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A stable, supple back position when riding means increased freedom in your hips to go with the movement of the horse, the ability to give precise cues with your legs, and a soft upper body so your contact can be steady and your rein aids clear.

But what is the difference between the terms that you hear riding instructors using in regards to back posture… what does it mean to be arched, hollow, or too round? Is there a way to work on how you use your back riding, even when you aren’t riding?

In today’s video, I’m going to show you what an effective back looks like and how you can find this for yourself.


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45 Responses

  1. Hi Callie,
    Thank you very much for the video , it’s actually very informative and useful tips in order to sit with right posture. Basically, often instructor pushes you to put your shoulders back and mean time without realising that you make the arc in your back.
    Once again thanks for the video.
    Take care

    1. Saad, yes unfortunately just thinking shoulders back and chest out puts us in a hollow backed position – not very stable for riding!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  2. you are an amazing instructor… love your videos and the simplicity of your explanations!!

  3. Very helpful and I’m going to practice with my ball. It is increasingly challenging as my body ages. I feel I am an excellent rider but at 73, I’m finding greater stiffness in my body. Thanks for the tips.

  4. I have two exercise balls, different sizes, I use as chairs. I love to “post” on them and keep fresh. Thank you for all your great tips and advice.

    1. Great idea Stephanie! I like using them as office chairs as well 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  5. Hi Callie – love your explanation, very crisp and to the point with no over- or repetitive – emphasis. One thing I have found re back position is a problem with sitting trot and a flat, upright back. Can you help with this please?

    1. Susan, my first thought is – are you trying to hold your abdominals in? Holding your abdominals and tensing your back muscles could be leading to bracing. Try just doing the sit trot for three or four strides then coming back to rising trot – rise the trot for three or four strides then back to sit trot and so on!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  6. Thank you Callie. I’ll be borrowing an underused exercise ball from a neighbour to practice body/back position and to help work on those core muscles.

  7. Hi Callie, this video was excellent, because I’ve been teaching my daughter for 14 years, but being a dad sometimes we don’t click. The light went on. We use the ball, the way you explained it worked for us. So click, that was fun, thank you for your time. We love to learn.

    1. Glad the exercises can benefit you and your daughter! 🙂

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  8. I love these videos. You have helped me become more aware of my body position, which is usually forward with archer back. Thanks!

  9. You’re an awesome riding instructor. I find inspiration from you to continue my life long learning to become s better rider after 50 years of riding. Thanks, Carrie.

  10. Callie, thank you for bringing awareness to how we affect our horse through our posture. Do you have any exercises using the ball to loosen the hips?

    1. Claudia,

      We don’t have anything on the blog on that but I did find an old article that Wendy Murdoch wrote on the subject, you can read it by clicking here.

      I hope that helps!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  11. Great show! I have a tendency to slouch due to chronic pain in my lower back. This is something I will definitely work on!! Thank you for all your instructions, Callie-they are so helpful!
    Joanne McDonnell

  12. Great reminder. I do try to ride “flat back”, my old spinal fracture reminds me often to do so. Thanks, Callie!

  13. thanks Callie…liked visualizing how our body position affects our horses back and movement. i tend to ride arched mostly…my pelvis is tilted forward, so often i fall forward and then i can get tight. also my shoulders can round forward so trying to sit up straighter can lead to more arch….thanks for the insights

  14. Great video for illustrating your point; thank you! I tend to round my shoulders which I know leads to some rounding of my lower back. Hours at a computer at work.

    1. It is hard to unwire those habits that form when we do repetitive work, sitting on the exercise ball even when you are in front of your computer could be a great exercise for you Vicki!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  15. I’m just starting but tend to pull shoulders forward when startled and also forget and arch at shoulders when not breathing at diapbragm. I can find my posture sometimes but lose it quite a bit yet.

  16. Thank you Callie, I’ve got the feel for flat back. However, changing gait from trot to canter my center is not soft enough and I start to fall forward because of the sudden, un-smooth gait change. Obviously maintaining balance is key.

  17. I’ve changed from arched back to straight back. However there are times I’ve forgotten how to do an affective half halt in that newer position. I want to yucky seat under instead of tightening back or stomach. muscles. Could use help w half halt.

