Improving Your Riding Off Horse – few things that are good taken care of on the ground…

SONY DSCWe are just freshly back from another great, long weekend in Yorkshire running Aspire Grassroots clinic at Lindrick Livery – it is a little bit of a trek up North from South East hence few quiet days on the blog.

It might be a short post today but I hope useful nevertheless. There are certain issues we all have in the saddle that I find are best addressed off-horse and since those issues are so repetitive and span various riding levels (and come up in Aspire blog’s search stats all the time) I thought it might be good to chat about them 🙂


If you find it difficult to break the habit of aiding too frequently, losing your balance through overriding, collapsing in your waist due to too much strength you put into a leg aid or weight shift or you revert to manhandling your horse sideways by overusing the rein aids, I really recommend you have a play with your horse in-hand doing the movement you are struggling to achieve from the saddle.

Below is a video of Pippa learning to leg-yield Buffy on the reins from the ground:

Doing those movements with the horse by your side, with one hand on their shoulder holding outside rein and the other softly by the head holding inside rein you discover how little “aiding” there is needed once you coordinated your steps, your own balance and rhythm and movement direction…In fact, the more you do the less the horse focuses on subtle signals and either gets stressed, or unresponsive, rushed or otherwise not ready to cooperate.

Feel the steps, move slowly and do less 🙂


This must be one of the most often asked questions by many riders: how do I stop myself from leaning forward in sitting trot/rising trot/canter etc Learning to sit vertical without leaning forwards has as much to do with confidence as it does with technique but one thing you can try it to look closer at your movement on every day basis…We often walk leading with our shoulders rather than our hips which effectively means that we are leaning forwards most of the time: some people very slightly, some rather strongly.

Try standing by the wall with your back resting against it, move off half-a-step forward without taking your shoulders off the wall, then let them join in. Repeat several times until you find the weight distribution through your body that let’s you confidently start the movement with your hips and legs rather than your shoulders.

Once you get the feel for this, walk a straight line paying attention to your shoulders being exactly lined up with your hips (you can bend your elbows by your sides for more of a “riding feel”. It’s not as easy as it sounds and often we want to shift the weight forward by just moving upper body slightly forwards. Maintaining upright upper body takes some core strength so you can judge by yourself how much you need to improve yours to maintain the hip leading motion easily.

Try this feel in the saddle in walk, sitting trot and canter…(it’s ok to be slightly inclined forward in rising trot, after all, it was invented to take the weight off the horse’s back…).


There is a lot of truth to the statement saying we are all asymmetrical by nature and it’s impossible for an average person to be fully ambidextrous. Same applies to horses. However, many riders struggle with postural habits that are possible to unlearn and correct and which in turn help immensely with improving degree of natural asymmetry in horses.

As an instructor I can visually correct the rider to the point he/she is visually straight…This doesn’t mean they can ride in comfort and work on correcting horse’s crookedness. When a rider is told not to collapse in their waist or to keep one shoulder or hand down rather than up, they will try to adjust their postures accordingly. I have learnt to make more meaningful corrections but I have noticed that the best option for the rider is to have a postural assessment done with a physiotherapist of their choice…Conducted well, the assessment and follow up exercises will help the rider to find their own individual way of correcting themselves without creating strain elsewhere in the body.

Crookedness in the rider, once corrected off horse, makes a huge difference in ridden training.

What issues do you struggle most in your riding? Please share in the comments below 🙂 


One thought on “Improving Your Riding Off Horse – few things that are good taken care of on the ground…”

  1. Reblogged this on Happy Horses Blog and commented:
    This is a useful article on looking at your own body – often if a horse doesn’t respond the way I expect it to, then massaging the rider often helps with their balance and that in turn helps with their horse’s movement when ridden.

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