Flawless Riding Position

Western Morgan

A good equitation rider will always stand out by creating the impression that horse and rider are one, riding effortlessly and effectively so that it appears he or she could just as easily be sitting up there having a cup of coffee as completing a horsemanship pattern. Accomplished eq riders have worked hard to achieve this. To get the most out of your practice, follow these tips:

  1. Don’t stop riding when you use your reins. The horse must drive up to the hand. Don’t let your energy drop just because you’re giving a cue with the reins.
  2. Let your seat find the saddle. Riders often come up out of the saddle. If this happens, think of pushing in with your belly button and find the saddle.
  3. Keep your toes pointing forward, aligned with your horse’s body, not pointing in or out or coming forward of the cinch.
  4. Ride every day. Good equitation comes from muscle memory. You don’t want to have to be constantly thinking about it.
  5. Keep your lower back soft. It is the hinge that allows your pelvis to move with the horse’s motion.
  6. Shoulders must be stay level and aligned. Maintaining the proper hand and arm positions will help prevent your shoulders from twisting.
  7. You have to be able to use your body parts separately; for example, you don’t want your shoulder lifting when you lift your hand.
  8. Rather than a solid curb bit, beginners should start with a loose jaw bit (cheekpieces of the bit are hinged) with a slobber chain, which gives some warning when the rein is used. Make sure you start your request by just taking out the slack and try to get a feel for the response. If you don’t get the desired response, you can increase the pressure slowly with a bump, not a jerk. Jerking your horse is likely to adversely affect your body position, not to mention your horse’s.
  9. Keep your elbows bent and wrists straight and relaxed. If your arms are stiff you won’t have the give and take you need to establish subtle communication with your horse’s mouth.
  10. Make your practice sessions challenging. Work on tasks that require coordination. Just sitting perfectly still constantly in one position makes a rider stiff. You want to be still, but not paralyzed. Think of it as flowing with the horse.

Ronda Quaid is a freelance writer and working toward perfecting her reined cow horse skills.


  1. I think this is a great article it has tought me a lot. I like this article because it adresses a subject that not many people adress.

  2. Since I’m learning to ride again after being out of horses for 20 years this has helped me quite a bit. Thanks.

  3. Great tips! But for horsepeople like me who can’t get out to the barn everyday, I find it helps a ton if you work on your core strength. Just generally staying physically active helps alot to, and even if you aren’t an athelete in training it’s totally easy to find an free half an hour to go for a jog or work on resistance training or something in your own home.

  4. So many instructors do not understand the importance of teaching beginner riders the correct position. It is the basis of good riding whether you ride Western or English style.

  5. I don’t ride western. Although I have to say occassionally I love to do it. It’s wonderful.
    But when we talk about maintaining a good and ‘flawless’ seat and position, it’s important in both Western & English. English riding requires the same base of seat for all of the riding. If you don’t have a good base in your seat or position, chances are nothing else will go very well. For English riding it’s good to have your heels down, a steady leg, always keep your hands light on the horse’s mouth. Be sure to give and take with the reins, (please and thank you). And it really helps your posture if you LOOK UP. A lot of riders have a tendancy to look down at the horse’s neck or the ground because they want to keep an eye on every little detail of their position. But because your head is the heaviest of all body parts, it just forces your back to hollow and your whole dynamic in your position while riding changes. If you look up, and as you ride, look ahead to where you’d like to go, you’re going to find it helps a lot more. Your horse will follow your aids because he’s sure of where you want to go. If you look down, it gives the horses wrong aids which causes him to slow down or even stop because you lose your balance and he isn’t sure of where to go anymore. I had a tendancy to constantly look down at my horse’s neck all the time. But I finally got rid of it, which was hard to do considering habits are quite hard to break, but it forms big progress and change in your riding. When I finally got rid of the habit and began looking UP instead of down, I found myself riding a lot better in all the gaits. I particularily had trouble with the sit trot, like most riders, because I found myself looking down, tensing up, giving the horse wrong signals to go faster and my heels would accidently bump him in the ribs and it made things worse. But I relaxed, sat deep in the saddle, looked up and looked to where I wanted to go and it made the hugest difference. It took a while to learn that but some people just tend to grasp on to certain things quicker than others. It’s also important in English riding to remember that with your seat and position, that you must RELAX. If you tense up and brace, it makes everything worse. It’s hard to not be able to relax, but it makes all the difference. And remember to get rid of the habit for ‘piano hands’ and point your thumbs up as this helps keep good contact, and it keeps your shoulders square and elbows in with the hips like needed. But I’m sure everyone would agree that riding and horses are a life long learning topic and that’s why I love it so much. It persents challenges combined with my love of horses which I’m sure all us horse lovers really enjoy! =)

  6. It is so important to look where you are going, a very common mistake that I often see is a rider looking at their horses head. Im guilty of this too and I have to say it is a tough habit to break!


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