You want to have the best possible posture for riding, but you spend all day at a desk in postures that you know aren’t the best at maximising your riding.
Spending all day at a desk is necessary for a lot of jobs, but what if you could maximise your workstation to help your riding?
There are many office chairs to choose from, but which one do you choose to help your riding?
Imagine working all day but also working on your posture at the same time (your horse will thank you!)
Below I outline the various chairs for equestrian riders and what I would recommend if you’re serious about maximising your time and improving your posture…whilst working at your desk!
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.
Also, I should stress that you can adopt less-than-ideal posture in any chair! Even with the best chair in the world for equestrian riders, if you don’t put the effort in to maintaining good posture, then any chair can be unbeneficial to your riding.
In saying that, I do believe that there are some chairs that, combined with conscious efforts to maintain good posture, can maximise your working time so that you can improve your riding off the horse.
I use and recommend the following chairs (and will go into more detail on each of them below):
What is a Saddle Chair? It’s exactly that! A saddle shaped chair! Usually on wheels, with adjustable height.
I like saddle chairs because they are the closest you will get to riding position, without actually riding. The more time you can spend mimicking the actual position you will be in riding, the better you are going to get at it, and the more familiar it will feel.
Plus, you will get “more hours in the saddle” without actually riding.
Sitting in a saddle chair differs from a conventional desk chair. Instead of the hips being flexed to a 90 degree angle, your hips will rest closer to the desired 45 degrees of hip flexion. Also, your hips will be abducted (thigh bones out to the side) as they would be when riding, allowing you practice sitting directly on your seat bones.
Without the backrest and armrests that a conventional chair offers, your body is forced to support itself upright by recruiting core stability and postural muscles, as well your leg muscles, as you will also be weight bearing slightly though the balls of your feet.
This increased muscular activation strengthens and improves muscular endurance for riding (allowing your postural muscles to stay active for longer without fatiguing).
You want to be practising neutral pelvis whilst sitting in your saddle chair, and have your feet underneath you, resting on the balls of your feet. This will mimic the feeling of distributing weight in your stirrups (on the balls of your feet) and your seat.
Because the saddle chair does not provide a back support, this is great because you will need to recruit your own postural muscles to keep yourself upright.
A saddle chair might not have all the bells and whistles that your actual saddle has, BUT it’s doesn’t cost nearly as much either!
I like this one that I purchase from eBay. It’s what I spend most of my time in when I am at the desk and is my number 1 recommendation as an office chair for equestrian riders. You can also get pretty much the same saddle chair from amazon here.
What is a Kneeling Chair? (Also called a Norwegian Kneeling Chair).
A kneeling chair is a type of chair that gives the user a feeling of half sitting/ half kneeling, thereby distributing the weight between the seat and the knees/shins.
The thighs also sit closer to a 45degree angle compared to the 90degrees with traditional chairs.
Kneeling chairs also give you the feeling of weight bearing on the balls of your feet as you would in the stirrups.
Most kneeling chairs are angled forwards to discourage a posterior pelvic tilt, making it beneficial for those that tend to adopt a “chair seat” in the saddle.
As with the saddle chair, with continued use of a kneeling chair (without a back support) your core stability and postural muscle strength and endurance will improve, benefiting your riding as you will be able to hold good posture for longer without fatiguing.
I actually stole my kneeling chair from my mum (by stole, I mean I’m permanently borrowing it)! But I’ve searched online and like this one from Amazon.
People with knee problems who have trouble kneeling may find these chairs uncomfortable, although the position could be modified to weight bear more on the shins rather than the knee area.They can also be a little intimidating to negotiate when first learning how to get into and out of them, but soon it becomes second nature.
What is an exercise ball? An exercise ball (also called a Swiss Ball, Yoga Ball, Stability Ball, or Physio Ball) is a big air-filled soft elastic ball usually 55-85cm diameter.
When sitting on an exercise ball, the body has to respond to the instability of the ball to remain balanced, which causes your body to activate postural and stability muscles (which you’ll need for riding!)
Compared to a saddle or kneeling chair, you are more likely to require more core muscle activation for an exercise ball, due to the natural tendency of the ball to roll away. You are forced to engage your core stability muscles, improving core strength and your ability to maintain good posture for longer periods.
Usually when sitting on an exercise ball the hips will be flexed to a similar angle to that of a conventional chair (about 90degrees). For that reason, and if your hip flexors are tight (or you struggle to get a “long leg” in the saddle), then a saddle or kneeling chair might be a better option for you.
The diameter or height of the ball is really important to consider when choosing an exercise ball as a desk chair. If the ball is too small, it could be a little awkward to reach your desk/keyboard. If the ball is too large, you might compromise your posture to view your desktop at eye level.
The best way to get the right height for you would be to measure your current chair and order an exercise ball 10cm more that your current chair height. (Ie. If your current chair height is 55cm, you will need a 65cm ball. Most balls will require repeated inflation to reach their maximum diameter. (Obviously, please be careful with exercise balls around sharp objects to avoid puncture and potential injury).
You can also easily use your exercise ball to complete your rider-specific exercises on your breaks!
There are SO many exercise balls to choose from! I like this one from amazon but you can also pick them up from k-mart or big w fairly inexpensively. I also use an air-compressor to inflate them rather than the manual tool that is provided when you purchase!
Hopefully by now you know a bit more about the different options of chairs that you could be using the help maximise your riding (whilst you work!). To summarise, here are the main chairs and their benefits: