July 29, 2014

It's all in the hips

Center of GravityIf riding were easy it wouldn’t be an Olympic sport.  Two brains, two personalities, a million moving parts, and gravity – where to begin to bring it all together so both horse and rider can enjoy balance and comfort.

The answer is:  your hips.

Apart from the fact that that is where your body meets your horse’s body it is also your very own base of support - your horse riding balance.

  • Your center of gravity lives deep in your hips bringing balance and stability as your horse moves under you.
  • The hips connect your lower and upper body allowing the classical line from head to heel.
  • This frees gravity to be your friend meaning you become stable and mobile at the same time.
  • Yet, most importantly, by sinking into your hips for support your breath stays free – the most notable, and overlooked, component of a deep seat.

There are many culprits that lock the hips.  Two common situations are riders often grip their hips to stay on, but this prevents them following their horse’s movement.  Also, in wanting to sit quietly on their horse riders often stiffen their hips, but this just causes them to bounce even more.

The typical solutions available to riders all involve a lot of effort and unpleasantness in exchange for a meager return.  For example, going to the gym – this gives you more muscle so you can tighten your hips even more.  Ride without stirrups until your hips become so exhausted they deteriorate – then the next time you ride you can do the whole thing all over again.

Yet, restoring your hips to a place of functionality and comfort can not only happen, but can be yours with ease.    It is simply a matter of reconnecting how you move as a whole system.  For instance, feeling how the hips and lower back coordinate together for fluid movement, how the hips and shoulders balance one another to sit quietly in all the gaits.

Sitting deeply in the saddle begins with your awareness which you have in abundance and doesn’t cost a penny.  It is just a matter of knowing where to invest your attention.

As you read this,

  • Notice if you are sitting more on one buttock than the other, what creates this difference, is this how you sit on your horse too?
  • Now, let that buttock sink more deeply into your chair, what shifts do you have to make to do this?
  • What happens in your torso, head and neck?  Then return to your starting place.
  • Now go back and forth a few times, going slowly, and noticing what you do to create these changes.  Is there participation in your lower back and ribs?   Rest.
  • Notice how you are sitting now.  Is your one side resting more fully and deeply into your chair?  Now visit this movement sequence with the other buttock, and notice what has changed.

Later explore these movements while on your horse and see how centered and calm you feel in the saddle, and what your horse has to say about it.

Copyright expired - Engraving of Dressage Rider from 1870Taking a few minutes visiting these small movements before each ride will make a big difference to your seat.

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