Real riding challenge day 9 is a day of exercises, which kind of ties in pretty well with challenge day 8 of perfect practice. So I thought I would share with you some simple exercises that you can do which will really help to increase your strength, balance and stability in the saddle.
And I think it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyways. I am not a professional horse trainer or riding instructor. The tips, and exercises that I share here, on my blog, are different things that I do that help me. And if they help me, I thought they might be helpful for you too.
There are exercises that you can do while you are riding, and then there are those that you do out of the saddle which can help your overall strength. And you can’t forget about cardio exercises too. So Lets start with the fun exercises, things you can do in the saddle.
Two Point (Half Seat)
A two point position has many names. But it is often referred to as a jumping seat because your rear end is up out of the saddle, leaving two pints of contact with the saddle. And lifting yourself out of the saddle isn’t too difficult, for a few seconds. But, can you do it one full revolution around your arena? In both directions? If you can, you are awesome. If you can’t, then you have a goal to work toward.
The benefit of working on a two point position is that it helps to stretch your heels down and strengthen your legs as well as your core muscles. This will help improve your leg stability as well as your balance in the saddle.
When you are practicing a two point position you will bring your upper body slightly forward and raiser your seat out of the saddle, not a lot, just enough to not have any contact with the seat. You want to push your heels down, but don’t pinch with your knees. If you pinch with your knees, it will push your lower leg back, and pitch your body forward. You should be able to balance yourself without pitching your upper body too far forward.
Practice Perfect, Practice Often
When I first started learning how to do two point, it looked really bad. I had a vision of what it looked like in my mind, which was totally different than what I looked like.
I was pitching myself too far forward, and would duck my upper body down onto my horse’s neck, pinch with me knees, and then my lower leg would move back. I was basically perched on top of the horse. But with a lot of practice, my two point is much better. AND it’s a lot easier too! You don’t have to bee too far out of the saddle for an effective two point.
First start at the halt, then the walk, and once you feel secure with your position you can move up to trot and even canter. The more your practice your position correctly, the better you will become. But keep in mind, if you aren’t practicing it correctly it will be really hard to do it right. So make sure to do it well, and get it right in the slower gaits before increasing the speed.
Exercises For Two Point Out Of The Saddle
You can also increase your muscle strength out of the saddle to improve your two point muscles by doing squats, calf raises and bike riding. Riding a bike is an excellent exercise to strengthen your leg muscles, as well as help to improve your balance and will carry over well into the saddle.
If you have an exercise ball, you can even ‘ride’ the ball, and practice your two point position.
Improve Your Seat
Now if you spend extended amounts of time working on improving your two point, you will be neglecting your seat. Because in two point your seat is out of the saddle. So how do you improve your seat? By sitting in the saddle.
Having a good seat is easier at the halt, and walk. But once you add some speed, and a little bounce from your horse like in the trot and canter and well, this can make your seat bounce all over the place. So what can you do?
Riding Without Stirrups
This is a great exercise to strengthen your seat. And you can start out with a little bit of no stirrup work, or you can really challenge yourself and remove your stirrups (and leathers) completely and ride without.
Have you ever done that? Removed your stirrup irons from your saddle? It’s a fun challenge to do once in a while. But for most of your schooling you can cross your stirrups up over the pommel of your saddle.
And if you have a helper who could lunge you from a lunge line, this would be really helpful.
But if you are like me, and ride alone without an assistant almost always, you can also just drop your stirrups for 1 revolution around the arena and then pick them back up again. This in itself is also a great exercise. Pick up your stirrups without looking down to find them.
When you are riding without your stirrups it can be really enticing to grip with your knees, but try not to do that. Instead move your body with the motion of your horse. Feel your horse underneath you, and allow your hips and pelvis to go with the flow of the movement of your horse.
When I was a kid, I never rode with a saddle unless I was going to a horse show. First, I didn’t have a saddle. So I rode bareback all the time. This is something I think we need to do more of as adults.
Maybe after lunging your horse, and getting the fresh out of him, opt for riding bareback. Even if it isn’t for your entire ride, see if you can ride bareback for 10 to 15 minutes. Bareback riding is an excellent exercise for improving your seat, as well as your balance.
If you aren’t quite comfortable with complete bareback riding, you can always use a bareback pad.
This can be a good option if you have a bony horse. A bareback pad can make it more comfortable for you. And Riding Warehouse has this bareback pad for less than $70.00.
Practice Exercises For Better Riding
I hope this gives you some different exercises that you can work on to improve your legs, and seat as well as your balance in the saddle. If you take the time to really practice, they will help!