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Last week, I posted a blog video on “How to Stop Bouncing When You Ride“. In that video, I proposed the idea that most “bouncing” comes from too much tension, and I demonstrated how by deliberately tightening an area of my body, through pulling my shoulders back or gripping with my legs for example, I would start to bounce, losing the easy movement I’d had with the horse.

But a really good question was asked… “How do I keep a good posture and alignment without tension?”

My response has two parts.

First, there is a term often used in fitness called positive tension. This is tension or tone in the muscles that still allows supple movement. It tends to involve more postural and stabilizing muscles.

Negative tension is characterized by contraction – think tight, hard muscles. This negative tension is what causes our bouncing. Positive tension allows us to maintain good posture in movement, negative tension or too much tension, prevents good movement.

The second part of my response is that when we have good alignment, we don’t need to do as much work to hold ourselves in position.

I’ll explain more in this week’s video:

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36 Responses

  1. Outstanding session. I love the term “postural” muscles to describe the ability to maintain a body position without stress. I have about an hour’s drive to my barn, and I actually look forward to practicing postural changes during that time.

  2. I have difficulty keeping my posture right as I tend to get stiff due to fibromyalgia I also when I get nervous I go forward
    Just wondered if you could give any ideas how to ride with maintaining posture when you are disadvantaged in the way I am
    I do yoga as much as I can and try to stay active
    Brilliant video as always

      1. Well done you and 60 that’s not old but hats off to you
        Posture is so important on and also off the horse
        I used to always stick my left foot out and my instructor said do you do it when you walk ? I said I don’t think so but guess what I did x

  3. I am always trying to find the correct amount of shifting forward or backward when going up and down hills. Do I exaggerate when the hills are really steep?

    1. I was always taught to look at the trees and be the same posture as them not too forward or back but maybe Callie will answer this one differently x
      I know what you mean though I was originally taught to lean back down hill and forward up x

    2. Hi Claudia, exaggerating the lean back is not necessarily the right answer, take a look at this calvary video – they go up and down some very steep hills and they shift but they don’t exaggerate the position. They appear to maintain very good balance with the horse, a big shift can upset that balance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOyvimZuF5o – I love this video – great riding!

      1. Really cool to see that old video (wish we could slow it down to see more detail)! So that is correct, or were they misinformed back then? How did we all end up learning such a different way of riding hills? Very surprising how far they leaned forward going downhill! I was wincing when i watched them leaping off that bank into the water, the poor horse’s legs!

  4. Absolutely love your videos. They help me so much especially with my posture on or off a horse. I think about your tips before getting on and if necessary during the ride.
    Gloria A, the 71 year old who returned to riding after a 45 year hiatus.

  5. I am a tense anxious person, however when I ride it relaxes me SO much that I slump like an amorphous blob. When I go on trail rides this poor posture is giving me, I think, a false sense of balance. This session is going to make me think about what my muscle are really doing. Thank You!

  6. In October, I was able to attend the NEDA Fall Symposium in Grey Maine led by Carl Hester. He had the exact same posture on the horse as on the ground. Whether he was walking, sitting or standing still, he maintained an upright, relaxed straight posture always. His alignment of head and neck over the body was straight no matter what he was doing. It wasn’t fixed or tense, just straight. When I ride I remember that relaxed stance but still, he was straight. Sometimes it helps to see an excellent rider to understand what good posture on or off a horse means. There’s something in where the center of balance is in the person too. Good riders follow with the horses movements always. Thanks for explaining a simple but complex thing to do on a horse sometime. I’ll ride this afternoon with this in mind 🙂

  7. In yoga you find your tadasana in your poses, I find it works the same way when I ride, find my center and breathe!

  8. This is a fabulous video thank you so much for going into all this detail as this is one of the things I think we all struggle with. This was a fabulous exclamation

  9. Great video, as always. Going to practice this on the weekend. I liked the slow motion footage; very helpful. I am old (60) and have fibromyalgia so posture is an issue for me. I also lean forward (*sigh*) when I get nervous, which is frequent. My horse is inexperienced and spooks A LOT so I am constantly fighting to stay relaxed but at the same time be ready to stay on when she spooks again. Her spooks are significant….. we’re talking a 4 foot sideways movement! LOL

  10. thanks again for sharing,
    excellent advice as always! You’ve inspired me again.
    I WILL saddle up and ride today:)

  11. Thank you. Excellent video I’m learning so much
    My yoga classes have helped me immensely with my posture but its always been my legs that are the problem. I never know if they are in the correct position and when I get nervous I am inclined to grip with my knee/calves.

