By Donna Irvin and Sharon Camarillo for Rodeo News
When your shoulders, hips and seat are balanced over your feet you have much more control of your leg, seat and hands to deliver effective consistent cues to your horse . Riding balanced builds the horses confidence and helps develop seamless transitions when making fast runs.
How balanced are you and does your saddle allow you to ride a balanced position?
Begin by taking a look at your equipment. For maximizing performance your saddle must be in a balanced position on your horse’s back. There should be about a hands width behind the horse’s elbow and the girth. At clinics we often find students with their saddles positioned too far forward causing pressure on the horse’s shoulders, interfering with the horses freedom of movement and causing the rider to be out of balance.
Next, stand back and analyze if the fender hangs directly under the seat pocket. Over time we find that fenders push forward on the bars of the saddle tree. If the fenders are too forward, pull the stirrup leathers down on the bars, then pull the fenders down and back. Finally, pull the fenders back up on the bars and pull the fender down again so that it is under the seat pocket. This simple adjustment will allow your stirrups to hang directly under your hip allowing you to ride balanced.
Check your stirrup length. Position your foot in the stirrup with your foot parallel to your horse’s side as opposed to riding with heel in and toe pointed out. This position allows the rider to cue and use the entire leg as well as sit square with open hips and a soft pelvis. Now, stand up in the stirrups with a flat foot and a slight bend to your knees. You should be able to get two or three fingers between the inseam of your jeans and the saddle seat. Sit straight down with your feet directly under you and be sure your jean pockets are not shoved against the back of the seat which creates stiffness in your legs and pelvis.
It’s amazing how much more balanced you can ride when your feet are under you with well adjusted stirrup length. Try experimenting too, for example when riding a hard running aggressive horse a slightly shorter stirrup can provide for more strength and balance in your leg and core. Unsteady hands and excess movement in upper body position more than likely stem from foot position.
Published in Rodeo News February 2018