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whats the secret to a good seat? how long does it take? <frustrated and old!>
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ThatVikRinA22 · 07/01/2013 20:36

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!

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MoonlightandRoses · 07/01/2013 20:43

Umm, Vicar, you're not going to like the response - it takes years.

Despite having ridden for the past 30 years (on and off - only really consistently the last ten) I still do stirrup-less in warm-up (flat and jumping) to 'get my seat in' and have my leg drop long. Mind you - it's amazing what belting across a muck-spread field does for it too - v.incentivising for staying in the saddle! Grin

One of the lovely, and frustrating, things about riding is that you will never be 'perfect' - even the top riders still take lessons. Only advice I have is try to switch off thinking and just feel instead - if you're told 'that's a good position / pace' etc., try and remember how it felt, so you know for the next time.

Glad you're still enjoying it.

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RayBansWife · 07/01/2013 20:46

Can't remember how long it took in terms of number of lessons but it will come! I do remember the bouncing around phase then gradually it just came and I stopped bouncing. Not sure what I started doing differently, it just came!! Keep at it and you will get there Grin

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horseylady · 07/01/2013 20:53

Years!!! And I've just had a baby. First lesson back (I've been riding again for a good 7 weeks and only had 5 weeks off total!) and my seat is not as good as it was. My core has altered again. It'll come back quite quickly over the weekend I felt a difference. Just keep at it.

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Zazzles007 · 07/01/2013 22:33

Hey Vicar I wouldn't worry about the sitting trot at this stage - just do the best that you are able when asked. An effective and balanced sitting trot is quite difficult for even an experienced rider!

The canter should improve with your weekly lessons to a point where you are sitting more into the saddle. I have no doubt that your instructor will see to that.

Just enjoy your lessons and don't stress too much about your seat - it will come with time and experience. Your seat develops with muscle memory which also takes some time.

Enjoy!

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Mitchy1nge · 07/01/2013 22:39

Also some horses are a lot easier than others aren't they? I find mine really jangly and awful to sit to, so I adopt a 'light seat' pretty much all the time when we are not walking Blush but the pony is so comfortable I defy anyone to bounce (apart from off the ground, when he does a handstand)

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Mitchy1nge · 07/01/2013 22:41

posted too soon, was going to ask if you ride the same horse each week? (don't know if that is a pro or con though)

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Floralnomad · 07/01/2013 22:43

It does differ from person to person and IME some people are just not natural on a horse and with all the practise in the world are never going to fully 'get it' . My sister for example rode for as long as I did but was never as natural a rider as I was for whatever reason and hence preferred a certain type of horse and didn't ever get confident enough to just get on and ride anything . That's not to say you won't get it or become competent but its like everything else to some people it just comes naturally.

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ThatVikRinA22 · 07/01/2013 22:45

thank you all - that is reassuring! i am really enjoying it and im thrilled that my instructor has asked me to go in at weekends - thrilled! i love helping out with the kiddie lessons (i run about with horses on a lead rein) and im getting some stable management experience which i will need when i get mine...i just envy the riders - but she is teaching me to ride and not just stay on which is fabulous but i had no flipping idea how hard it is! it wont stop me - i just wish i could learn faster!

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ThatVikRinA22 · 07/01/2013 22:49

so far mitchy i have been on the same horse, she is very responsive but very patient, so perfect - not ruined in any way - (and im a bit on love with her) but i know i will be moving onto a big cob soon who will teach me to use my reins with more balance....i have been warned this is coming!

i am determined to own a horse so i want to get to safe and competent if nothing else.

i know im quite stiff - riding without stirrups really helps me get my seat.

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Floralnomad · 07/01/2013 22:52

When you get your own get yourself a nice new saddle , have someone out and try lots of different brands until you find one that suits you and the horse and then get a lovely fluffy sheepskin cover for it , that helps!

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Booboostoo · 08/01/2013 09:41

I am so glad you're enjoying your lessons, sounds like you are hooked for life now!

Unfortunately it takes years and years to get a good position and everyone needs tweeking all of the time. Sitting trot without stirrups is the key, you just have to do it every day, however it might be too soon for you to try this. Maybe try some lessons on the lunge, so that the instructor is in control of the horse, keeps a nice rhythm for you and you can concentrate on your position. Another good exercise to start off with is to stand up on your stirrups and stay standing (again best done on the lunge so you can let go of the reins and use a neck strap or the front of the saddle to balance). If you can stand up and stay standing in walk, try it in trot and then try it during transitions - it's brilliant for building core muscles.

The other thing you can try if you fancy is Pilates. It's great for building core stability and lengthening parts of you like the hamstrings which need to be as loose as possible to allow your legs to lengthen.

