Balance – Part I

Balance in the saddle is more than the ability to stay upright, it is the ability to move with your horse, to be in a position that is not forced or strained, that allows your body to absorb the movement beneath you and to be soft in the saddle. It is a pliable seat, a relaxed and fluid body that can move effortlessly with your horse. It is the absence of pain, tension and discomfort – all of which can cause you to be stiff, hard and heavy in the saddle.
Balance is sitting in alignment with the balance point of your horse (where the sternum of the horse ends, aligned with the sternum of the rider).

It is a neutral pelvis, relaxed hip, shoulder-hip-heel alignment WITHOUT force. Anytime you force your body to be in a certain position, you create tension and imbalance.

So why is balance so important and why do some of us struggle so hard to find it?

Balance is a combination of taught skill and equipment. That equipment is your saddle.

From the seat, to the twist, the seaming, down to the stirrup bars, seat foam, and thigh blocks – every part of the saddle can have either a supportive effect or a hindering effect for the rider.

First and foremost, we must accept the fact that men and women are different. Our skeletal structures, specifically the pelvis, have multiple differences that can have tremendous effects for our balance depending on the saddle we use.

Firstly, we look at the seat bones. Women, regardless of weight, will always have seat bones set wider than that of a man.
The seat bones must be supported by the seat otherwise we do not get the support we need from the saddle and will feel soreness through the hip socket and pressure on the underwear line.
Often, women will shift back in a saddle until she feels the seat is wide enough to support her seat bones. The problem with this is now she is sitting too far back, placing too much pressure on the back of the saddle and her leg is being pulled forward by the stirrup bar. Additionally, the saddle itself (not just the seat) is also wider and she can no longer have her leg drop comfortably from the hip joint, instead she will be in a chair seat.
So, the rider is not in balance.

The pubic symphysis.
On a female, the public symphysis is what usually connects first to the saddle whereas in a male, it is much higher. Also, men can shift their bits left or right while women sit right on the money. Again, in a male saddle, the female will have to shift backwards to relieve that pressure – if she doesn’t, she could get a bladder infection, kidney infection, etc.
Additionally, some women will actually roll the pelvis backwards to take pressure of the extremely sensitive groin area. Now, the pelvis is not in a neutral position and her back is no longer relaxed, therefore she does not have a pliable seat and cannot properly absorb the movement of the horse. Her shoulders are also forward to try and keep up with her hips and the whole body is out of alignment. She becomes heavy in the saddle and causes extra concussion on the horse.
So, the rider is not in balance.

The hip socket.
The femur of a male comes straight down from the socket whereas women have an inward angle of the femur from the hip joint. This means the space between the upper inner thighs (the twist of the saddle, NOT the seaming) needs to be different for men and women.
For men, they are able to be comfortable in a wider TWIST, as they have more space. Women on the other hand, with the inward angle of the femur coupled with the different muscular structure of the thigh (women have rounder musculature when viewed in a cross section from the top, whereas men have more oval) require a narrow twist. If a woman were to sit in a male saddle her toes would point outward, signalling the twist is too wide.
With the woman feeling like she’s being pulled apart at the hips, must shift her weight around in the saddle or torque her leg to maintain or find an ideal/comfortable position. This tension translates directly into the horse, so she is no longer soft and pliable or fluid.
So, the rider is not in balance.

That’s all for part 1.