When we first sat on a horse at the riding school, we were told “sit up”, and “heels down”. A good position was the foundation for aspiring equestrians — without it, you’d fall off.
But you don’t stop thinking about your position once you’ve finished learning how to ride — at least not if you know what’s good for you, your horse and his performance.
A crooked rider at worst causes their horse back problems and even lameness. At best, they hinder his ability to do his job.
How straight are you?
Ask yourself, are you left or right footed? That is to say, when you go upstairs, which foot do you put forward first? Most people lead with their right foot.
“It’s common for riders to have a strong right leg, and that strength goes across your diagonal – meaning you have a strong left arm, too,” says physiotherapist Clare Howard.
Can you do the following:
- Change a rug from both sides of your horse?
- Groom with one hand and the other?
- Mount and dismount from either side?
- Lead your horse from either side and maintain the same body language?
“Most people are wonky,” Clare points out. “If you look down while sitting in the saddle, you might well find one leg hangs down more, or is more bent, depending on whether your pelvis sticks forward more one side.
“Because your pelvis is a ring — which is 99% fused, breaking only during childbirth — if you pull one part of it back the opposite part will move forward.
“The temptation for riders is to try and do the opposite, but this can cause the opposite problem. The only way to fix the problem is to get you back to central.”
This is done by analysing how straight you are and developing muscle memory.
How can you improve straightness in day to day life?
If you are aware that you stand crocked, or lean one way or the other, or pull on the left rein despite having subtle feeling through the right, then take action. Start to think about ways you can make yourself more even.
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Remember that the harder you try, the more likely it is to go wrong, so start by trying easy things.
- Do simple things with your left hand — pick up the TV remote control, you’ll start to get more co-ordinated
- At work, put your pens and phone on the lefthand side of your computer
- If you sit at a corner desk, still sit facing a straight side
- Change the height of your chair halfway through the day
- Your body likes to move, so take micro-breaks throughout the day, too. Every 20 minutes stand up and sit down again
- Shrug your shoulders from time to time while sitting at your desk