How Much Weight Can A 2 Year Old Horse Carry Seat Bone Symmetry – Sit Right in the Middle of Your Saddle!

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Seat Bone Symmetry – Sit Right in the Middle of Your Saddle!

Asymmetry in horse riders is very common. To a greater or lesser degree, few of us ride with equal weight in each ischium. We distribute our weight more in one stirrup or more in one seat bone and this affects our horse’s balance and ability to respond to our aids. When hanging out or standing in stirrups, it can be even more difficult to stand evenly weighted in both stirrups. If your saddle is chronically leaning to one side, even when you feel like you’re centered on the horse, you’re riding out of balance. And when other riders say you’re in the middle and feel, um, crooked, unbalanced? Yeah, you’re not used to riding straight and you’ll have to retrain yourself to ride evenly on both sit bones. Does your horse carry a single lead more easily? Does it spin easily one way and snap in or out the other? Are your spins or pirouettes sticky in one direction? Again, chances are you are not riding in the middle of your horse. If you don’t believe me, lift an unevenly loaded backpack onto your back and then just walk around. You’ll experience first-hand the compensation you need to balance under uneven loads. Try carrying that uneven load 5 days a week for an hour and you’ll see how easy it is to get stronger in an asymmetric pattern.

If you fly the same horse balanced to one side, your horse will suffer. It will have to compensate and get stronger to support your uneven weight distribution. This will cause back pain, joint wear and uneven muscle development. This can eventually cause lameness. Riding affects your saddle unevenly, causing it to twist and causing saddle attachment problems. When you habitually carry more weight on one leg or one sitting bone and then do strength or exercise regimens, you reinforce your natural asymmetry, making it harder to find where you sit in true balance.

Like many or most people, you don’t have a reliable sense of your own symmetry and balance, not because you can’t, but because life happens! We change, we hurt, we compensate, and the unequal begins to feel right. Your senses have adjusted to being slightly off balance, so it feels normal to put more weight on one leg. Maybe you had an injury that made you stand with more weight on one leg. Or, as a teenager, you developed a habit of standing more on one leg with your hip extended. Maybe it’s that heavy bag constantly slung over one shoulder that has caused you to use one leg more strongly than the other. Whatever the reason, your entire organization has adapted to this off-kilter attitude, and your muscles and brain support it. Even though your saddle and your horse will tell you that you are off balance, your brain will tell you that you are not. You may want to blame your horse or blame the centrifugal forces of riding in circles. The strange thing is that if you stand or sit on the horse evenly, you will feel really weird. You have to relearn your side balance.

Crouching, saddle slippage, difficulty getting the horse to take a certain lead, or buckling against the horse’s movement are all signs of lateral imbalance. All of them cause tension in your horse and are counterproductive to the goals of a well-trained and balanced horse, whether in the arena or on the trail. Yet many of us do these things every time we drive. So if we can feel balanced when we’re not, is there hope? Can we develop and improve our ability to move equally well in both directions and sense when we do?

The good news is YES! Yes, you can improve your sense of balance and be stronger at any age!

How do you do it? First, be aware that the long/padded/strong side will be the side you tend to sit on while riding, the side the saddle tends to lean towards, and the side of your stronger leg. It’s not true for everyone, but that’s the tendency. Your bent side and extended leg must be organized for strength and support, from foot to head. Experts in physical education and body mechanics can help you with this. You will even out your balance from side to side by making more use of your weaker or contracted side. You will slowly gain the strength and flexibility necessary for symmetrical organization. If you feel you need strengthening exercises, you need to do them with a self-organization that helps you become more functionally symmetrical—not your old patterns.

I use the Moshe Feldenkrais techniques because I have found them to be effective in balancing people, increasing awareness of symmetry, and helping people move effectively from their center. Other somatic disciplines such as Alexander or Hanna work can also help. Once we have learned to sense when we are in balance through our spine with strong and effective support, our arms are light and our breathing is easy. As a result, when we go to the gym or ride a horse, we can exercise in a way that strengthens this balanced posture. As we improve our awareness, so does our balance, coordination, dexterity and freedom of movement. Even if we get straight, our horse may still be stiff in one direction. Over time it will adjust to your symmetrical balance and become more balanced, more willing to either lead or leave you on any diagonal.

Here are some simple introductions loosely based on what I learned from the work of Moshe Feldenkrais on how you can improve your riding by improving your posture, awareness and movement:

1) Test your lateral balance and support while standing. Stand on one leg and see which leg you swing on. Can you stand on one leg and reach the sky with equal ease on both sides? Do your ribs spread evenly on each side? Look in the mirror and check the alignment of the foot, knee and hip on each side. Check the length of your ribs and see if your sternum (breastbone) lies in the middle of your ribs and shoulders. Also, check that your head is not leaning to one side. Once you can easily balance flat feet on each side, start slowly rising on your toes and slowly lowering, staying long and steady. When you can stand on it with just a light touch to the wall and lift yourself up onto your toes, you’ve started to balance on that leg!

2) Try side support while sitting. Find out which ischial bone carries more weight. First, find your sit bones by sitting on a firm straight chair or bench and place your fingers under your butt to find the bones you sit on. If they are not the same shape, this is a clue that you are not sitting symmetrically. Make a slight shift to put weight on one sitting bone. You bend over or pull your ribs to get your weight there. Try the other side, keeping your head centered and staying long in your torso without lifting your shoulder or leg. Can you transfer your weight to both sides equally well? As you develop symmetry, you’ll find it easy to put equal weight on each ischium.

3) Find your flexible side. Stand facing forward, feet hip-width apart, and let your right hand slide down your right leg. How far does it go easily, effortlessly? And on the left side do you easily bend further or not so far? Try a seated side bend. Do you rotate slightly when you bend? Which part of your ribs bends the most? Which ischial bone is more loaded? Like a horse, one side is usually more flexible and the other side is stiffer and more supportive. As you gain lateral balance, you will learn to support yourself equally on both sides of your ribs.

4) Check your inclination to turn. Do it sitting and standing. Turn slowly in one direction a few times and see which point your eyes are looking at. Try the other side. Is your view height the same on both sides? What happens to the weight of each leg or ischium? Do you notice weight changes when turning? As you develop the ability to easily turn to both sides, you will find that your horse will turn better.

5) Find your sit-stand-sit habit. If we trot or stand in stirrups, we may be balanced in a sitting position, but lurch to one side when standing up. If we stand or stand on our stronger leg, every time we lift our horse has to adjust to our weight shift. Practice keeping your weight balanced on both sides when standing up and sitting down. You can do a physio-mile, put one hand on the pubic bone and the other on the sternum, stand up and sit, keeping the torso between two equally weighted legs. You can also stand on two bathroom scales and check it.

6) Visualize yourself sitting in the middle of your horse. Visualization is a powerful tool for any athlete’s performance. The basic rider position is weight evenly on both sit bones with legs slung over each side of your horse. Start watching the riders who are actually sitting in the middle (they aren’t always the best riders – I’ve noticed that kids are often more focused). Imagine that you are centered, a line running through you and your horse’s body with equal weight and support on each side.

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