whats the secret to a good seat? how long does it take? <frustrated and old!>

(41 Posts)
VicarInaTutu Mon 07-Jan-13 20:36:26

i know this is a "how long is a piece of string" type question but i started riding lessons as a complete novice aged 40 at the end of October last year (i ride approx once a week for about 40 mins)

im not particularly heavy and im quite fit (ish)

i know and accept its going to be a slow process - the riding instructor i have is fab (after a long search and 3 different schools) and what she doesnt know about horses and teaching you could write on the back of a postage stamp....

RI knows how much i love it and has invited me to go in at weekends to help out generally as i aim to have my own horse. I love it such a lot. She knows this and is helping me masses.

but my problem in riding is getting a good seat. The RI is giving me exercises to do and keeps saying not to worry and it will come - but i tried a canter (very briefly and slightly accidental) and im still bouncing about like a sack of spuds....i can get onto the correct diagonal for rising trot but for sitting trot i still bounce too - i know its not good for the horses back - my position is a problem and i have a better seat without stirrups (some of the exercises involve no stirrups) its coming - slowly - and this week i felt the difference in my rising trot (my legs are quite stiff and i was rising too high and not just working my pelvis forward - penny dropped a bit this week) but i still have problems keeping my legs in the right position (RI corrects me constantly and wont let me get away with bad position, leaning, slouching or anything which is great) but while i will not give up, and my aim is really to become safe and competent,not win horse of the year! but its slightly frustrating when i see people glued to the saddle while im just not getting it! RI says that canter is actually more comfortable than trot once i have it....she is great and looking after my confidence wonderfully and so far im still on a lunge rein on a very responsive (not dead to the leg) well schooled horse.

how did it take all of you tack room peeps to get to the point of being able to sit properly for sitting trot and canter?

its pointless asking my instructor as she is a lady in her 50's and has been riding for ever!

thanks!

SlowlorisIncognito Sun 24-Feb-13 12:05:06

Something that may help if you are just learning to canter is to remember to breath. A lot of people hold their breath and become tense when doing something faster/scarier on horses, which is obviously the opposite of what you want. I have known RIs make people sing/count the strides of the canter which can help, even if you do this under your breath rather than out loud.

When you get more used to the canter (or possibly you are doing this already on the lunge?) cantering without stirrups can really help you sit deep into the canter.

However, different things work for different people. I generally ride better when put under pressure, according to my intructor, or when I have somethign to focus on, e.g. a course of jumps, a dressage test. If I start trying to thing to hard about what I am doing, I get confused.

I believe almost anyone who is reasonably fit and able can learn to have a good, safe and secure seat given time, although I do think it takes longer with an adult who has never ridden before (sorry sad). I think the thing that cannot always be taught and takes much longer is "feel", partially because this is much harder to explain to people.

VicarInaTutu Thu 14-Feb-13 15:09:04

im quite relieved to hear others say a seat can be learned - that gives me a bit of hope for the future of my riding.

50bales thanks - good enough for what i want means just that im safe when riding, and able enough to keep a horse in good health and happy. My RI is always telling me she doesnt care what i look like - that style comes after ability. its just going to take me a long time and practice i think. it feels like 2 steps forward and one back at the minute but i enjoy it.

50BalesOfHay Thu 14-Feb-13 09:52:36

The other thing, Vicar, is that you only need to be good enough for what you want to do. Yes, it's important to get the basics right so as to be safe, but if you want to hack then you don't need the fine tuning that you'd need for dressage. My DH, who started riding about 3 years ago, has a good grasp of the basics and has a natural seat and balance, but he looks like an old farmer on his hoss. Not particularly pretty, but safe and effective

Zazzles007 Thu 14-Feb-13 06:39:21

I don't agree with Exit either, I'm afraid. There are very, very few riders who are 'naturals' in the saddle - its like supermodels who are 2% of the population. The rest of us mere mortals have to learn the correct seat one ride at a time.

I've been riding for 35 years, and its only in the last 5 that I've developed the correct seat through having the right instructors. Vicar you have that right instructor, and with time and perserverance, you will get there. When you look back in couple of years, you will think "What was I worried about?" We've all been there smile.

VicarInaTutu Thu 14-Feb-13 00:13:26

thank you 2am - my enthusiasm makes up for my lack of ability im sure!

yes i have come to riding lessons very late in life - but i am improving week by week. im never going to be great - but if i can be competent, and safe, i will be happy with that, and then get my own.

