Stand in the school and watch some riders from behind. Are they sitting straight?
A lot of riders lean to a side. Some have a twist in their waist, which means they lower their leg on the other side, while one shoulder is going forward and up to compensate. That downward leg is pushed forward, causing the other leg to be pulled up and back.
Crooked riders create crooked horses
Crooked riders create crooked horses. But the other way around is also true. It doesn’t really matter who started. You are the smart one, you should do something about it. You won’t be able to straighten your horse if you don’t sit straight. As long as you are leaning to one side, the horse will try to step under it all the time. Remember running around with a child on your neck? Try it and ask the kid to lean, so you realize what a crooked rider must feel to a horse.
The problem is as a rider you don’t feel you lean to either side. You get used to a certain way of sitting. And the other problem is, the horse is putting you in that position. Like we, horses are right- of lefthanded. You can feel it, as they turn easier on one side. Most horses bend more to the left and hold on to the right rein. But occasionally you find one that is the other way around. The stronger hindleg goes more under the body, the weaker one steps more forward, but slightly beside it.
A lot of riders think it’s easier on the side were the horse bends inwards naturally. It feels lighter. But it’s not the bend you want. The horse turns his neck, the hindquarters are not straight and the outside shoulder goes out all the time. He leans on his outside rein. Because of this all, he drops the rider to the inside. A circle will become smaller then you have planned. And if you go the other way, it feels like you can’t turn and he will push you to the outside, which makes steering even harder. Circles this way will get bigger, without you wanting them to be.
Both horse and rider get used to this kind of crookedness. If you don’t correct it, you will make it worse. And it all starts with finding out if you are sitting straight or not. Check the saddle and the stirrups first of all. Are the cushions of the same size? The side you mount the horse the leather of the stirrup will stretch over time.
Feel both seatbones
If it is all straight, get on the horse and sit up. Take off your stirrups, feel your two seatbones equally in the saddle and stretch up from your core. Don’t forget to breathe. Let someone be present to tell you if you are sitting straight or check yourself in a mirror. Then take the stirrups and start riding. Remember to feel those seatbones equally. Focus on your position. Correct yourself all the time.
Have someone in the school with you and ask their honest opinion. Make sure they also check if your shoulders are horizontal, in one line. They will have to stand behind you, while you move in all gaits. A mirror can be of help and videoing is a good idea too. Only it’s better to correct straight away. That way you can try to remember what it feels like when you are actually sitting straight, so you can reproduce it. But it is never a one off. You will have to be corrected many many times. We are creatures of habit and so are horses. So ask if people around you will tell you when you are leaning again. Check yourself while riding. Being aware is half of the solution.
If you have been crooked for a while, sitting straight feels strange. Also to the horse, who might react in ways you don’t want. He’s not used to you sitting in a different way. So you might get some protest. Don’t give in. Being straight has to start somewhere and it will take effort from the both of you. It will get easier, I promise.
Obviously, the horse has to become more straight also. Which is not easy. It will take a lot of training to get him more supple on both sides, as that is the answer. We’ll come back to this subject later.