riding.

Orla’s Riding Tip: So to get a feel for how much my elbows needed to open and close,I pulled the saddle straps out from my numnah and tucked my baby fingers into them. By doing this my hands were stopped from wandering with the rest of my body, my reins stopped slipping through my fingers and I could get a real feel for how much my elbows should be opening in the trot.

I did this every riding session for a week and in that one week, my instructor could see the difference in my position. It was funny too, as once my hands were positioned correctly, the rest of my position came together and Coco became much more forward going. It’s like it all just clicked into place. I’m hoping that once I’m ready to get back into the saddle it won’t be like starting from scratch and I’ll still remember everything I had learned but only time will tell!


When I focus less on Dante’s “head” and more on sitting up tall, The rest of my position tends to fall into place!

Your riding position at the end of the day will be what you put into correcting it. There will be some horses that you ride that you will have to tweak certain aspects of your position to suit the horse, or some horses will quickly tell you how not to ride with their reactions. I find that riding different horses from time to time really is an eye opener to the way you move in the saddle & it gives you great feedback on what you should be focusing on.

Have you any specific tips or tricks that you swear by when it comes to improvimg your position in the saddle?

Recently I have come across a lot of Equestrian Biomechanics exercises that I know I will definately be giving a go to strengthen up some of my weaker riding habits.

As Always, thank you for reading & a massive thank you to Amy & Katie from Smyth Breaking & Schooling and to Catherine from Wild Atlantic Rider for your input on the topic. Be sure to head over to their socials & give them a follow!

Until Next Time,

Darielle

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