Perfect Your Two-Point Position

Build awareness of your position using these four simple tests.

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A rider jumps a gray horse
Photo by Amanda Terbrusch

Excerpt from The Athletic Equestrian, by Sally Batton and Christina Keim

When your two-point seat is correct, you will have developed the alignment and balance that serves as the basis for all future work. But many riders have not been taught the proper mechanics of the two-point, and instead of sinking into their leg and closing their angles, they stand over or even ahead of the pommel. They are then both unbalanced and unable to apply their aids correctly. In addition, they are using their back to hold the two-point, rather than allowing the legs and abdominal muscles to support the position.

If you can correctly execute the two-point position, you will be balanced and able to hold the position for multiple circuits around the arena, or galloping cross-country, without worry of falling back into the saddle or onto the horse’s neck. In a correct two-point, your leg joints—including the ankle, knee, and hip—are fluid and shock absorbing, and the major muscle groups of the leg (quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves) are engaged.

Where do you stand on the “Rider Awareness Scale” when it comes to your two-point position? To find out, try this series of four exercises.

Also Read: Overcoming Fear After Falling Off a Horse

Test 1

In the first exercise, you will exaggerate putting your leg out of position until you develop a kinesthetic sense of how this impacts your upper body balance.

Demonstration of an incorrect two-point position with the leg too far forward
Stella shows another common two-point position mistake with her lower leg too far forward. This makes her upper body shift backward to compensate. Photo by Amanda Terbrusch

Start by getting into your two-point at the trot, then bring the lower leg so far forward that you can see the toe of your boot. You will immediately feel your upper body shift backward to compensate, and you will likely fall into the saddle.

A demonstration of incorrect two-point position with the leg too far back
Stella demonstrates one of the most common two-point position mistakes with her lower leg too far back. This causes her to put her hands down on the horse’s neck to balance. Photo by Amanda Terbrusch

Next, try bringing your lower leg too far back. I haven’t met very many riders that can stay off their horse’s back for too long when in this position; most people have to put their hands down onto the horse’s neck just to stay in the saddle!

Practice this exercise until you develop a clear awareness of the position of your lower leg, and the resulting negative effect on your balance with your leg in each incorrect position. Riders who have practiced this exercise enough will almost instinctively know the necessary correction if they experience a loss of balance in the future.

Correct two-point position
Teagan demonstrates a correct two-point position. Photo courtesy Trafalgar Square Books

Test 2

The next mounted exercise requires the assistance of a friend. Starting at the halt in the center of the arena, get into your two-point position, and have your friend place her hand or a thin, tightly rolled magazine about 2 to 3 inches in front of the cantle (back) of the saddle. Your friend is now going to try to push you forward with pressure from her hand or the rolled magazine on your tailbone. If you have opened the angles of your ankle, knee, and hip, your friend will easily push you onto the horse’s neck.

Now re-center yourself in your full seat and rise into two-point while keeping your friend’s hand or the rolled magazine in contact with your tailbone the entire time. Imagine the feeling of “squatting” while unmounted—your weight goes down into your feet and the muscles of your legs engage. The angles of your leg joints close and the hip tips slightly. This is the same feeling you are trying to create in your mounted two-point.

Keeping this “squat” feeling in mind, your friend is now going to try to push you forward, while you do everything possible to resist her. If you have been successful in sinking down through the leg while rising into the two-point, she shouldn’t be able to push you forward. When riders find this correct position, they are amazed at how strong and secure they feel in the tack.

Test 3

Finally, have your friend keep her hand or the rolled magazine just in front of the cantle, and get back into your corrected two-point. Transition from the two-point seat to the full seat, alternating between them without letting your tailbone break contact with your friend’s hand.

If you do this correctly, your seat will still be clearing the saddle when you are in two-point position, but it will likely be much closer and more centered than it was before. I tell riders to imagine that their femurs (thigh bones) are pushing their seat bones toward the cantle, rather than thinking about their shoulders coming forward.

Whenever I do this exercise with riders for the first time, they usually comment on how strange it feels, and they think they are not far enough out of the saddle. But for a jump of 3 feet in height or less, your seat only needs to be about 3 inches out of the saddle.

If you look at photos of most riders jumping fences in this height range, you will see that many of them are much more than 3 inches out of the saddle. Their upper body is ahead of the motion, a serious rider jumping fault that makes the horse’s jumping effort more difficult and will result in a point deduction from the judge in an equitation class.

Test 4

If you don’t have a friend to help you try this while riding, you can practice an unmounted variation of the exercise at home with a family member. Standing in an open space on level ground, place your feet about shoulder-width apart and get into a full squat. Slowly reopen your angles until you are about halfway between a full squat and standing positions, and ask a family member to push you on your tailbone. Notice how this affects your balance.

Equestrians practice a balancing exercise
When Emmaree’s knee and hip angles are open, Simone is easily able to push her off balance. Photo by Amanda Terbrusch

Next, start to get back into your squat, and stop when your angles have closed enough that you are simulating a correct two-point position. Again, ask a family member to push you on the tailbone and see if she can disrupt your perfect balance.

Equestrians practice a balancing exercise
When Emmaree’s knee and hip angles are more closed (simulating a correct two-point), Simone will not be able to push her forward. Photo by Amanda Terbrusch

You’ll find that in your full two-point/squat position, you will remain balanced and centered. But when your leg angles are in the halfway open position, your family member will be able to easily push you forward.

Athletic Equestrian book

This excerpt about perfecting your two-point position is adapted from The Athletic Equestrian by Sally Batton and Christina Keim, and is reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books. This excerpt first appeared in the May 2022 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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