Your Seat And Your Saddle

So many riders find it hard to keep their seat and pelvis in the correct position on their horse. Your own conformation and the conformation of your saddle plays a huge role in allowing your seat to be in the correct position.

Take a look at the conformation of your saddle. Make sure that your saddle allows you to find a neutral pelvic position. Even if your saddle fits your horse, it doesn’t mean it fits you. Just because your saddle fits you from front to back (your seat size), doesn’t mean that it’s the right width or has the right slope/rise/twist. The right slope for you will allow your upper leg to drop comfortably out of your hip joint. If the slope/rise/twist of your seat is too steep or too flat, it will force more of your body weight to the front or back of your pelvis, which can put unnecessary pressure on your seat bones or your pelvic arch at the front of your pelvis.

The length of the skirt compared to the length of your leg should also be evaluated. Too short a flat, and it well get caught under the top of your boot, encouraging you to pull you knee up. Too long a flap will not allow enough contact with your calf and the horse.

The thigh block is also of concern when evaluating your saddle. There are many kinds and shapes of thigh blocks on the market. Some are under the top skirt flap, some are on top. Some thigh blocks are wide at the top and skinny at the bottom, and others are the opposite. Some thigh blocks are shaped like a banana, and other saddles have no thigh blocks at all. None are better than the other. What matters is the shape and conformation of your own thigh and knee. You must find a saddle with a thigh block that encourages your thigh and leg to be elongated to where your pelvis is in neutral. If the thigh block is to forward for your leg, it will promote your knee pulling up and forward, and pushing your seat to the back of the saddle. If your thigh block is to long and straight for your conformation, it will tip you forward into a closed pelvis position. Not to mention uncomfortable rubs and blisters, ill fitting thigh block can do as much damage to your seat as the wrong seat size.

The thigh bone, or femur, is connected to the pelvis and trunk by several groups of strong muscles. These muscles, particularly the adductors, (the ones that allow you to pull your knees toward each other) are often a rider’s first tool (incorrectly) to stay in the saddle. While effective in the heat of the moment, this incorrect instinct actually pushes the rider’s body out of the saddle, and limits movement at the hip joint. With the hip joint locked, the thigh bone is unable to move with the horse’s back and it is impossible to have a long and secure leg as well as making it difficult to give clear leg aids. Seeking balance from the trunk muscles (your core) reduces the need to grip and improves suppleness of the thigh muscles allowing the rider to stay with the horse.

The use of muscles in the lower back allows the pelvis to rotate and absorb the motion of the horse. By stretching and contracting these muscles, the pelvis changes angles as the horse moves. When you flatten your back, you're stretching your back muscles and rotating the pelvis to a backward tilt. In doing the opposite, if you exaggerating the curve in the lower back, you're contracting your muscles, and tilting the pelvis in a more forward position. While riding your horse a NEUTRAL or 0 degree tilt of your pelvis is necessary. Your pelvis must be able to open and close like a spring to optimally absorb the movement of your horses back in any gait.

When your pelvis is neutral and your hip, knees, and ankles are relaxed, your leg will fall where it needs to be…gravity will put it there!


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Comment by Nikki Brazier on March 4, 2010 at 9:20am
I couldn't agree more! I have a slight hip problem and when I switched to a different saddle with the stirrup bars set more under me it really helped my position and comfort a lot. No doubt because it put my pelvis in the right position to flex. As a rider with a shorter leg I also found buying saddles with a shorter flap helped a lot too. My legs were on the horse not on the leather!

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