A secure seat is the foundation for harmonious riding. Sylvia Loch explains how to achieve it
Regardless of the type of riding you do, whether it’s hacking, competing in dressage or flying around a course of showjumps, it’s important that you’re balanced in the saddle. Not only will this make you feel more secure, but it also allows your horse to perform to the best of his ability. Classical riding is built upon harmonious communication between horse and rider, and this starts with your position in the saddle. Your balance comes from your seat, so if this isn’t correct, then it will affect all aspects of your riding.
The most important thing is that you have the same balance in the saddle as you would if your feet were on the ground, only with your knees slightly bent. If your position is correct then you should still be able to remain standing and balanced if your horse was taken out from underneath you. Think of it as standing in the saddle, rather than sitting.
The secret to good riding is a three-point seat. Many riders are told they need to put their weight into their seat bones alone, but this isn’t completely correct. A triangle is the strongest shape, so to be stable in the saddle, you need to keep not only both of your seat bones in contact with the saddle, but also your crotch – this forms the triangle. Think of it as sitting on a three-legged stool rather than balancing on two legs of a dining room chair. When you’re stationary or riding your horse in a straight line, the weight in your seat bones should be evenly distributed. However, don’t be tempted to tuck your seat under your body, because this creates artificial balance.
Your pelvis should be upright as you rest on the twist of the saddle, as close to the pommel as you can comfortably manage. This position keeps you over the strongest point of your horse’s back, just behind the withers and in line with the stirrups, which helps him to move more freely, lift his body and engage his hindquarters.
Tension is the greatest barrier to a correct seat, especially in your legs. Use gravity to let your legs drop down – avoid gripping with them because this brings your legs up and makes your seat shallow, rather than deep, resulting in a los of correct posture. Instead, let your legs drop. If you’re riding correctly, your toe should be at the girth and your stirrup leathers vertical, unless you’re applying specific aids for lateral work, such as rein-back or half-pass. Riding with your leg further back puts additional pressure on the saddle, blocking your horse’s forward movement.
Avoid pulling your stomach in. Instead, engage your core muscles and push them out towards your horse’s ears, as though there’s an invisible string pulling you forwards from your core. Think of your core as a buffer against his movement to stop yourself from being thrown around. If your upper body is weak, this will have a destabilising effect and make it difficult for you to remain vertical.
For more of Sylvia’s tip on achieving the correct position and advice on how to improve it out of the saddle, check out the June issue of Horse&Rider. On sale 4 May.