Strengthening My Seat

I did not get to ride a real, live horse this week, my usual riding days started off in the low 20s F, the ring would have been frozen and we would have thought we were frozen solid in the cold wind.

At least now I have an alternative that exercises many of my riding muscles.

All this week I have been “riding” my Home Horse (HH) 20 minutes every morning, the first thing in the morning before breakfast. I put my feet in the stirrups for the first 5 minutes and I am now working at keeping my butt off the saddle for a minute or two because I have to 2-point on MJ for several minutes at the beginning of every ride so his back muscles can loosen up. This has been hard on me but it is what MJ needs me to do so that the rest of my ride is a GOOD ride. Since most of my 2-point is at a walk now I use my thighs on the HH so it feels like I am doing the 2-point just like I do at the beginning of every ride on MJ. I am strengthening the muscles that I use to keep my butt out of the saddle in the comfort of my living room instead of just being able to 2-point outside in the bitter cold winds of winter. While doing this I am also making sure that my butt moves back as I get into 2-point, this seems to be the key to keeping the HH from swaying wildly when I move.

Today I also managed to “post” a little bit while using my stirrups and I managed to keep the HH from swaying too badly.

For the rest of my time on the HH I put my feet on the platform, and I am trying to keep my feet in the proper position (just barely seeing the toe of my boot when I look down) with most of the weight on my heels while also keeping some weight on the base of my big toes. I am trying to replicate how I use my feet while riding. It is easier for me to keep my balance on the HH with my feet on the platform and if I pay attention to my feet I can keep the HH relatively stable so it is not swaying wildly back and forth or side to side. My husband told me that that I am not swaying from side to side as much as I use to on the HH. The weight in my heels helped by the alternate pressure from my upper thighs keep the HH from swaying too much from side to side keeps me more stable, plus maybe, just maybe, my sense of balance is getting better.

With my feet on the platform it was much easier to 2-point and post. Both give my legs a true workout, especially in 2-point as I get the HH to move like a horse's back moves at the walk. Posting is easier this way since my feet are on a “floor” instead of swinging wildly in thin air. I made it up to 20 posts once, very tiring, and I did a few more shorter sessions of posting as I was able.

Then I sat down and tried to move my seat around in a circle as I sat down. I made it up to 5 circles each way today and I can still feel the effects in my waist muscles. I am not getting the HH to the edge of the platform doing this, it is a lot of work for me right now but at least my gut muscles are getting EXERCISED.

While I am doing all of this I am also holding my double bridle reins, keeping “contact” as the front of the bridle extension moves up and down as the rest of the HH moves back and forth. I try to use the reins like I would on a horse, light contact going down and a little bit more contact going back and up like I was telling the horse to slow down, alternating with keeping the same level of contact all the time. I am also practicing tweaking my sagging curb rein as the far end of the HH's bridle extension moves up.

And while I do all of this I am trying to keep the upper part of my body in the proper riding position, leaning forward slightly from my hips, head up, eyes looking forward, keeping my shoulder blades down flat against my back, keeping my shoulders open, making sure my elbows are bent properly while I follow the movement of the bridle extension, and keeping my face vertical.

I feel like I am doing twenty things at once as I ride my HH.

I have gotten more exercise “riding” my HH than I have in years. At first I was sleeping an extra 2 hours a day I was so tired. I seem to be getting fitter, at least my naps are not as long and some days I do not need to take a nap. I am walking better and I am not “wall walking” or “furniture walking” anywhere as much as I used to before I started using the HH for exercise.

In the last 16 days I've ridden the HH 14 times, starting with one minute and working up to 20 minutes each day. 20 minutes seems to be all I can do right now and I get so tired that it is really difficult to get off the HH, luckily my husband has been right by me to help me off. After my “ride” I can feel that my thigh muscles and the muscles around my waist are tired, and I can feel increased blood flow in these muscles.

I can push myself to do more on my HH than I can on a horse, because I don't have to lead the HH back to the barn, untack, groom and feed it its treat, and then ride in the car going home. I can just go to my bed and collapse.

I think that riding my HH 20 minutes a day is making my seat stronger much better than riding horses 3 times a week for 30 minutes. I can concentrate on one problem if I need to, and the HH does not care if I mess up when I practice coordinating my aids so I can do three or four things at one time. Since I have not been able to ride 3 times a week regularly since January 2020 I am getting a LOT more exercise these past two weeks. Someday I will get more fit, someday my muscles should be stronger, my balance seems to improve each time I get up on the HH, and I can even practice coordinating my hands, legs and seat.

I think that “riding” the HH on the days I don't ride a horse is going to help me become a much better rider.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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