proper western posture - Page 2

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proper western posture

This is a discussion on proper western posture within the Western Riding forums, part of the Riding Horses category
  • Proper alignment while riding horses
  • Horse riding alignment

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    02-18-2013, 02:24 PM
Green Broke
Originally Posted by bsms    
Shoulder / hip / heel alignment is meant for dressage and western pleasure, both of which mean highly trained horses riding in an arena and covering the ground slowly, with lots of collection. That isn't the same as endurance riding, roping, etc.
No matter what you do, there should still be some form of alignment, I think, to help stay balanced.

Here's a photo of my dad roping, even though his body is turned to look behind him like it should be when pulling a steer, his leg didn't shoot forward or backward, he kept it where it should be.

I guess what I'm saying is that, yes, when we do things that aren't just "flatwork" (call it what you will) our positions change to make the task at hand easier, but I think it should be a goal to always push for being as close to the ideal shoulder/hip/heel alignment as possible. That position should be a solid base before any other style influences it.

Even in these video stills, you can see that I still have my position pretty balanced, my leg hasn't gotten away from me and I can still be an effective rider, and it wouldn't take much to get back to that ideal shoulder/hip/heel alignment if I wanted to.

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    02-18-2013, 02:32 PM
Quoted from USEF:

In both Western Seat/Reining Seat Equitation and Western Horsemanship, the rider’s body should appear comfortable, relaxed and flexible while sitting erect and straight in the saddle. The body should be erect and straight but not stiff. Riders should be sitting squarely in the saddle with the legs directly under the body, not pushed forward. The rider’s seat must be secure, heels should be under the rider’s hips, the knee in contact with the saddle, calf in contact with the horse, ankle relaxed and the heel down. The stirrups should be just short enough to allow the heels to be lower than the toes and the feet should be placed in the stirrups with the weight on the ball of the foot, not on the tip of the toe or pushed home to the heel. This position gives the rider the most effective use of the aids.

Riders must sit straight and in the center of the horse’s balance, keeping complete contact with the saddle. A quiet, light hand should be held in the proper position while maintaining a consistent head position and balance in all gaits. A secure leg position is necessary for control of the horse and maintaining consistent gaits, transitions and maneuvers.

At all gaits the rider should be straight with only a slight motion in the saddle keeping with the rhythm of the horse. Riders are to sit to the jog and at the lope should be close to the saddle without popping out of the saddle or leaning back. At all gaits the rider’s legs must remain directly underneath the body and the upper body must not fall behind or in front of the vertical. All movements of the horse should be governed by the use of imperceptible aids. The obvious shifting of the rider’s weight, leaning to direct the horse, or over-use of spurring, should be penalized.

About Western Seat/Reining Seat Equitation

Nowhere do I see that it states a chair seat or any other body alignment other than shoulder-hip-heel is ideal.......
    02-18-2013, 02:41 PM

This is what I have been taught. A balanced position on a horse is the same across the disciplines with various minor variations.

One is balanced (shoulders, heels, hips) and moving with the horse and in effective communication. The horse responds to the same aids, and his pressure points remain the same.

The different disciplines just accommodate differences in order to complete different tasks. For instance, direct reining is important for jumping while indirect reining is necessary for cattle and military riding because the rider is handling other equipment.

But the need for balance in position with variations in the openness of the folds remains the same, as do many of the leg and seat aids. This is going fast or slow, collected or strung out.
    02-18-2013, 02:51 PM
Green Broke
Proper positioning is vital no matter what style of riding you are in. There is a purpose behind the position. Your position is what makes you an effective rider. If you are unbalanced and not in alignment you are not going to get the proper desired results. Every little tiny thing about your position is for a reason. When I sit deep with my leg under me, shoulders back and tighten my core it means I want my horse to slow down. If I shift my weight to one side its because I want my horse to turn.

There is no way in hell you are going to have a proper flow to a reining pattern if you are not positioned correctly. All those turns, spins, stops and opening and closing of the stride come from the slightest shift in weight and hand/leg positioning.
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    02-18-2013, 03:35 PM
"the ideal shoulder/hip/heel alignment"

There isn't one. It depends on the saddle and what you want to do with the horse.

Equitation is judged in an arena, using horses that aren't trying to cover ground fast. So equitation rules are designed for what works well for that environment and that goal.

On a trail, you'll get the best results by balancing WITH the horse. That will vary with what the horse needs to do. It might be forward, or way to the rear, or somewhere in between.

Based on what makes my horses happiest (most eager, best speed and duration), a forward seat is best for covering ground. That may be because my lower back is too stiff to move the way Craig Cameron does in the video above.