2aminthemorning Thu 14-Feb-13 00:05:07

Exit - I don't agree with you at all. I wonder to what extent your perception is coloured by seeing children who are all of the same age and size (so feel similar) but have very different levels of experience. I've read more than one autobiography of top riders who claim they were hopeless for ages and ages.

Go on, Vicar!

VicarInaTutu Wed 13-Feb-13 23:55:52

thanks exit and tbh i agree with you - my RI can take one look at someone and say if they will ever make a decent rider.
and there in lies the problem! im sure she looks and me and thinks "never in a month of sundays" but the fact is i love riding, love horses, want a horse and find it so therapeutic for my depression.

and i want to learn. i want to do it. so i will stick with it until she tells me to sod off grin

yes to better weather....im with you there!

Sorry Vicar - I didn't mean to be negative, and to be fair I don't know anyone who has come to riding as an adult. I just know from looking at children you can tell those who are naturals and those who will never have a decent seat.

I am sure your determination will see you through - and of course, practice makes perfect.

Better weather, - I can't wait!

VicarInaTutu Wed 13-Feb-13 20:26:31

i missed the updates - thank you everyone.

2 weeks ago i finally found my seat by doing some exercises in the saddle - suddenly i was sitting in the right place and i managed sitting trot and canter without bouncing about, felt brilliant.

last week i was on a different horse - seat gone again but i rode independently and off the lunge so got more of a feel for using leg aids to keep him moving forward and a better feel through the reins.

im not sure that a seat cannot be learned with practice exit - i know that i shouldnt be moving - i know about absorbing the movement - i just cant put it into practice - yet.

when the weather gets better i will be booking a block of intensive lessons as someone suggested - ill try 3 days riding with a day off then another 3 days (if i can move by then!)

To me, a seat is something that you either have or you don't. Sorry! Although maybe starting as an adult makes it harder.

And really, you shouldn't be moving at all, it is more a case of absorbing the horse's movments through your pelvis and back iyswim.

Not at all helpful really...

Mirage Wed 13-Feb-13 17:21:43

Once you've got it,you've got it for life.I had over 30 years away from riding,apart from a handful of lessons about 15 years ago.When I went for my first lesson after all that time,it just came back to me.My instructor pointed out that I was so relaxed that I was riding one handed at one stage and that if she'd known,she'd have put me on a faster horse and got me cantering.shock Sadly,due to the time and money being eaten by the dds ponies,I haven't been back for any more lessons.I'd like to though,as I plan to inherit dpony at some point and the instructor said I'd need only half a dozen lessons or less to bring me up to being capable of hacking her out safely.

MagicBoo Wed 13-Feb-13 17:12:59

Hello smile The simple answer is get in as much riding as you can posisbly can! I rode a little as a child but not much and was not confident. Just over two years ago, at age 32 I started riding from scratch at a friends livery yard. I was all over the place at first, bounced about, fell off lots.

With my friends help over the last two years so much has changed. We hack out about twice a week and I have jumping and flatwork lessons as much as possible but at least once a week. I ride everything I can (must be around thirty different horses/ ponies in the two years). I am still learning about a more indepedant seat- I think you never stop really. It is easier to sit the trot and canter on some horses than others depending on how big their movement is and how well they carry themselves etc, also once you start learning about the horse working correctly/ soft and round all the paces become easier to sit to.

Two years ago I couldnt canter round the school without being all over the place, this winter I went hunting for the first time on my friends awesome schoolmaster and loved every minute!

Ride as much as you can, go to any riding schools you can, do some fun hacks on holiday or day trekking anywhere you possibly can. Try to find a share pony or horse- there are some suitable for a total Novice but def make sure you can hack with people x

Don't give up on your dream, you will have moments where you want to quit, probably cry your eyes out and make a total idiot of yourself *try falling off 12hh kids pony twice in a row because she shied (not even spooked) at the instuctor, then I fell off as she legged me up!!! You will progress three steps only to go backwards five but keep on trying! I am not a naturally good rider, but love for the horses, good friends, determination and passion have seen me through- now its just getting better and better smile x

phew sorry - I can go on sometimes lol!

2aminthemorning Wed 13-Feb-13 15:50:49

You sound just like me.

You have a great instructor. The Lipizzaner riders are taught entirely on the lunge rein for the first year.

