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Basic exercise to develop horse stability in front of an obstacle
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Correct Fit Exercises

When I just started learning to ride, I had problems with the position of the body. All my instructors constantly told me that I needed to sit straight, but it was physically difficult for me to do this. However, some time later, I was fortunate enough to work with Cindy Sidnor, a rider and examiner for the certification program for instructors of the Equestrian Federation of the United States. After several workouts, I found that it was not the case, but the wrong position of the hip angle. I “tucked” the pelvis under myself and therefore could not sit straight. Cindy helped me align the position of the pelvis, after which I not only sat smoother and deeper in the saddle, but also was able to more correctly distribute my weight, pulling down the heel. My ride immediately noticeably improved.

Now I tell all my students to sit in the center of the saddle and align their hips. Only in this way can you relax your body and arms. Your hands can be independent, while maintaining easy and stable contact with the horse’s mouth. Your legs, in turn, will not squeeze the sides of the horse, which will allow you to give clearer messages.

Perfect angles
So what are the right angles? Speaking about the disciplines of equestrian sports related to overcoming obstacles, you should always remember about the correct landing, allowing you to escort a horse in a jump, even if it is sudden. This means that the knee and hip joints must be bent at certain angles. The length of the stapes plays an important role here. When you sit in the saddle, the length of the stapes should provide an angle in the knee joint of approximately 110 degrees. (I usually recommend shortening the stirrup by one or two holes if you are moving from maneuvering to jumping). As the height of the obstacles increases, you may need a sharper angle at the knee to cushion when landing.

When you sit deeper in the saddle, your weight should be evenly distributed between three points: the pubic bone in front and two sciatic bones in the back. Your legs should remain below, hugging the sides of the horse; weight goes to heels. The correct position of the leg and seat is the foundation by which your body can stretch upward, but at the same time remain relaxed, like a puppet suspended by strings. To accompany the horse’s movements, let the hips move in time with her movements. Try to maintain this ideal position on every gait and during transitions.

Recently, I began to notice that many riders incorrectly gallop, sitting too far from the front bows of the saddle. At a gallop, either a three-point contact or a two-point “field” landing should be maintained. The right hip angle will allow you to achieve this.

During the jump, the correct hip angle is crucial. Thanks to him, you will not lag behind the horse and will be able to restore the correct balance during the landing (see the photo “Right angles” later in the text). As a result, you will not “prevent” the horse from jumping and retain control.

If you are unable to achieve the correct fit, then most likely you are making one or more of the following errors:

Hold on to balance.
Swinging excessively in the saddle or “fidgeting” on it.
Squeeze the muscles of the buttocks, causing the horse to tighten, resulting in her back sagging.
Squeeze the horse with your feet, which does not allow you to relax. In addition, the horse perceives this vice as a constant promise forward.
Whether you can achieve perfect angles depends on how well you feel your body, and not on your physical abilities. Many riders only need to slightly change the angle in order to achieve a more relaxed landing. In fact, some riders are trying so hard to fix their landing that their zeal turns against themselves. It should be noted that the angles of the hips must be constantly monitored and checked.

The best way to determine what changes are needed is to take a lesson from an expert. But, even if you are not given the opportunity to find an instructor who would help you, there are many ways to analyze and correct your landing yourself.

Fitness ball and mirror
Find a fitness ball that is big enough for you to sit on your feet on the ground. Sit on the ball in front of a large mirror located on the side (you should see your “landing” on the side). Imagine riding a horse and experimenting with a hip angle.

To make this exercise more effective, take a couple of reins or some belt or tape (for example, a belt from a bag, a rope, etc.) and ask a friend to hold the other ends or attach them to a fixed object at about the height at which your horse’s mouth was located if you were sitting in the saddle. Change the pressure on the occasion to train to maintain a different contact (stronger or softer), while maintaining a position whereby you sit balanced on the ball.

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