Friday, January 22, 2010

Leaning tower on horseback

I've been motivated by the Fugly blog to post a training for riding tip that I've found invaluable:

I started with my current trainer last February. It was maybe my third lesson with her when she looked hard at me and said, "you lean a LOT to the left."

"Huh," I said, and then I went home and thought about it. I've had a couple of different trainers over the years, both huntseat and dressage, she's the first one who's ever said that to me and she was completely right. I remember that I used to find myself trying to jerk my saddle straight during trail rides because it would always slide to one side. It never occurred to me that the saddle slipping was my fault, obviously it was.

Now that I knew I had this problem I was determined to fix it. Fortunately for me, I work at a college with really good physical therapy and exercise science departments. I happen to know a professor in those areas that rides dressage, and I asked her for advice. She told me that muscle imbalances in the body could be the root of my problem and that I should ask my personal trainer (another perk of working at this school) to help me find out where those imbalances were.

So I met with my trainer at the gym and we found the root of my problem, one leg was noticeably weaker. So how did I fix it? I changed how I use the weight machines. If you use both legs, the stronger leg will compensate for the weak one and the imbalance will remain. I now use all the leg machines one leg at a time. I started doing one legged squats and step-ups with an aerobics block. The point being to really isolate each leg and get them to be evenly muscled.

It worked! After only a few weeks, my lean was greatly diminished and I was sitting squarely in the saddle. I know I'm not the only person with this issue, so I'm passing this along in the hopes that I can help someone else. Paying it forward!


  1. Hey, I have been told that I lean more to the right! And, you are correct - there are times I have to straighten my saddle. My sister is a sports coach. I will ask her what I can do to exercise my weak leg. I don't have access to the machines you do. ;-) Thanks for highlighting this.

  2. Yay, I've helped someone already! The good thing is there are exercises you can do without equipment. You only need something to hang onto for one legged squats and some stairs for step-ups. Start on your right leg, step up with your left, pull up your right knee as high as you can and then step back onto the floor with the right foot (left foot stays on the stair and the right foot only touches the floor). Switch. It hurts but that's how you know it's working.

  3. You make a good point - you can improve your position through more than just riding!

    I post slightly to the left, that's my claim to fame. I can't fix it. I just can't! :)

    Natalie Reinert
    Retired Racehorse

  4. Hi Natalie. Yes exactly. There are actually a couple trainers out there that talk a lot about conditioning outside of the saddle to ride better in it. Mark Rashid writes about how getting into martial arts made him a better rider and Chris Irwin made a video about using Tai Chi for riding. I think there's a pilates for riders video out there too...