Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: East Central Illinois
It is always a combination of balancing act and gripping, no matter what anybody says. If you don't balance, no amount of hanging on with your knees, calves or hands (on the saddle) will keep you on that horse. If you don't grip at all you are a sack of potatoes, and will soon fall off.
If you remember your very first horse ride, maybe a rental, you should also remember how sore your inner thighs were from constant contractions and relaxation, but no stretching. We all use those muscles to stay in the saddle or on the bareback horse. It doesn't help to vice grip the saddle bc that pushes you away from the horse, and we try to ride as deeply in the saddle as possible. You are also pushing away from the horse bc your heels are not weighted, as they should be.
HERE is an exercise to help you learn to ride and balance in a deep seat. Get a safe horse--don't know about what you own now, but you are looking for an arena where the horse is not tempted to pull the reins out from you and graze. Drop your stirrups and ride at LEAST one full hour without them. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Let your feet just hang=--don't bother to pull your toes up, as if you had stirrups. Resemble the photos of American Indians riding without stirrups, toes pointed down. You don't need speed. Your body is incapable over gripping tightly at the knees or lower for an hour, and you will feel yourself sinking deeper into the saddle. THIS is what you want. If you can stand it, try sitting the trot without stirrups.
My first lessons were Hunt Seat and my isntructor had us post without stirrups 3x each rein in our lessons. He told us that you'll never know when you might lose a stirrup going over a jump, so you should be able to stay on the horse, anyway.
I spent a great deal of time (Ridden since I was 10yo, horse owner/trainer for 27 years) working on sitting the trot. In fact, I ride with my English stirrups one hole longer than most people my height and build. If I lose a stirrup I can still stick the saddle.