Training out of the saddle is slowly becoming popular with the Horse Rider. Pilates for Horse Riders, Core Strength Training for Horse riders are the type courses popping up all over the world. Many of these courses seem to be very successful ( I have not done them, therefore I do not comment on content). My course "Applied Posture Riding" is also very successful.
So Why Train The Rider Unmounted?
Let us look at the paces of the horse and examine what is required of the rider. The walk and the trot are what I call symmetrical paces. The canter is an asymmetrical pace.
The walk is four beat and the horse's footfall is even and equal in stride length and at push off. The horse will also have a head nod to assist balance and power through the hind quarters.The rider can count one-two, one-two in time with the front or the hind legs. The riders will have equal weight on both seat bones, equal weight through both heels and as the rider's hips move with the horse's hind quarters stepping, the rider's shoulders have a counter movement to stay in rhythm with the horse's movement. Therefore it is a symmetrical pace. The walk is a great pace to feel your horse's movement. It is an easy pace to identify a lameness or unevenness.
The trot is a two-beat pace. The diagonal footfalls also strike the ground opposite but equal in stride length and push off. The rider can count one-two, one-two in time with the footfalls. The rider will have equal weight through their seat bones, have equal weight through their heels, and have a centered line of vertical balance. The ride will rise with symmetrical weight and movement and do the same in the sitting trot. The rider needs to be balanced through their lower leg and not through their hands. The unbalanced rider will swing through the lower leg and or use their hands for stability.The trot is a symmetrical pace.
The canter is a three beat pace. The footfall is asymmetrical. The three beat movement in not symmetrical, the footfall has a diagonal component and therefore requires the rider to control a rotational movement that is not symmetrical. The canter is a very comfortable pace to ride and the rider should maintain equal weight through the seat bones and the heels, but because the horse has more elevation through the hind quarters than at the walk or the trot the rider is often pushed forward and hence loses contact in the saddle. The balanced rider will move with the horse and have a counter-movement through their upper body using their core for stability.
Galloping and jumping are not addressed in this article, but the same principles apply.
So Why Train The Rider Unmounted?
Every sports person will train away from the competition arena. Riders certainly do the same. But, riders tend to do hours of the same. Dressage training in circles on an arena, having riding lessons over and over again. I even know of riders who only ride when an instructor is in their area once every two months. Progress can be slow when the focus is only on the horse and not in the rider.
Dressage training starts with the basics, forward movement, equal stepping, pushing through from the hind quarters and balanced. The horse is trained to be flexible both laterally and longitudinally. The horse is trained to use his hind quarters and be soft and balanced in front. The horse is trained to move away from pressure and be sharp with their response. The horse is trained in the basics before advanced training starts. So why doesn't it happen as easily as it sounds?
The rider is the team player that needs to train themselves first. The rider often neglects to train themselves in the basics. The rider needs to be flexible in all body parts but especially through the pelvis and lower back. The rider needs to have a strong core to maintain stability through the spine so the can apply aids with independent isolation. The rider needs to have ambidextrous skills in strength and efficiency. The rider needs endurance, coordination, synchronization in all postural as well as dynamic muscles. The rider needs to manage pain from injury or muscle soreness.
When a rider is strong through the core and understands functional core stability they will be a better rider. Add flexibility, endurance, postural awareness and strength then the rider will have much more success training their horse. Learning independent isolation of riding movements will allow a rider to apply correct movement patterns in both their training and competition riding.The horse responds to repeat aids, so it is up to the rider to apply the aid the same every time. The unbalanced rider will not do this.
Training unmounted has huge advantages over just training mounted. My Applied Posture Riding program will train you to train yourself. If you want to chat about your riding, contact me, I love this topic.
Blame yourself before you blame your horse.
If you are interested in a Video Rider Assessment watch the following video. This may be a great way to learn about your riding skills.