Here is a video of a jumper. Notice how much his lower back and hips move catering with his seat in the saddle. I am physically incapable of moving like this, although I'd dearly love to be able to ride 1/20th that well someday:

Rio Grande TROTS a Grand Prix Jump! - YouTube

Western riding isn't about riding in an arena. That is why western riding doesn't have a 'correct' position. Cutters, reiners & ropers and barrel racers all adapt their approach to the needs of their arena sport. And riding isn't about 'position', it is about 'movement'.

Having the back of your heel in front of your belt buckle isn't evil. The cavalry WANTED that, and they rode their horses much greater distances in a week than almost any modern recreational rider...including up to 100 miles/day. 40+ miles/day for 5 days straight wasn't unusual at all.

If you want your heel under your hip, that is OK too - just buy and use a saddle that is meant to put you in that position. If your center of gravity, on average, is centered on how the saddle tree distributes weight, and you move with the horse's motion and balance, then the details are irrelevant to the horse. But it IS important to look at how the saddle distributes weight. English and western saddles have a very different design, and aren't meant to be ridden identically.
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    02-18-2013, 03:47 PM
I don't know. I'm taught jumping and galloping across xc. The one thing the instructor emphasizes is balance, balance, balance and that is with proper alignment.

In fact for jumping, the gold standard is feet under the shoulders/hips. It's what keeps one safe and prevents one from pitching forward over the jump and breaking one's neck.

All I see in that video is the feet under him in perpendicular to gravity. So when coming down the horse might be at an angle, but the rider's feet are under him.
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    02-18-2013, 04:00 PM
Originally Posted by onuilmar    
...In fact for jumping, the gold standard is feet under the shoulders/hips. It's what keeps one safe and prevents one from pitching forward over the jump and breaking one's neck...
You mean like this:

Or this, from a book by George Morris, used as a picture showing GOOD riding:

Since different types of riding involve different equitation, and since the OP is asking about endurance, then it might be reasonable to consider what endurance riders do. I'm not an endurance rider, so I'll let those that do make suggestions. But I see no sign that all western riders ride alike, or should. It seems pretty obvious to me that if your rump is in the lowest part of the saddle, and your stirrup straps / fender hangs straight down, gravity is your friend. Maybe it is because I'm old and overweight, but I like having gravity as my friend. Others can choose otherwise.
    02-18-2013, 04:06 PM
Absolutely, these people are in balance and their heels are under them. The heels are in the center of gravity between the hips and the shoulders. That is a greater fold, and as the hips go back, the shoulders come forward.

In balance.
    02-18-2013, 04:31 PM
Originally Posted by onuilmar    
Absolutely, these people are in balance and their heels are under them. The heels are in the center of gravity between the hips and the shoulders. That is a greater fold, and as the hips go back, the shoulders come forward.

In balance.
Exactly. They are in balance, but they do NOT have their heels under their hip. If they did, they would fall forward. Their center of gravity is in a vertical line with the stirrup, with roughly equal weight on either side of that vertical line. This is a very stable position for jumping.

Think of a tightrope walker. They carry long poles because distributing weight to either side makes them more stable.

The stirrup bars are also located about where the horse's back pivots. The withers are the most stable part of the horse's back. By balancing there, the back is free to move as needed in the vertical, and allows the horse to jump far better than they would if ridden in a chair seat, with weight carried further to the rear.

I don't endurance race. If I did, then I think an argument can be made that a forward seat is the best approach, provided you have the strength to do your part as a rider. But I honestly cannot imagine how much strength and endurance it would take from the rider to ride like that for long distances! It certainly would be way beyond anything I'm capable of!
    02-18-2013, 04:39 PM
Green Broke
These are pulled out of a George Morris clinic with his comments. Notice how the positions he is loving are the ones with the leg under the rider and straight lines?

The comment with it

This picture I like very much. Beautiful legs. This is the correct angle in the knee--about 110 degrees. Her buttock is much closer to the saddle than the others. Excellent posture. Her eyes are up and ahead. There's practically a straight line from her elbow to the bit. Her martingale yoke has to be as close to the wither as possible. Her hand could be half an inch lower, but that's the best picture so far over jumps.

Awful good. Inside leg at the girth, outside leg is behind the girth limiting the bend. Equal pressure on both reins. Very, very engaged behind. Lowered croup. This is a better position of the neck though the face is slightly behind the vertical. The throat angle is very closed; I wouldn't want her any tighter or shorter in the neck. But this is a good on-the-flat position for this horse to be in because she gets high-headed. This is contact. You can see the perfectly straight line, the steadiness. This is true contact. Look at the quality of the contact--it's taut, it's supple. That's an excellent picture.
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