Horse Riding Exercises: How to Improve Balance
Balance is the reason you can ride a horse and stay on top of it. Rather than end up on the floor! That should be motivation enough to learn how to have good balance in horse riding. Perfect balance is also how you can achieve harmony with your equine partner.
Having balance while horse riding means your body can be relaxed, and allow your horse (or pony!) to move freely and naturally. In order for your horse to be balanced, you have to be balanced. Horses constantly readjust themselves to keep you on top - so keeping your balance in check is better for you and your horse.
If you lose your balance while horse riding, the body’s automatic response is to grip with your legs and brace your shoulders. This causes stiffness and hinders movement in all your joints. It stops you from being able to move with your horse. It can be very uncomfortable for your horse, and of course, for you too.
Your joints have to be soft and supple because they act as shock absorbers. You can go with the movement of the horse when your joints are flexible. But if you’re unbalanced and they stiffen up, you’ll bounce around awkwardly, and end up getting wonky.
It’s important to have balance so we can keep our aids independent - then our horses can understand the meaning of the aids we give through our seat, legs, and reins.
Good balance while horse riding starts with having a good seat and position. Once you have established these, there are plenty of exercises you can do to help.
Here are three horse riding exercises to improve your balance!
1. Posting in walk
While in walk, try ‘rising’ as you would in trot. Lift up out of the saddle and keep your weight down your legs and through your heels. This practice will help you to engage your core and give you balance, as you’re not being thrust up by the horse’s movement. Keep contact in the reins, but don’t hang on the horse’s mouth or use it to balance. To improve your balance while horse riding, even more, do this movement with your hands on your hips. Make sure your horse is on a lead rope, or on a lunge rein to ensure it’s safe.
2. Two-point position
Once you feel balanced on your horse and you’re comfortable walking while standing in the stirrups, you can try trotting in two-point position. The two-point position is when you only have two points of contact with the saddle - in each stirrup. You lift your weight out of the saddle, so it’s distributed evenly down each leg, into your heel, and on the stirrup. Lean forward so your centre of gravity is low. This exercise is also great for building up your leg muscles! You’ll certainly feel it if it’s a new position for you.
3. No stirrups
To know if you’ve reached the ultimate in balance, try horse riding without stirrups! Without stirrups, you have to be balanced and have a good seat, in order to be able to stay in the centre of the saddle and go with the movement of your horse.
Learning to ride with no stirrups will help your muscles to learn how to stay on a horse, without relying on additional aids.
While in halt, you can remove your stirrups by crossing them in front of the pommel of the saddle. Ride in the same position you would if your stirrups were there, and keep the weight in the heel of your feet.
If you’re a beginner, have someone hold the horse on a lead rein or long line. If it helps while you’re starting out, hold onto the front of the saddle or some mane to help you keep your balance initially.
Practice makes perfect with horse riding balance
As always, practice makes perfect! The more you do exercises that challenge you to maintain your balance independently of other aids, the easier it will be to have balance while horse riding.