4 tips to help you to sit straight instead of crooked
Almost everyone has ever had to deal with sitting crooked in the saddle. Sitting crooked is a chicken and egg situation. Is the rider sitting crooked and does the horse follow the rider? Or is the horse crooked first and so follows the rider? I can’t give you the answer because the truth is somewhere in the middle. However, I can help you to fix this problem.
I am writing blogs for riders (not for horses) and you as a rider are reading these articles. I am helping you to solve this problem at the level of the rider so you can give good example to your horse. Of course I could recommend you to purchase a high level, super straight schoolmaster but I don’t believe that will truly help you. Y
ou are riding a horse and you simply have to deal with your horse and your riding issues. To solve this problem I focus on the rider instead of on the horse. We will straighten your team instead of changing the team by purchasing a new horse.
A horse always wants you to sit on his strong, carrying hind leg. Straightness training is twofold. If the rider wouldn’t sit crooked anymore, the horse will become less crooked too. And when riding a completely straight horse, it is easier for the rider to sit straight.
If you confirm the crookedness of your horse (by sitting crooked too) you will never be a good trainer or a good team player. In a team you want to enhance each other’s positive characteristics, not the negative ones.
Give good example. You are naturally inclined to go along with the crookedness of your horse. A good trainer will give good example, and sits centered on his horse. Tough it is not easy to become a good trainer. This is what often goes wrong.
Especially on one canter lead you will notice that you will sit more on the outside seat bone. This is because your horse wants to carry the rider with his strong, carrying hind leg. Suppose your horse has a stronger left hind leg than a right hind leg, he prefers that your weight is more on the left hind leg. In the left lead canter nothing special happens. The left hind leg is the inside leg so you are sitting a little bit more on the inside, like you are supposed to. You have more pressure on your left buttock and your left hip (just like the left hip of your horse) is pointing a little bit forward.
Crookedness is a problem
However, in the right lead canter the crookedness suddenly becomes a problem. Even in the right canter lead a horse with a stronger left hind leg wants to carry more with his left hind leg. Your horse wants you to sit more on the left, so your seat slides more towards the left. To compensate you try to bring your upper body and especially your shoulders to the inside (to the right) and at the same time you feel that your outside leg (left) is pushing forward and you start to pull up your right leg. You are twisting with your upper body to the inside.
don't squeeze with your upper leg
The turns and circles to the right are very difficult and it seems that your horse only wants to lean to the outside and doesn’t want to make the circle smaller. You have more rein pressure on the right rein to keep your horse on the circle. You are squeezing with your inside upper leg to keep your balance, but that is just what makes it worse. Your horse won’t turn to the right if you (unconsciously) squeeze with your right (upper) leg because he knows he is supposed to yield away from pressure and not push against it.
Crookedness is a serious problem and often underestimated or not even recognized. When I’m teaching I often see that what feels straight not always straight IS. Almost every rider has a preference side. Suppose that you prefer to ride on the left direction, it’s likely that when you are riding on the right direction you actually SIT like you go to the left. I will expand more on that in another blog.
What is the solution?
Be aware of your crookedness and take lessons with a good trainer. On your own it is very difficult to fix crookedness because what feels straight and what actually IS straight is not always the same. A good trainer can be very helpful. Recording videos and photos might also help you to solve this issue. Ask the person who is recording to stand at the end of the long side and to record you from behind.
Keep more weight on your inside seat bone. Ask your horse to carry your weight with his inside hind leg. Make sure you are not sliding to the outside. To accomplish that, try to push your hipbone forward, in the direction of the inside shoulder of your horse. You can practice this sitting on a chair sitting up straight. You will benefit a lot from this exercise. Note that the pressure on your stirrups does not change.
Keep your inside leg long and try to bring your knee a few centimeters more downwards every step. Never squeeze with your legs but always allow them to hang downwards so you can give your leg aids at the right time and with the right intensity.
Never bring your shoulders more to inside to bring more weight on the inside seat bone. When you do this, your body will compensate by bringing more weight on the outside seat bone and that will make this problem even worse. A good exercise in canter is pointing with your shoulders to the outside ear of your horse. This will help you to sit straight.
Applying these tips will be difficult in the beginning. You will notice that after a few minutes your horse is carrying you again with his favorite, strong hind leg. Then just correct yourself and start again. Never get frustrated, that won’t make a team successful. Eventually you will feel the difference and you and horse will benefit from this training. Your horse is able to move more easily and your lateral work will benefit a lot from straightness training.
Briefly, crookedness has several causes. Rider and horse will be straighter when the rider gives good example and by training to make the weaker hind leg as strong as the other one.
Please share your comments and experiences on this blog below! I’m looking forward to hear your feedback. Please share this article via social media!
This article may be used for magazines and websites...
.... And it's free! The only thing I’m asking is to add a link to my website and the following text. "By Hester Bransen of Riders’ feeling. More tips about improving riders’ feeling are revealed in the e-book 'The four elements of a correct riders’ position'. You can download this e-book for free on www.ridersfeeling.com."
Very nice article!
I find my experience (as trainer as well as teacher) reflected in your words.
May your article help riders to give it a try - your tips instead of getting angry on their horse or frustrated with themselves.
Thank you Hester
sending you warm regards from Andalucia, Spain
Sometimes it is the rider is crooked physcially. Look in a mirror: check shoulders are level, hips are level, knees are level. To correct rider needs to go to a physio, Bowen therapist or someone to fix the physcial problem.