Originally Posted by smrobs
Yep, even in western, gripping with your knees is a no-no. I don't really know how to explain it in a clear way, but the way that I ride, I don't really grip with anything. Most my weight is on my pelvic bones with my balance coming from my inner thighs and my calves. I just keep just enough tension in my legs to keep them close to the horse's sides. Don't brace against the stirrups because that will make it harder to keep your butt in the saddle and it will make your feet and legs hurt during long rides. I guess I think of it in a way of giving a light hug to the horse's barrel with your legs LOL.
Yes...really gripping with anything will give you, at best, a very rough ride. Most folks that I know wind up gripping with their legs to try and maintain balance, but good balance comes from your seat and core/abdominal muscle strength. If you develop those, you'll have a nice, comfortable ride at any gait.