“Do you have any tips to keeping your balance in the saddle? I was hurt and couldn’t ride for several months and now that I am starting to ride again I’ve noticed that I have been having a really hard time keeping my stirrups, and I believe this is a balance issue. My injuries were a series of concussions so my balance is probably pretty off to begin with, but is there anything obvious I can do to help me keep my seat better?
Thank you so much! I’m a huge fan!!! Watching one of your DVDs right now:)”
First, I would like to say that I’m glad you have recovered enough to ride again. I have never had a concussion before but I did hit my head hard enough to earn an MRI. Although the scan ruled out a concussion, my balance was affected for for several weeks. The doctors may have cleared you for riding but you may want to ask them how long it takes for full healing. My first bit of advice is to allow yourself time.
When someone rides with me and their feet keep slipping out of the stirrups my advice seems a bit odd; practice dropping your stirrups.
Set the goal of ‘dropping’ your stirrups ten times per ride. ‘Dropping’ your stirrups means removing your feet from the stirrups on purpose. The focus here isn’t on how long you can ride without your stirrups, the focus is on practicing picking them up again.
Dropping one stirrup at a time is a good place to start. Once you can drop your right stirrup, put your foot back in and then drop the left stirrup comfortably at a walk then you can move up to the trot. Other goals can include practicing this exercise over ground poles, at a lope or drop both stirrups at the same time when you are comfortable.
For general work on balance I also encourage people to play games. One of my favorite classes as a kid was ‘Egg & Spoon’ where each rider was given a plastic spoon and an egg with the challenge of seeing how long they could balance it while performing all gaits. We even had a jump off over jumps one time! Although it is fun the class actually encourages riders to have steady hands and great balance…all while having fun.
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I have had to restart riding several times due to injuries including TB. I found riding bareback in a round pen. Just as I start all the children and beginning rides that I have taught. Have someone lounge the horse starting at a walk then progress through the gaits as you gain competence. Spend part of each session. riding with your eyes closed and pay attention to feeling with your large muscles.
I am very angry at myself for tipping forward on my horse. My seating is terrible, I ride a paso and it ruins her gates. I have worked and worked on it. I grew up on a horse that would run away with you and so we barrel raced. I’m beginning to think I ‘ll never break this horrible habit.
I suffered a severe concussion and it left a permanent ringing in my left ear. It has taken me years to get my balance back. I work on it every day, on and off the horse. I do yoga which both strengthens my core and my balance. I also do balance therapy. I look for ways to re-teach my brain and muscles how to respond when off-balance. One I did a lot was with Stacy’s blue ball. It is the perfect size to sit on like you would a horse. I’d do this and bring both feet off the ground and try to balance. It’s all about muscle memory…helping your muscles remember what to do when you are off balance. Small things count, such as lifting one foot off the ground (behind you) a few inches while standing. I now practice that one with my eyes closed. I was watching a basketball game one night and this girl threw one 3-pointer after another. The announcer talked about how she had achieved muscle memory. This is what got me started with ‘re-teaching my brain and muscles. My balance is now better than ever before. I’m even able to canter short distances bareback. I hope to be able to ride like you, Stacy, someday.That is my goal.
I love your tips! I also do yoga although I was aiming more for stretching, but you are correct that it helps balance too. I challenged myself with the blue ball to see how long I could balance without touching. I got to the point where I could eat a whole meal at the dinner table while sitting on it, lol.
I work with disabled riders and we do all kinds of upper body exercises — reach for the stars, be a bird, swing arms like a helicopter, twist at the waist and pat the horses butt, tossing balls, shoulder rolls, head rolls, turning the head and spotting an object when changing direction. Two-point is great for strengthening legs and improving balance. Be sure to keep your eyes and head up. Even western riders can do two point. LOL. If the upper body is collapsing and the head is coming forward, it will cause the legs and feet to go out of alignment and slide to the rear, with the heels coming up, I think. So even though you feel like the problem is from the seat down, working on the upper body might fix these issues. Improving core strength and your overall balance might be helpful.
I had some back surgeries which changed my posture and, consequently, my balance. One of my doctors recommended selecting a good beginner yoga program on DVD focused on stretching, balance, and relaxation (and to avoid group classes so that I wouldn’t overdo it by “competing” with others–I think he knew me!). The control and awareness yoga has brought to my riding has been invaluable as has taking lessons again with an experienced trainer. Both have helped me to realize that what feels balanced isn’t necessarily what is balanced. Sending healing thoughts!
Pretend like your legs are really long and drag the ground. Center your buttons up with your horses mane, get lunged without stirrups, hold your core mid body up straight and breathe when you ride. GET A DECENT SADDLE that fits your horse and seats you in the sweet spot. Good luck.
I’m 60 years old and my balance was getting bad cause I wasn riding much but I started taking dressage lessons two times a week I have wounderful balance now . If you can ride dressage you can ride anything.