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ThatVikRinA22 · 08/01/2013 10:39

thanks boo

my lessons are so far always on the lunge for those very reasons. ive tried the standing up in the stirrups but not always very successfully, i tip over too easily.

id love to do pilates but there isnt a class around here - i might give the leisure centre a call and see if there is but i know there wasnt yoga or pilates when i last checked.

is palates best done at a class so you learn correctly? or is it something you can follow on a dvd? im going to start stretching hamstrings on the stairs - my heels go up as soon as i go into trot and i find it really hard to keep the correct leg position.

i know its just going to be a case of practice practice and more practice but its hard when its only for 40 mins a week. i wish id learnt properly when i was much much younger!

thanks anyway everyone - i will stick at it. im a work in progress!

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ThatVikRinA22 · 15/01/2013 21:49

there is no way i will give up but i get annoyed with myself! - this week i just concentrated on rising trot in short bursts to try and get it right - but it kept going to pot - wrong diagonal several times (easy enough to sort) but then i seem to do a perfect few first rises then i end up landing in a different place in the saddle each time - and i rise too high.

i can tell by feel now when its gone wrong though. (which is something i suppose - i can feel when my legs have slipped forward or my heels arent down)
i asked if dropping my stirrups would help with that but RI says that then you can end up with the lower leg coming forward too much (a problem for me anyway)

so 2 months in and im still not getting to grips with a rising trot. Sad im sure its not an issue for RI and she is happy to keep on teaching me - i just feel a bit useless (i am a bit useless!) i do realise rising in all in the pelvis - i can do it for a few steps then i lose it.....RI says i am getting better but im still flipping rubbish!

has anyone else learnt as an adult? (and i mean learnt properly - not just learn to stay on!) ( i stay on fine....but when it comes to technique and expertise i am lacking!)

i dont want to get frustrating for my instructor. She can assess pretty quickly if someone is going to make a rider or not - i fear i may not manage it.....and this is someone who is desperate for their own pony - im getting loads of experience at the yard now i volunteer.

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Pixel · 16/01/2013 00:16

Ok, well I'm definitely no expert, and of course it's difficult without seeing you but I have a couple of thoughts. You've mentioned that you already know that you should move your pelvis forwards and backwards rather than up and down so that's fine. Now rather than thinking about 'rising' try to think of it more as the movement of the horse bumping you up (forwards) and then you sitting down (back) again in the saddle. If you are consciously trying to push yourself up that may be why you are having trouble keeping your legs still and why you are rising too high, let the 'up' part happen almost by itself (still takes practise but the different way of thinking about it might help).
Unfortunately it can be a bit of a vicious circle, if you are trying too hard to 'get it' it will only make it harder as you will be tense. To absorb the horse's movement you need softness in your joints eg. you need to keep your heels down but imagine your weight dropping naturally out of your heels rather than bracing your foot against the stirrup, as that will cause tension iyswim.
Honestly, rising trot is one of those things that will suddenly 'happen' and once you've got it that will be it. Also as Zazzles says, you need time to develop muscle memory. Do you remember learning to drive and how you never thought you'd get the hang of changing gear without looking, and steering and working the clutch all at the same time? Now your body 'knows' how to do it, it feels natural and you don't even have to think about it.
It's vital that you take your time now and develop the 'correct' muscle memory because it is much more difficult to 'unlearn' it once it is a habit, so try not to get too frustrated, it is all worth it Smile.

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ThatVikRinA22 · 16/01/2013 00:38

thank you pixel that is encouraging .....instructor is so good and is really trying to get me to learn correctly - fab but hard! i know i need to be softer in my legs but its so difficult, and i am very stiff - im trying so hard that i may well be overthinking it.

i used to ride when i was 10 - no lessons - no hat - an hour of fast riding and i know could trot then....i could canter but ive forgotten everything - it was 30 years ago!

instructor likened it to learning to drive last week....but i have half an hour once a week - when i learnt to drive it took ages but i had 2 hour lessons!

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Pixel · 16/01/2013 01:23

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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Booboostoo · 16/01/2013 07:41

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!!!).

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ThatVikRinA22 · 16/01/2013 13:21

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.

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Booboostoo · 16/01/2013 16:49

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.

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ThatVikRinA22 · 16/01/2013 17:19

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!

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saintmerryweather · 16/01/2013 22:02

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

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ThatVikRinA22 · 16/01/2013 22:12

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.

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psicat · 23/01/2013 10:16

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

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monsterchild · 23/01/2013 16:26

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!

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tnml · 25/01/2013 14:03

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!

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