Balance is a major key to good horsemanship and horseback riding
No matter what type of riding you do and how well trained your horse is, the most important thing you can do for you and your horse is to perfect your balance.
If you’re out of balance you can easily be injured, and you can injure your horse. Even if you or your horse never become injured to the point of being technically lame, you are still going to do harm to you and your horse if you are not in balance. For your horse, he can not be balanced if you are not. Regardless of how large or strong your horse is, if he has to try to compensate for your lack of balance then he himself will have to be out of balance. There is no way around it! For you, the more you ride out of balance the more you will get sore and possibly create a new injury or worsen an existing injury.
So…what do you to establish your own good balance? I can’t tell you the details in a post because it’s such a detailed answer that you should read about at other sources which I mention below. BUT, to give you an overview and some sound ideas, I’m going to list a lot of things that will help – they are all equally important, so don’t assume that certain things don’t matter as much as other things listed.
1. If you have any tight and stiff muscles, tendons, joints, and/or liagaments, then loosen them. The best way to address stiffness and tight muscles is most likely going to require a combination of some or all of the following activities: You can do basic stretching, pilates, yoga, use an incline machine, walking, get massaged regularly, get chiropractic adjustments regularly, acupressure or acupuncture work, physical therapy by a professional if you have an injury (old or new) causing the problem.
It’s important that you don’t have tightness or stiffness anywhere in your body, but concentrate especially on your neck, shoulders, lower back, hips and legs (quads, hamstrings, knees, inner thighs, ankles and calves).
2. Get you’re weight in check if you need to. Ideally you want to be fit and strong which is more difficult the more overweight you are.
3. Be fit. That includes strength, endurance and sometimes cardiovascularly.
4. Develop a strong and supple core. Core control is critical. Pilates is great for developing a strong core.
5. Practice balance on a balance board or similar device and learn and practice at least basic proprioceptive exercises. There a lots of instructional books/DVD’s that teach this.
6. Use perfect riding posture all the time, even if you’re just sitting on your horse talking to someone or looking at a beautiful view.
7. Don’t ride hungry (or thirsty) or with too much caffeine or sugar in your system. Take a healthy snack or two with you to make sure you don’t get weak or fatigued while you ride. You can’t use your body correctly if you’re weak or fatigued and you may not make good decisions about what you or your horse are capable of if the lack of food or hydration impairs your thinking.
A good book to read is Sally Swift’s Centered Riding which I’ve been doing since the early 1980′s. And, last year I discovered Heather Sanson of Equifit.com – she has great information about all the details what what to do and how to do it and why to do it! I get her email newsletter and read all of her articles on Equisearch.com …and I try to follow everything she says to do!