If you ride western style, you know that the way you sit in the saddle is very important. Just because the saddle is comfy and wide, it doesn’t mean that you can relax and completely forget about your position.The way you sit in the saddle and how you hold the reins affects the way your horse moves.
Sometimes it helps to see the mistakes you might make in the saddle, and then you can think about how you would fix them. That’s why we asked our reader Heather Dunham and her horse Rocky to demonstrate some position problems that might sneak up on you when you ride. Check out the problems, and then see how easy it is to fix them.
Don't slouch when riding your horse. If you're sitting like a sack of potatoes, your body weight rests on your horse's lower back, and this can be uncomfortable for him. He won't be able to move nicely, and you'll be behind the motion.
Sit up straight, tuck in your tummy, and bring your shoulders up and back. Sit squarely in the saddle with your weight evenly distributed on each seat bone. Make sure that your shoulders are even. If one shoulder is in front of the other, your balance will be affected.
Hands Too High
It’s very easy to forget about your hands when you’re loping around having fun. Before you know it, your rein hand is a foot above the saddle horn and you are jerking your horse in the mouth—ouch!
Remember: a low hand means a low head. If your hand is high, your horse’s head will be high, too, and then he’ll be able to evade the bit.
Relax both of your upper arms and let them hang right next to your body. Move your rein hand just in front of the horn. Slip one finger between the reins. This helps you steer if your horse doesn't neck rein very well. Keep your rein hand relaxed so you have a soft touch on your horse's mouth.
Drop your free hand down so it touches your thigh, and then raise it slightly.
Lots of riders make the mistake of pushing their legs too far forward. Doing this pushes your rear end onto the saddle’s cantle and over your horse’s lower back. You might feel more secure in this position—especially at faster speeds—but it’s not pleasant for your horse. All of your weight is bumping around on his back. Instead of moving with your horse, you’re behind the motion and affecting his forward movement.
Bend at the knees and bring your lower legs back until they are directly underneath you. Imagine a vertical line starting at your ear, through your shoulders, down your upper arm, through your hip and down to your heel. You should be able to stand up in the stirrups quickly from this position. If you fall back,your feet are too far in front of you.
Thanks to Heather Dunham and Rocky, Versailles, KY, for their help with this feature!