Show Me How You Walk and I Will Tell You How You Ride

Before we start, it is important to note, this post considers able bodied riders. 

Make a little experiment…

Set a video camera running and walk towards it and away from it. Then do the same side-ways. The same jogging and the same “skipping” as if you were cantering on your own feet (you might want to be alone if you are worried about your sanity being judged 😉

Then grab a cup of tea or coffee and re-watch those clips with detective-like curiosity. Check for the way you use your joints, the way you distribute your weight throughout your body, the way your hips move (or not!) while you walk and jog. Check which leg you start skipping with, which one pushes, which one carries without thinking about it, how level are your shoulders, is your head forwards or on top of your shoulders, do you carry your rib cage to one side…When you walk, do you lead the movement with your upper body or your hips…These are just a few of numerous elements you can analyse.

Grassroots Riders Habits 

If you are like many other amateur riders, chances are you have a sitting job – long hours at a computer desk, long hours in a car, perhaps you also wear high heels if you are a woman or you slouch a bit if you are a man…hundreds of your daily postural habits are mirrored very clearly in your riding style.

It is possible to fairly accurately describe many of your riding problems without you even sitting on a horse. It is also possible to change your riding position, seat issues, leg responsiveness or contact issues that you have when riding by analysing your own walking style as in our little experiment above.

What’s your posture like?

Picture Source:
Picture Source:

Rider Development workshops with off horse movement analysis are integral part of Aspire Equestrian‘s training for exactly the reasons mentioned above. Our daily postural habits repeated for 8 to 10 hours a day are too strong and dominant for riders to be able to change them for 1 or 2 hours when sitting in the saddle. Changes made to the way you walk, jog, sit and stand are much more powerful and long lasting than changes made in your training sessions. This is because you are not only changing something for a moment, you are altering your whole way of using your body so when you ride, that better way becomes second nature.

When that is the case, you can concentrate on much more intricate riding skills rather than spending every lesson on “sitting better”.

Aspire Equestrian Rider Development session at Hippikos Equestrian Centre, Portugal
Aspire Equestrian Rider Development session at Hippikos Equestrian Centre, Portugal

Creative Ways to Improve Your Riding Skills

Exciting thing about all these findings from your walking/jogging/skipping video is that you can actually substantially improve your riding effectiveness, feel and quality of your seat simply by addressing your motor skills.

I had a great chance to work with over hundred riders over eight months period running Rider Development sessions at Hippikos*, an equestrian training holidays centre in Portugal using Aspire Equestrian’s ABC method – Awareness, Balance, Connection. Every single rider noticed improved rider awareness and ability to correct their seat which they have not experienced before by working primarily in the saddle.

You are welcome to join one of Aspire Equestrian’s Coaching Weekends for an intensive coaching session including simulator seat training.

However, you you can also do a lot at home by yourself.

You could get yourself one or two of those gym balls to sit on, both at home and in the office. If you work from home this won’t be a problem. Corporate environment might take some negotiation skills! The balls come in different sizes to match your hight: What size of Gym Ball should I buy?

The consensus is that benefits of sitting on a gymball/swiss ball…might be more hype than a real deal. Here is one example of such debate. However…! I wonder…How many ambitious, aspiring, equestrian crazy riders were amongst the tested people? There are many movements you can do whilst sending those emails, just have a play with you tube for video tutorials.

Before you start on any exercise regime, carefully listen to your riding instructor and ask them what part of your body is not functioning as well in the saddle as it could. Then book yourself a nice bio-mechanics assessment with a good chiropractor or a physio who is also a rider or at least knows what this sport entail. They should be able to give you exercises to improve your biomechanics which in turn will dramatically improve your feel for your horse’s biomechanics. Your feel for movement and ability to act on that feel is the key to improved effectiveness.

You could also start walking at your desk (not sure about walking in your car, haven’t seen any devices allowing such activity [yet] )

I personally like this idea a lot because many amateur riders with sitting jobs suffer from overall decrease in mobility.

Working Stand-Up Desk with Treadmill – Explained – CARLYBISH.COM from Carly Bish on Vimeo.

What do you do at home to contribute to your horse’s efforts? Leave us a comment!

Wiola Grabowska BHSAI/Int.Teach.


* If you are interested in intensive equestrian holidays in Portugal on Lusitano dressage schoolmasters & experienced jumping schoolmasters in a beautiful setting, drop us an email for more information 🙂

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