We previously discussed the different areas that must be considered for a rider to be balanced in the saddle. With a focus on the skeletal structures of men vs women, we’re able to determine the different needs of either and how ignoring these components can have a negative impact on your own and your horses’ body.
Balance is so critically important in saddle fit, yet so many of us are willing to push our own comfort aside for the sake of convenience or, more often than not, we just don’t know how it SHOULD feel.
Many of us grew up riding horses, and I will guarantee we rode in whatever saddle our lesson horse used, which likely was not built for the female physique.
We learned, from an early age, how to avoid pressure and discomfort and it became second nature. Now when most of us sit in the saddle we automatically adjust our position without a thought.
“I’ve never had an issue and I’ve ridden in these saddles for years.”
Sometimes, we become so used to it, we cannot see how our bodies have changed to accommodate a less than ideal position in the saddle.
We’ve had riders approach us with that exact phrase, only to then be evaluated and shown that they are not as balanced, centered or aligned as they think.
Too often we’re afraid of being wrong, or afraid of being criticized. To look critically at your own riding, you give yourself the permission to improve, you give your horse the ability to utilize his body better. We cannot improve with blinders on and the thought that we are faultless or all-knowing.
Even as professionals, we are constantly seeking knowledge, striving to constantly improve our courses so that our students and their clients horses can reap the benefits.
Moving back to Balance.
Position of the Gluteus Medius
The position of the gluteus medius muscle on women is higher than that of men, meaning that in order for women to sit on their bum they actually will need to roll the pelvis backwards in order to connect with the saddle. Unless the saddle is specifically designed for women, the support behind the rider will not be sufficient. For saddles made for males, there is much more room behind the rider as their gluteus medius is situated lower and thus requires no tilting of the pelvis to connect to the seat.
Many women will shift backwards in the saddle to find this support, however they will no longer be sitting in the deepest part of the saddle and are now behind the movement. Additionally, they will put excess pressure on the lumbar and alter the fit of the saddle entirely.
For those who tilt the pelvis back, they will no longer be able to let the leg drop down due to the structure of the female hip socket and will be forced into a chair seat, once again, out of balance.
Femur to Tibia ratio and the Stirrup Bar
The position and length of the stirrup bar can either help or hinder the rider. For male saddles, the bar is typically shorter and placed further forward to accommodate the shorter femur vs tibia in men. Females have a longer femur compared to the tibia and thus require a stirrup bar to be either longer, or placed further back to prevent the leg from being pulled forward and the rider placed in the chair seat.
Here is a challenge for everyone. Sit in your saddle and have a friend snap a picture. Look critically at your position as well as WHERE you’re sitting in the saddle.
Are you aligned with the balance point of your horse?
Do you have shoulder-hips-heel alignment?
Is your back relaxed or heavily arched?
Are you sitting in the deepest part of the saddle?
Do you see an almost equal amount of leather both infront of and behind your thigh?
Are you sitting on your seat bones or rotated back?
There is so much information out there to help riders improve their position, but you can only do as much as your equipment allows.
It’s the same as trying to ballroom dance while wearing ski boots. You can read all these rider improvement articles until the cows come home and you’re blue in the face, but if you have a saddle that doesn’t fit you, you will NEVER be fully balanced with a pliable seat.
And it won’t just be you who suffers. Your horse will also pay the price.
We discuss this and so much more in our courses, and even if you have no desire to build a career in saddle fitting, the knowledge you gain will help you help your horse.