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The Secret of Looking Still on a Horse is to M.O.V.E.

We would all love to be one of those gorgeous riders who appear to be one with their horse, communicating effortlessly with invisible signals; displaying a beautiful and harmonious partnership with one another.

A quiet rider does not try to hold still. “Heels down,” “head up,” “chest out,” “low hands,” etc. are tension-based concepts that seek to hold the body in a rigid/fixed position. This is counter productive to effective riding. Instead, a quiet rider is balanced and aligned with mobile joints and balanced muscle groups for “dynamic balance” that can fluidly change as needed in response to the horse. 

A quiet rider needs a balanced saddle that fits both the rider and the horse—with proper stirrup bar placement, and stirrups that are neither too long nor too short that hang vertically when the rider’s feet are in the stirrups. If any of these elements are missing, the rider will be fighting the tack and bracing will result.

A quiet rider has an independent seat that starts with a neutral pelvis. The rider’s seat bones should point straight down, allowing the legs to hang down underneath under the hips and the torso to float into alignment with head and shoulders over the hips. This frees the joints so they can move independently, as needed. A rider with an independent seat is able to move the pelvis without moving the shoulders, and can apply precise aids, without interference or dependance from other body parts. An independent seat means that the rider can use the two sides of their own body to follow and/or influence the alternate movement of the two sides of the horse’s body.

A quiet rider uses their intrinsic (deep/internal) muscles rather than their outer, surface muscles. The rider’s deep ilio psoas muscles are the postural, stabilizing muscles needed for riding. The psoas and other deep muscles provide stable, supple, long-lasting strength. Do not confuse “core” muscles with “abs”. Excess use of the outer muscles makes you stiff, tires you faster, limits your independent movement, and diminishes the “feel” that you have of your horse and that your horse has of you.

A quiet rider has quiet hands. Quiet, sensitive hands are only possible with an independent seat, mobile elbows, and shoulder blades that are free to slide on the rider’s upper back muscles. The rider's elbows must be allowed to move fluidly in order to absorb and follow motion. The elbows should "hang" from the shoulder joints and the fingers should be softly closed on the reins. The rider's wrists are neutral with the palms facing one another so that the bones in the lower arm are aligned with the radius on top and the ulna below, instead of spiraled. Making a forced effort to keep one’s hands down low and still, simply creates tension, locking up joints, and makes rein contact lifeless and rigid.

A balanced and aligned rider is able to give effective aids and move with the horse, giving the appearance of quiet elegance. A rider who tries to "assume a position" or hold still will need more strength to apply aids and will appear stiff and rigid. The horse will tend to match both types of riders–either becoming stiff or more fluid, based on the rider.


Centered Riding concepts can provide the tools that enable you to more easily access the mind/body and biomechanics principals to enhance your skills and help you to become an effective rider—regardless of riding level or discipline. For more information, go to:

Kathy Culler© 2014. All Rights Reserved.


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