The more you gain experience in riding, the more you forget about some of the basics. Just yesterday I was sitting in my living room talking to my dad about riding. Then he said something. He said, "I still don't know how you're able to hold on."
At first, I thought I had an easy answer to give him. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it might not be as simple as I first thought.
When it comes to riding, a rider quickly learns not to rely on their tack for balance. They can't use the reins for support. Those reins connect to a bit as well as the other parts of a bridle. If a rider tries to balance themselves on the reins, then they'll be putting all of that weight on the horse's head and mouth. A rider's goal is to try to make themselves as light of a load for a horse as possible. Hanging on to the reins for support won't only hurt the horse, but it will restrict his movements. Not to mention that it will also give the rider a poor position in the saddle.
Another piece of tack a rider can't rely on is their stirrups. Stirrups are a great tool for the rider and I would be lying if I said that I don't think they play a part in being able to stay in the saddle. But then we are asked to ride without them in our lessons. Surely they then can't be our source of balance if we are expected to ride with just as much grace and precision without their help.
Okay, so we can't rely on our tack. So what about a rider's seat? If a rider is expected to sit and follow a horse's movements with their seat, then this must be how a rider stays in the saddle. Well, it would make sense until you take into consideration that the rider's seat will leave the saddle whenever they are posting their trot or jumping over a fence.
A rider also can't solely rely on their legs. If a rider gripped a horse with their calves, they risk desensitizing a horse to their cues. If a rider gripped with their thighs, they risk pinching their knees.
What a rider can rely on is their core and center of gravity. Their core will keep them strong and tall in the saddle. That's why you hear people say that you should ride from your core. Also, understanding your center of gravity will help you stay on your horse. As a horse jumps, a rider will bring their center of gravity closer to the horse so that they aren't left behind the motion. It keeps them solid.
So, how is it that we are able to hold on while we ride? It's through using our core and moving our center of gravity. Sure we use our stirrups, seat and legs to help us stay balanced, but we shouldn't rely on them to stay in the saddle.
Until next time, happy riding!