Employing and practicing a proper position when on horseback is a key element in maintaining effective balance.
Many unschooled (or poorly practiced) riders naturally fall into something of a chair seat. We do, after all, spend a good deal of time sitting – at school or work, in the car, in front of the television – so our bodies are accustomed to this position. Sitting feels rather “normal” to a majority of people and our muscle memory has a bad habit of tricking our brains into believing that this is a good way to ride. It is not.
The correct riding position is actually more akin to standing. The alignment of your heel, hip, shoulder and ear is essential.
When initially placing your body in its proper alignment, it may feel that your legs (allowed to fall downward from the hip, not held out in front of you), are causing your body to tip forward. That is not the case. Rather, the correctly placed leg enables your upper body to sit up with an engaged core and a more well-balanced posture, secure and comfortably erect.
Conversely, the forward-placed leg that is common with a faulty chair-seat position, leads the upper body to collapse. With a more rounded back, slumped shoulder and the head jutting forward, you will be quite top-heavy. Not only does this compromise your own balance while horseback, but it weights the front end of the horse unnecessarily (a flaw that makes the horse incapable of moving fluidly and correctly).
It can be quite a challenge to self-correct, so enlisting the help of a calm, experienced and knowledgeable equestrian friend, or paying a reputable and respected trainer for a series of regular lessons, is strongly advised.
Make every effort to invest in the very best training possible. Every action repeated leads to a habit. Build the best habits right from the start, as breaking bad habits can be tedious and costly (if not altogether impossible). A “bargain trainer” often turns out to be not much of a deal at all once you realize you’ll have to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars and countless hours in retraining.
If you have the opportunity to ride in an arena that has mirrors on at least one wall, that is also a terrific benefit. If not, have someone take photos or video a few of your rides so you can assess your position.
Longe-line lessons for riders (new and experienced) are absolutely indispensable. They not only allow you to concentrate solely on your own position, free from worry about directing your horse, but they get you in the essential habit of balancing with your body and not hanging on the reins (a wretched and inexcusable habit that ruins the horse as well as inhibiting the rider’s progress). The very best riding schools require that students spend considerable time on the longe line before they’re ever afforded the honor of taking the reins in hand.
As you strive to condition your body to build the most effective muscle memory, remember to ride with a relaxed and joyful state of mind. Tension is an unwelcome trait in any area of horsemanship, whether on the ground or under saddle.
Smile, have fun, and enjoy the ever-improving balance that will grow from your well-practiced proper riding position.