    1. I’ve got a great exercise for you Carol! Here is a link to an article Wendy Murdoch wrote about an exercise using a blood pressure cuff to learn to ride the half halt, click here to read the article.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  18. Callie, this is great info, I’m a year out from back surgery and getting back to riding after 20 yrs(with dr approval). This is the best video I could’ve ever watched.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the video Kristi, congratulations on being back in the saddle and thanks for being a part of our community!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  19. Hi Callie, I have to admit I am a rider that sits up tall and hollows out my back. However, until I saw you do this on the exercise ball I did not realize how I was hindering General and his back. Thanks for these tips and tricks. Your amazing. God Bless, Susan

  20. I actually tend to sit with a straight back when I am focusing. I have been watching your videos recently. I am an older rider 57 to be exact. I just started riding again a few years ago. I find your videos very helpful. I love the way you explain things. You have helped me tremendously! I look forward to many more of your videos

  21. Hello Callie,
    Thank you a lot for your videos! I only began riding in last September, and there’s still a long, long way to go, so your videos give me a lot of interesting insights in addition to what our teacher tells us.
    As for back position: I think I’m in general either riding with my back arched or at least simply leaning forward, and, if I’m not feeling confident, I tend to round my shoulders forward. This is especially well seen if a horse begins to canter at a moment when I’m not prepared, so that I sometimes find myself leaning forward until I’m embracing the horses neck in an effort not to fall down completely. Canter is quite difficult for me; at first I was quite afraid of the speed, now I feel more confident, but still not really at ease, especially if I don’t trust the horse entirely.
    I can also add that I have some kyphosis (upper part of spine arched back), it’s not a serious case and does not influence my everyday life in any way, but this I think makes it more difficult for me to maintain a really good posture when riding.

    1. July, if you find yourself rounding the shoulders it can be helpful to think about floating the sternum forward – if you just think about pulling your shoulders back it can cause a lot of tension but bringing the sternum forward will have the same effect with no bracing, I understand that may be a challenge given your kyphosis, but perhaps practicing it in your every day life can help make it a habit!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  22. You are my go to anytime i have a question! You are the best well rounded organized crystal clear equine instructor/ educator available. I thank you for all the videos. If i lived in your area both my horse and i would be at your barn. You are the best. Thank you.

    1. Glad you enjoy the videos!! We’d love to have you come to the farm for an event sometime 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  23. This visual with the exercise ball is useful. My problem is that I frequently have a sore back and I think that I tense in an effort to protect it. And, I’m not sure how to loosen or relax to do the best for the horse. without causing me more pain.

    1. Andrea, do you have a physical reason for the soreness in your back? If you find that it is a result from riding then releasing the tension in the muscles of the low back and abdominals will be a huge relief for that pain!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  24. I tend to slouch. Working really hard to sit up straight with flat back. Thanks for demonstrating all the back positions!

  25. Hi Callie. Thank you for sharing this great info with us. I too tend to ride with an arched back and tend to sit too far forward and send horse wrong signals. This happens even with an easy command to stop. I have an exercise ball and will def practice proper seat.

    1. Hi Shelly, it is absolutely the same in an english or western saddle!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  26. I definitely sit with a hollow back sometimes my back feels tired and I think this is probably why. I am going to try riding with a flat back to see if this helps . Thanks for your informative videos, I also hold tension in my arms and hands and that keeps my horse from moving forward . Any recommendations for lighter hands army?

    1. Hi Stephanie, click here for a video we did a few years ago on the blog for steadier hands!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  27. Another great video with simple instructions in what to do. I’m a hollow back and unfortunately this is my natural back position and general gait 🙁 I am working hard on correcting this by building core strength in the gym using cardio and kettelbell exercises and really thinking about my posture. I suffer with extreme upper and lower back pain and have done for many years so this doesn’t help. I will be investing in an exercise ball and using the one i have at wok to sit at my desk with. Thank you again your videos are giving me much to work on and i’m feeling positive.

  28. Hi Callie,
    I think I tend to lean forward somewhat, probably because my horse trots very fast and posting is difficult, so I kind of go into a two-point. I feel like I am kind of rough on his back because I have to post faster than is comfortable. I know this is a temporary “solution” but I am having difficultly slowing his trot, though he slows a bit after a few minutes. But I have been careful to try not to arch my back or to lean back.

    1. Hi Kimberly, going into this position could be putting more weight on his or her front end making it uncomfortable, especially if you saddle doesn’t fit particularly well. You actually want to think about having a flat back and the proper alignment and to slow your posting to combat this problem. Filling out your back will help you to properly half halt him as well!

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  29. Callie,
    I cannot say enough about how helpful & completely understandable your videos are . . .
    You are the BEST!!!
    Please keep the videos coming. No other trainer explains riding as clear & eloquently as you do.
    THANK YOU!!!

  30. Thank you so much for all the videos they have been helping me and my horse a lot I know Peanut thanks you too.

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