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Improve Your Riding At Home
Develop a stable seat without leaving the house

Do you have the mid-winter blues? Is it too cold, slippery or muddy to ride? Don’t worry; winter is always a good time for horses and humans to rest and for you to assess last season’s riding and prepare for the coming season.

Many problems can be solved before you even get back on your horse. For instance, do you consistently lose your left or right stirrup? Does your saddle seem to always slip to the same side every time you ride? When your horse halts does your body fall forward over his withers? Does your riding instructor nag you about dropping a shoulder? If your horse spooks to the left does your body fall to the right? Does your horse always wander to the right off the trail? Do you have to grip with your legs to keep from falling off?

These “riding” problems can usually be fixed at home by practicing five little movements for a few minutes several times a week while lying on a flat surface and sitting in a chair. In fact, you can do these little movements before you get out of bed in the morning. Just do them slowly and gently. Be kind to yourself! Avoid negative self-talk such as, “I am too (add anything) to do this.” Nothing is accomplished by negative self-talk.

These first two movements will keep you from falling forward and backwards in the saddle:

Tummy squeezes
While lying on a flat surface or in bed, bend your knees so that the soles of your feet are flat on the surface, without sitting up, simply roll your shoulders toward the ceiling so that they are a few inches of the surface, and hold the position before rolling slowly back down.

Back squeezes
Roll over onto your tummy. Raise your feet and your shoulders a few inches off the surface and hold the position before relaxing back down.

The next three movements will help prevent your body from falling to one side or the other while you are riding: They can be done on the edge of your bed, at your desk, or while you are watching television. All three movements are done with your finger-tips on your shoulders while sitting as straight as possible with your feet flat on the floor.

Side squeezes
Bend over at the waist to the right and hold for a few seconds. Straighten back up and bend to the left and hold.

Side Twists
Now, slowly rotate your torso, from the waist, as far to the right as you comfortably can and hold the position. Twist to the left and hold.

Knee Touches
Lastly, bend diagonally so that you can touch your left knee with your right elbow. Straighten up again before you reach your left elbow over to touch your right knee.

As these movements become easy, increase the number of repetitions you do. If you begin now, during these unpredictable winter days, by the time perfect riding weather is upon us, you will have strengthened those back, tummy, and side muscles so that they hold you centered, upright and balanced in the saddle. Of course, if you have serious back problems make sure that your doctor approves before you attempt these movements.

If you find these movements are too easy or if you would like additional exercises, email your request to: ebhrc1@gmail.com.

Chris Forte is the owner of the Equine Behavioral Health Resource Center. This article was first printed in the Equestrian Connection: the Pacific Horse Advertiser, March, 2013.

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