At age 31, I've been back into more regular riding (3-4 times/week) for about 1 yr now. While I'm really thrilled about having access to a free lease whenever I want, I am a bit frustrated that I don't feel that I've made great progress in improving my seat, and consequently, I'm still not where I'd like to be in terms of feeling secure in the saddle. I have foggy memories of being given "chair exercises" to do as a child (I was mostly riding huntseat then), and am curious if anyone here as recommendations for exactly what those are and what they would accomplish. I'm primarily riding in a dressage saddle at this point, and don't have any ambitious for showing. My goals are 1) feel much more confident and secure in my seat and 2) have the type of body position and connection that will help me support the relatively unbalanced 16 yr old Morgan mare that I am riding. (I also do get occasional lessons on a more balanced school horse, because my mare really is not a great teacher in terms of helping me find the correct body position, but, like it or not, I ride this Morgan mare 90% of the time.)
i don't know any "chair" excersizes. At least , not for riding. There is the old one of just squeezing the buttocks together to feel yourself lift off the chair, then relax and let your seatbones sink to the wood (use a firm chair). Helps to feel where they are, the seatbone, I mean.
I have also heard of poeople sitting on the edge of a kitchen chair and using thier abs to tip the back side of the chair (the back two legs) off the ground, (stay sitting upright) and then lower those legs back down, and repeat.
Stand with a long towel or a sweatshirt that has long sleeves and won't stretch. Put it around your back and under your armpits and hold the ends out in front. While you use your back to push back into the towel, pull against that tension with your hands . Do this a few times, then lower the towel and inch or two, do again, all the way down to the lowest small of your back.
Do the above excersixze standing with your legs bent and under you in an "on horse" position.
Thanks, Tiny. The tipping-forward-with-abs exercise you mentioned sounds like what I remember doing as a kid. But, I still have a question, with both that exercise and the sweatshirt one: what is this actually doing for me? Is it about core strengthening only, or does this somehow translate into an improved seat? Sorry if that sounds like a silly question, I'm just very open to exploring anything I can do out of the saddle to try to improve my position. Thanks!
Not at all. The tipping forward one is core strengthening and eventually you would be using similar muscles to hold your horse, to dampen down forward energy , as in the half halt or if you wanted to collect a canter; YOu would drop your knee down, engage your core and lift the front of your chest/belly while becoming firm in the back.
the towel one was one I got out of a Mary Wanlass book. It is to stanbilize the back. She talks a lot about "bearing down", and talks about how we need to be able to have enough muslce town in our body to resist the pull on us that happens when the horse moves forward, we tend to slip back. Most people use the reins to counter act that pulll backward. She says use your core and back. I really don't know the details but it couldnt' help to stabilize the back. While you do this, she says to breathe out powerfully , saying "Pshht". The muscle engagement one feels is what bearing down should feel like.
As for me, I have found that doing Yoga is a great way to cross train, but I am NO athlete. It just helps with learning to breathe slowly, standing very upright and stacking oneself over your hip, knee, foot.
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