  12. Always such great and simple advice. Bring proper alignment into all of your activities to improve riding poster just is so commomsense. Thanks for pointing this out. Also helps us as we age. Thanks Callie.

  13. Yes! Exercise for flexibility and range of motion help tremendously with balance. As we turn the shoulders the horse feels and reacts to an upcoming turn. Keep in mind that the human head weighs an average of 11 pounds so posture is very important. Thanks for another really helpful video.

    1. Good point about the weight of our big heads John, thank you for adding that! By the way, I saw your email… are you really a shark whisperer?

  14. I find that practicing my posture and breathing while driving to and from work is a huge help. The roads I drive are congested and people constantly switch lanes with no warning. It’s like 40 min on a constantly spooking horse. If my shoulders are in the right position, the rest of my body follows and it’s easier to breath.

  15. This is a nice video to follow up on what you discussed last week. I’m definitely trying harder to relax at the canter and not Lean so much or get that “ bounce “. I used some of your suggestions in my last few riding lessons and felt much better.
    I do yoga and since I started I’ve seen significant positive changes in my riding. 🙂

  16. Great video. I got it when you showed the standing on the ground tension. (& that’s a pretty cool party trick too!) I agree with the yoga helping too, or pilates / ballet barre work.

    1. Hi Kat,
      Not often – I do like riding bareback for balance, and slow work can help with letting go of tension, but there are a few challenges with bareback. The first is that because of the width of a horses back compared to a well fitted saddle, and the shape of the ribcage, when riding bareback the thighs are wider, which rotates the leg out. So it is a different position than riding with a saddle.
      Also, depending on the conformation of the horse, riding bareback can be uncomfortable for the person, encouraging more tension in order to take pressure off sensitive areas.

  17. Thank you Callie. This video seemed made for me. In applying some of the ideas in the video I was surprised to find that when I let go of the tension in my lower back and shoulders my posture actually improved with no
    additional effort. Also my breath automatically became less shallow. Bravo!

  18. great information! This is a little off topic but I just love how you always have a bit of flare in your videos, like the brightly colored tulips in the frame. It is just another thoughtful touch that shows your care and attention towards reaching us in a comfortable way.

  19. I actually do a lot of posture correction in the car driving. It’s amazing to realize how you sit slumped or lean with turns which you take unconsciously with you to ride your horse.

  20. hello callie, I am dana from belgium, nice videos that you make. very instructive, I have always driven with a wrong posture, heels down, hollow back, legs for the singel, knees from the saddle, then very normal, we had learned it, now a world opens up to me, I can do not stop learning 🙂 my posture on my horse has changed completely, I drive with more feeling and more body awrness, looser reins and more sitting feeling. I will keep follow you, greetings

  21. That was a great video Callie. I especially liked the demo about tension and when we stiffen our muscles. As a beginner my instructor is always reminding me to relax. Ow I have a much better understanding of what is happening when I forget to relax my muscles.

  22. I feel like you are talking TO me and ABOUT me. I try SOOO hard to have the right posture that I’m like a tight wire. Your exercises are very pertinent and clear. Thank you, I shall be thinking about your video next time I go to my class.

  23. My everyday posture needs a. Lot of improvement. I do slump over my computer and tend to lean shoulders forwArd when walking. Sometimes I think I’m more aware of my posture when riding than so in daily life. Most of days at work im running around with less time to think about me. Not sure how to fix that.

  24. I find that my Tai Chi practice is remarkably helpful in maintaining a relaxed and balanced posture. Check out a wonderful book, “Ride from Within”

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