SUPER*-natural Horsemanship
Western and English Riding Instruction
and Hippology, the study of horses

Instructor:  Rev. Barbara A. Kostelnik, Th.M.
"Miss Barb" is a showcased Cincinnati, OH horseback
riding lessons instructor on!
Assistant instructor: Rev. Joseph Kostelnik, Ph.D.

Working with horses develops many qualities that last a lifetime:
self-confidence -- responsibility -- kindness -- fitness -- gratitude --
 physical and emotional wellness --- plus, it's so much fun!

The Balanced Seat

How To Sit On A Horse

Thousands of years ago, the Greek horsemaster Xenophon said that one's position on a horse should be more like standing on the ground than sitting on a chair. Now, after many styles have come and gone, his words have proved to be the best advice for most horseback activities.

This position is called the "balanced seat", because the rider is balanced over her/his heels, from the top of her/his head, down.

The head is up and level, looking ahead. The shoulders are down and back, but relaxed. The arms are relaxed, with the elbows at the waist, and the forearm gently forming a straight line to the horse's mouth. The knees are slightly, comfortably bent, with the rider's weight sinking down into the heels, which are lower than the balls of the feet, which rest upon the stirrups.

This is absolutely the best position to first learn to ride, because it can be adapted for Western, Hunt Seat (English), and Dressage, and even Saddle Seat.  When I was teaching beginning Western riding at a local county park, I was told my students didn't fall off like others' when moving on to things like jumping or barrel racing.  This is why.

I've left the tack out of the drawings to simply show the relationship between the horse's body and the rider's body.

In the balanced seat, shown above, left, the line with the arrows at top and bottom is perfectly straight, and is perpendicular to the ground. From this position, a rider can move in any direction, while remaining balanced over her center of gravity. The riders' center of gravity should go on down through her heels and into the ground. From that position she is free to cue the horse in any way, or react to anything that might go on. There is no "gripping" needed, neither by the legs nor by the hands. The position is relaxed and completely natural. There are several angles formed by the body, which double as shock absorbers and safety reserves -- at the hips, the knees, and the ankles.

If you've had some riding lessons already, you may have more trouble learning to sit correctly than if you had never had a riding lesson. This is because some instructors still teach the "forward seat", and "gripping with the knees" to Hunt Seat students, and some teach the "chair seat" to Western students.

Let's see how these positions differ from the "balanced seat":

WRONG: This drawing, at left, shows an exaggerated "forward seat". The line through the body is broken at an angle, as the rider tries to keep her weight over the horse's shoulders. This was a logical attempt within the English riding and jumping disciplines to interfere less with the horse's movements, but has proved less stable than the balanced seat, and actually hurts the ability of the horse to carry the rider's weight evenly on all four legs. The forward seat position may still be used at high speeds, or when preparing to jump. OTHERWISE, DON'T SIT LIKE THAT.

By the way, none of these drawings are meant to be exact or perfect depictions of any of the riding positions they represent, but only to convey the concepts behind them.

WRONG: This next drawing shows the angles of the body in what is commonly called the "chair seat". It's common in Western riding, but it's believed by the highest level Western riders that it's not the best position for most Western purposes. With the legs and feet stuck out in front , more of the riders' weight is pushed back into their seats and even tailbones. This limits the riders' options in the saddle. The upper body is behind the center of gravity, making it difficult to use their weight, seat bones, hands, and arms freely. It also tempts riders to use the reins for balance:

VERY WRONG: This worst kind of "chair seat" is sometimes actually taught, by people who can't ride well themselves, and it seems to spread on its own, like mold. I call it "water skiing". This is when a "chair seat" is combined with poor use of the hands, arms, and reins, plus a lack of balance, and looks something like the drawing at left.

The poor horse is ridden with the rider hanging onto the reins like a trapeze, with much of the rider's body weight pulling on the bit. People who ride like this are using the reins as a handle to keep from falling back any farther, or falling completely off, because they are not secure or balanced in their seat. They often donít know much about proper riding, so they often ride with a severe bit, which means the poor horse's head would not be in this calm position. It would be way up in the air, trying to get away from the painful pulling of the bit -- unless, poor horse, the rider also used a "tie down" -- which, alas, this kind of rider usually does!

NO jockey positions (unless you're racing),
NO chair seats,
and NO water skiing.

Like Xenophon, a still-well-respected ancient Greek horseman, said : one's position on a horse should be more like standing on the ground than sitting on a chair.

Another way to say this is "you should ride like you were standing there, relaxed, with your feet apart and your knees bent, and a horse walked up under you."


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The stable is on Blue Rock Road, which is named after Blue Rock Creek.
It and the Taylor Creek tributary that flows through the land at the barn are
replete with slate and shale, which is more or less ... "Blue"!

This web site content, photos and graphics © copyright 2016 by Barbara A Kostelnik