As your instructor has been riding forever, she may not realise that some things don't come through trying. Think of it like learning the piano. If I showed you a Grade 8 piece of music and asked you to try playing it for an hour a week until you could perform it competently, you would (I hope) think I was mad. Playing the piano involves starting at the beginning and - over a period of years - learning from a good teacher, consciously practising, and - crucially - just playing. There is no shortcut. Expect to still be working towards a good seat this time next year. And the year after that...

My riding and stable management changed when I got a cob on loan. There's nothing like just getting on with it and trying new things without people watching. Making mistakes and realising why the instructor has said what she did. Weeping with frustration because you can't make your horse do anything you want. Losing concentration during a hack and then suddenly realising you feel more glued onto the saddle than ever before.

And above all, falling in love with a horse who looks after you. Buying expensive herbal powders, fussing about his poo.

You probably have a long wait before becoming as competent as you're hoping to be. During that time, I think you might realise it's less about the seat and more about a partnership. You won't get anywhere by endlessly pointing out to yourself what you're doing wrong. That's unlikely to lead to an amazing ability to suddenly do it right. Let your body find the way by itself a little. Try and ride over different terrains. I agree with whoever said you need a week of intensive riding (or a month).

lovestruckfifi Sat 26-Jan-13 21:08:08

I really think you should ride the cob or a bit, steering and stopping sounds good to me. It will be a gd chance for you see how much you have learnt.

Pixel Fri 25-Jan-13 19:34:22

Has anyone tried the ijoy ride machine? It's supposed to be good for core muscles etc. Do they actually help tone up riding muscles or do you just bounce about on it for little benefit?
My sister has recently got one and I had a go on it at Christmas, which was of course hilarious fuelled by gin and tonic but I can't decide if it would actually do me any good. I didn't feel I was sitting in a proper riding position as the seat was so wide (a longer legged person would probably be ok), but I'm not sure if this matters, and I didn't have any problems balancing on it even drunk at faster speeds so I didn't really feel as if I was getting much exercise, but then could it be working muscles without me realising? If it is supposed to be like riding a horse then I have to say he is rather on his forehand or maybe he's a western pleasure horse wink. I am tempted because a) I could sit in front of the telly whilst getting fitter and b) ds absolutely loved it and he has very poor muscle tone as a result of his disabilties. Also they are fairly easy to pick up second-hand now. Against is the fact that we have very little space as it is so it would just be used as a coffee table sat there in the way at all times, and the sneaking suspicion that it is just a gimmick.
Sorry Vicar, not trying to hijack, just all this talk of pilates etc made me think of it. I've been wondering about getting one for a while and dh keeps looking at them on ebay. I'm a bit worried he will buy me one as a 'surprise' when I haven't decided whether it's worth bothering (he does get a bit dangerous if allowed on ebay grin).

tnml Fri 25-Jan-13 14:03:00

The real answer to this is that it takes a lot of practice but there are a few things you can do to help things along. Riders with really good seats are strong in their abdominal muscles and flexible enough in their hips to allow them to move their legs whilst maintaining their pelvis and upper body in the same position. They are relaxed in their hips enough to absorb the horses movement, but balanced enough to stay put!! If you can get your core a bit stronger and your hips abit more supple you will find it easier to carry this over to your riding. Pilates is the best sort of formal exercise to do this. You are best doing this with an instructor to make sure you can do it right. A lot of physiotherapy clinics will do assessments and can do 1 to 1 sessions. there are even people who do specific pilates for riders classes.
The other thing you could try is getting a big gym ball to sit on at home and practice sitting very level. This ties in with the pilates.
Another idea is some lessons on a mechanical horse. One thing that can help is when you get more confident, going out on a steady horse on a hack can help you get relaxed and into the flow.
I don't think lengthening stirrups will help as you will nearly always feel like you have a deeper seat without your stirrups, reaching down for longer stirrups will probably unbalance you more.
The more you ride, the quicker it will happen and a block of more frequent lessons will help, but don't aim for too many as tiredness and soreness will reduce the benefit. Good luck!

monsterchild Wed 23-Jan-13 16:26:19

Vicar, I agree that it will take time to develop a good seat. I've been riding for years and I still have a lot to learn!

One piece of advice that really helped me relax my legs and get them to "drape" along the sides of the horse rather than being stiff was to lift my toes rather than put my heels down. I know this sounds odd, but pushing your heels down engages your hamstrings and makes the back of the legs round and taut. Lifting your toes softens the hamstrings and the back of your legs suddenly become supple and soft. this only works at the sitting trot, but it really helped me to feel how to sit in the saddle!

