As a rider you have a greater effect on the balance of your horse than you may think. How you sit on your horse, which saddle you ride with and even how you climb on your horse influences its balance. Are you aware of the influence you as a rider have on your horse’s balance?
Can you disturb your horse’s balance?
Horses are asymmetrical by nature. As soon as you sit on a horse, you’re disturbing its balance. Your horse notices this and will tend to compensate. So, it may be that the horse begins to move asymmetrically or tense the wrong muscles in the attempt to find balance under the weight of a rider. And we are not always (immediately) aware of this. But don’t worry! The right training and an awareness for symmetry will give you a strong, balanced, and happy horse. If you want to get started right away, read our blog with 4 basic exercises to straighten your horse.
Improve your balance as a rider
It is important that you start by asking the right questions and looking for the right information. For example, the information you find on social media is not always correct. As a rider you are allowed to think and act critically. For example, are you aware of the influence you have as a rider on the balance of your horse?
Understanding how horizontal and vertical balance works
Before you can work on your horse’s balance, it’s important to know a little theory. This starts with understanding horizontal and vertical balance. Horizontal balance involves the distribution of weight between the forehand and the hindquarters. Horses are naturally more oriented towards the forehand as they are heavier in the front due to their neck and head. Add a rider, and that puts even more weight on the forehand. These two factors result in the horse getting out of horizontal balance. Vertical balance is the distribution of weight between the horse’s left and right sides. For example, when a horse puts more of its weight on the left side than on the right in search of relief.
Do you sit straight?
Many factors influence a horse’s balance. When we start working towards straightness, we often concentrate on exercises for the horse. But did you know that you as a rider also have a significant influence on your horse’s balance? You can develop straightness in your horse by sitting straight yourself. You and your horse are a team, and ideally you work together towards finding absolute balance. It’s also important that you understand the horse’s movements. This is how you develop an independent seat and learn to become one with your horse. You’ll find that your horse then moves freely and with suppleness.
Maintain a good weight distribution between horse and rider
It’s important that weight between horse and rider be well balanced; this prevents unnecessary injuries and imbalances and results in a happier horse. Any weight will have an impact on the horse’s back. Rider weight in comparison to that of the horse is a tricky topic. Instead of rider weight, we prefer to talk about rider forces. There is a difference between weight and the pressure that a rider exerts on the horse. This rider force differs from gait to gait. A rider exerts more pressure in a rising trot than when they “sit still” at a walk. We should therefore not concentrate on rider weight alone, but also on the force that is exerted on the horse’s back.
Choosing the right saddle for your horse – but also for you
Together with the bit, the right saddle is important for a balanced and satisfied horse. Your saddle was probably fitted to your horse’s back. And that’s good. But have you ever considered which saddle best fits you as a rider? Research from Dr David Marlin’s shows that there is an important relationship between rider weight and saddle. Saddle pads that detect pressure points can be used to show the effects of a saddle.
Think about mounting, for example. Each time that you mount your horse, which probably happens on the left side, you bring your horse out of balance. You put your foot in the stirrup and hoist yourself up, swing your leg over the horse and then you must correct the saddle position with your right leg. Fortunately, mounting and dismounting is just a small part of training your horse. But it’s important enough to consider. Research has shown that the use of a mounting block exerts much less negative influence on your horse’s balance.
How to positively influence your horse’s balance
If you incorporate work on balance and weight distribution into your training, you can improve your horse’s balance while you train. The most important step is to be aware of it. Let yourself be filmed while you train or use the mirror in the indoor arena to see if you are sitting straight. You can also start with these exercises for straightening your horse. Also, check whether your saddle is positioned correctly and exerting pressure in the right places. Check how you sit in the saddle. Use the SaddleClip to follow and measure the development of your horse’s symmetry. It shows you the results of your training in a clear way.