It makes sense that the best way to get good at anything is to do more of it…but have you ever wondered if there are some things you could do during the day (and off your horse) to help improve your riding?
If you work full time, riding all day just isn’t an option, but maximising your time away from your horse could help improve your riding.
It’s possible to harness everyday habits to help improve your posture and symmetry when riding. Below are my top 7 everyday habits to improve your riding…without actually riding!
Do you always carry your handbag on the same shoulder?
This would be like only riding your horse on the left rein when you ride- you just wouldn’t.
Especially if you have a heavy handbag, this could be creating asymmetries such as a dropped shoulder or collapsed ribcage on one side, and lead to muscle tightness and imbalance (and potentially pain/injury) around the neck/shoulder/upper back regions.
Clean out your handbag, swap it for a smaller or lighter bag, and alternate which shoulder you carry it on.
You might find that it feels strange initially. Practice until you no longer know which shoulder it is you prefer.
Better yet, ditch the handbag for a backpack (ok, it’s not as stylish)- but will load your system more evenly.
Some of us spend a lot of time driving each day. This is a great opportunity to work on your symmetry and posture!
Slumping, leaning to one side, and poking your chin forwards are all common habits adopted by drivers. All of these positions could lead to bad habits in the saddle, including chair seat posture, collapsed ribcage or dropped shoulders, and a forward head posture.
Make sure your seat is as upright as possible, that you can feel your seat bones evenly on the seat and your pelvis is in neutral.
Keep the back of your head touching the headrest (to avoid a forward head posture) and lengthen up through your spine.
Avoid leaning on one elbow on either the centre console or door handles. Keep both hands on the wheel as much as you can (it goes without saying but many people drive one handed!).
You might like to use a backrest to help encourage better posture when driving (I place mine around the upper back region as my chair is a little deep for my likings).
We go about our daily business favouring our dominant hand, and thus it gets stronger and more coordinated, whilst the other gets weaker and less coordinated.
We expect our horses to be even on both reins, and yet we don’t hold this same accountability for ourselves!
Ambidexterity is the state of being equally skilled in the use of both left and right limbs.
It is a skill that we should be constantly striving for as equestrian riders, to better influence our horses. Click here to read more on ambidexterity for horse riders.
Every day, choose one task to do left handed. Brushing your teeth, vacuuming, grooming your horse, using the computer mouse, and texting are all great examples of everyday tasks that you can use to strengthen your non dominant hand.
This will help you be more coordinated and symmetrical on both sides of your body, and therefore be in greater harmony with your horse.
There are many desk chairs available on the market, and some could be helping you improve your core strength and postural endurance whilst you work!
You don’t want a chair that holds you in the right position because you want to be building your own core and postural strength & endurance throughout the day.
Using a chair that gives you support in all the right places will give your postural muscles permission to be a little lazy, and you will find it harder establishing a good posture in the saddle.
For this reason I recommend saddle chairs, kneeling chairs, and exercise balls as desk chairs for riders and in this blog post I go into more detail.
It is recommended that adults exercise every day – why not make it beneficial for your riding?
Some exercises are better than others when it comes to selecting them for horse riders. You want exercises that work on mobility (flexibility), strength, and motor control (muscle memory) specifically for equestrian disciplines.
Mobility/flexibility exercises will ensure that you have the adequate range of motion/movement to sit comfortable on your horse and in a balanced position.
Strength exercises will ensure that you are strong enough to maintain good posture for prolonged periods and endure movement of the horse and gravity forces on your body.
Motor control (muscle memory) exercises will ensure you have the appropriate body awareness, control, and coordination for an independent seat, leg, and hands.
Equestrian Biomechanics offers 10 FREE rider-specific exercises to get you started. Check out the homepage, or the sidebar on this page to get the exercises sent to your inbox now. If you're wanting a bit more..check out the 8 Week Rider-Specific Exercise Program.
Just a little bit of posture training every day can go a long way!
Would it be so taxing for you to wear a posture brace or device for just 10minutes a day, if it meant that in a month’s time your posture is better for it?
Posture braces are a great tool to feel good posture, and help remind to lengthen through our spine and open our shoulders- but should not be relied upon in isolation.
In this article, I discuss posture braces that I have personally used on and off the horse to help develop good posture.
I specifically recommend the Upright GO, which is a small electronic device, attached to your upper back, that senses and alerts you when you are slouching.
Commit to never ending self-improvement.
Read, watch, or listen to something (anything!) every day to help improve your riding- even if it’s just 2 minutes.
It is these small seemingly insignificant habits that compounded over time make all the difference when it comes to your riding.
Make sure you are signed up to Equestrian Biomechanics to keep learning about how your body works with your horse, and how you can be the best rider you can be!