And once you feel it, you can work toward achieving that feeling for longer periods and at different gaits!

psicat Wed 23-Jan-13 10:16:05

I was in similar boat Vicar, rode as a child but allergies and lack of funds prevented me doing more than the occasional hack. I always wanted to learn to ride "properly" so when I quit smoking I used that to put towards lessons. I couldn't afford more than once a week so it just seemed to take ages.
After a couple of years I was lucky enough to get a horse on loan. Although she wasn't schooled she was safe and we learnt together :-) I don't think there's any substitute for hours in the saddle so I would beg borrow and steal rides wherever I could :-)
Although I know I have masses to learn I realised how much my seat had improved when I got a bonkers thoroughbred :D
One thing I found extremely useful was a lesson on a schoolmaster. I can honestly say that one morning of riding taught me more than I had leant in two years of lessons

VicarInaTutu Wed 16-Jan-13 22:12:34

i would like to ride independently but i cant coordinate everything - my instructor is brilliant and i trust her implicitly, she is the real deal, im learning alot about leg aids (without kicking,) - i think she is lunging me so i dont have to worry about anything other than technique, i have wondered about lengthening my stirrups because when im without stirrups i have a good seat and maintain a good position, it goes wrong when i get the stirrups back.

saintmerryweather Wed 16-Jan-13 22:02:54

If youre helping her maybe see if you can sort out some arrangement where you can have an extra ride. i learnt to ride as a child and started again 3 years ago when i was 23. My riding instructor is just brilliant, i have to say we didnt have lunge lessons we got on and off we went (i ride with my sis) so we always had SOMETHING we had improved on each lesson because we did lots of different things, circles, serpintines and other shapes. if you stop focusing on it so intently and relax youre more likely to pick it up. oh and the other day i had a canter which was just amazing, everything came together, my bum was stuck to the saddle, seat was driving the horse forward, hands were light and going with him. i still dont have a sense of feel but i can tell when its going right. i was quite bouncy in trot too, rising and sitting too fast and my instructor told me to lengthen my stirrups a couple of holes and it made a real difference. if your stirrups are longer you can really get your legs round the horse and keep a constant feel of it through your legs. To be completely honest i wouldnt be happy if every lesson was on the lunge. sure it has its place and you need to learn this stuff but its probably time you were riding independetly now

VicarInaTutu Wed 16-Jan-13 17:19:49

boo yes ive only ever ridden the same mare each time - i had wondered whether it would benefit me to try another horse but the bigger horse wont work on the lunge, so i think thats why RI had me on the same pony who will happily work on a lunge. She says the larger horse turns in, so until i have a better feel through the rein she had kept me off him.

ill get there. i think i will ask about some intensive lessons, and also ask about maybe trying another pony just to see if im the same on every horse!

Booboostoo Wed 16-Jan-13 16:49:16

Have you only ever ridden the mare? If yes, it's definitely worth trying another horse. The different stride and rhythm may make things easier for you.

VicarInaTutu Wed 16-Jan-13 13:21:47

thanks.

pixel the RI wants to get me onto a bigger horse with a huge trot - i wondered if it would help (as in be a bit slower!) but not tried it yet. (plus he is a massive cob! gentle but huge!) The mare i ride currently is the most patient pony but she has quite a bouncy trot and its quite fast.

booboostoo i had wondered about that myself - maybe a bit of intensive learning would help me remember. The only thing is it would be a bit costly but i might mention it to RI when i go to help out on Saturday and see if she thinks it would help.

Booboostoo Wed 16-Jan-13 07:41:43

Just an idea: if you ever have a week off work or when the days get longer try a set of intensive lessons, e.g. 1/2 hour every day for 3 days, one day rest and repeat. This may help (you will be sore though!!!).

Pixel Wed 16-Jan-13 01:23:23

I know, I'm older than you and find the stiffness is very annoying. I've got a dodgy hip (something I was born with) and it wasn't really a problem when I was younger, but now it is. When I have a lunge lesson and work without stirrups it often 'locks' and I get cramp all down my leg and have to stop. It even happened the other week when I was dismounting after my lesson, I got my leg halfway over and then I couldn't move it. Luckily the very patient pony didn't mind me flinging myself off, the big mare I've also been having lessons on would probably have freaked out!
I'm still getting to grips with the mare's trot, it is enormous, so much energy! I've never ridden anything like her, she seems to stay suspended in the air forever so I do sympathise with you! Dh has promised to come and video my next lesson so I can get a bit more idea of where I can improve things, could this be an idea for you?

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