The 3 principles of being a balanced rider

If horse and rider do not carry themselves in an optional non-destructive frame, they are predisposing themselves to possible injury.

To realize the affect one has on his horse whilst riding, one has to understand the utmost importance of balance in riding.  It is essential to understand exactly what happens in one’s own body as well in your team mate’s body, because riding is a team sport and not a solo activity.  

There are three basic principles to take in account to ride as balanced as possible;

  • Centre of gravity (COG)
  • Equilibrium
  • Base of Support (BOS)

Why is it important to be a balanced rider? -

Centre of Gravity

Centre of Gravity is the average location of the weight of an object / human / animal. It is a point directly situated inside your base of support which is essential in keeping one’s body in equilibrium, therefore, in balance.

    Why is it important to be a balanced rider? -

    Equilibrium

    Equilibrium describes the stability of the body.  Equilibrium is a condition in which all acting influences are cancelled by others, resulting in a stable, balanced or unchanging system.  In the standing horse where the line of gravity falls within the base of support, the horse is in a balanced position.  A standing horse is in static equilibrium, which means he can maintain this position without tending to fall over.

    Why is it important to be a balanced rider? -

    Base of Support

    Base of support depends mostly on the number of feet or supports that are in contact with the ground.

    When a horse is standing squarely, supported by all four feet, the base of support is roughly rectangular in shape.  If a plumb line were dropped from the centre of gravity, it would make contact on the ground within the base of support.  However, the centre of gravity is not necessarily in the middle of the base of support.  In a horse, the centre of gravity lies closer to the fore feet than the hind feet, which indicates that more weight is carried by the fore limbs (approximately 55-60%) than the hind legs, which carry approximately 40-45% weight.

    However, while in motion, a completely different situation pertains.  The horse is in dynamic equilibrium, which means that balance is also maintained by virtue of having forward motion.

    Why is it important to be a balanced rider? -

    Balancing Horse & Rider

    A horse’s centre of gravity (COG) is between the 12th and 13th ribs and this is also the approximate area where a rider is situated.  If a rider sits evenly and balanced, the weight of the rider on top of the horse does not severely influence its static or dynamic equilibrium, if one sits evenly and balanced.

    The centre of gravity can be moved by changes in the way the horse carries himself and very largely how the rider carries himself on top of the horse.  For example, by mounting a horse, the rider upsets the natural balance of the horse and forces the horse’s body to strain itself to accommodate the pull of the rider.  This is one of the reasons why it is better to mount from a mounting block.

    If this extra weight of the rider was a passive weight such as on packhorses, then the problem would be solved fairly quickly.  But a rider is certainly not a passive weight.  The position of a rider’s body changes all the time and therefore the centre of gravity also change all the time.  The horse must adjust himself all the time, which is quite easy at a walk, but can cause problems in the trot and canter.  In these paces the horse often has moments when the balance is quite unsteady, because he has only two, one, or even no, legs on the ground.  At that moment the balance is easily disturbed.  The weight of the rider has a great influence on the point of the combined centre of gravity and also on the combined balance of the horse and rider…..imagine the feeling when you piggy back someone and they worm and squirm on your back and pull at you from all sides; you naturally strain and work at accommodating the weight on your back, to keep both parties from falling to the floor.

    When a rider is in complete harmony with the movement of his horse, the inconvenience of the weight of the rider will be minimal for the horse.  However, if the rider is against the movement of the horse, i.e. if he loses his balance often or if he falls backwards or forwards, side to side, a great deal of adjustments is asked from the horse.

    Why is it important to be a balanced rider? -
    Why is it important to be a balanced rider? -

    Avoid These Rider Mistakes

    If a rider makes excessive movement with the upper part of his body, i.e. rocking or bouncing, he will stay ‘behind the movement’ with each trot or canter stride.

    Here are rider mistakes I frequently observed in my day-to-day work as a physiotherapist.  

      1. A rider leaning far back in his saddle
      2. A rider with a poor fitting saddle throwing their COG (centre of gravity) off
      3. A rider holding the reigns with one hand and twisting the upper part of his body
      4. A rider with a hollow, stiff back, sitting on her pubic bone
      5. Riders with uneven stirrup lengths
      6. Riders with injuries trying to compensate to protect themselves from pain, and complicating the horse’s maintenance of equilibrium

    Sadly, many riders are under the impression that unless these habits are done to the extreme, it would have no influence on their horse.

    The contrary is true; everything a rider does, influences his/her equine partner.  The worse one’s riding habits are, the more muscle effort one’s horse has to expend.  The more muscle energy the horse has to produce, the harder the heart needs to work and the higher the pulse rate goes.  This puts unnecessary strain on a horse, which could so easily be avoided.

    Good advice in order to ride as balanced as possible for the sake of one’s horse, is to get basic riding tips from an instructor on a regular basis.  I am also running courses to help one communicate and understand one’s horse through body language and breathing.  Ground work and riding techniques form part of the course. Contact me for more details. 

    For more detailed stretching guidance, download my free PDF 

    Grab My Stretching Do's & Don't's Downloadable PDF

    Proper stretching practices correct a horse’s balance and reduces tension across it’s muscles and joints.This guide will teach you how to properly prepare yourself and your horse for implementing an effective and safe habit of daily stretching. Apply what you learn and enjoy a lifetime of joy and performance with your active, healthy & happy horse.

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