Learning how to control your horse’s speed, can be one of the hardest things to accomplish as a rider. Even riders of advanced levels have trouble with controlling their horse’s speed from time to time. Riders usually have speed control problems in two different ways. One, they have trouble moving their horse forward. Or two, they have trouble making their horse slow down. However, both of these issue result from one thing: not riding with an independent seat. Without having a secure/independent seat, a rider cannot coordinate the proper aid signals to their horse. And therefore, the rider cannot make the necessary communicative connection to the horse in order tell him to go faster or slower. To establish a secure-independent seat for proper speed control, every rider must have these three things: Balance, Flexibility, and Muscular Strength.
The first thing that a rider has to accomplish is balance. Without the popper body balance, a rider cannot make the appropriate connection with their seat. And therefore, won’t be able to communicate to their horse to go faster or to slow down. To achieve proper balance, a rider must learn to relax their leg muscles, follow the horse’s rhythm, and to use core muscles to lift off the horses back with each stride. Many riders rely on their hands for their balance and aren’t establishing a proper seat. Riders who use their hands for balance have a tendency to fall forward in their seat and their butt bones lose that connection with the saddle. By using your hands for balance, you are eliminating seat communication and therefore a secured seat cannot be established.
Having flexibility in the saddle means that the rider is able to establish a free-flowing motion of the hips, legs, and upper body. Flexibility is about being able to connect with the horse’s motion and follow the rhythm of his pace while being relaxed and not stiff in the saddle. When riding, some riders get into the habit of following the horse’s pace and not letting their seat control the speed. By matching the horse’s pace, you are giving him control and letting him set the speed. By being relaxed in the saddle, a rider is able to go against the speed that the horse wants to go and is able to make him follow the pace that the rider is setting.
Controlling your horse’s speed is all about setting the pace yourself! However, it can be a little tricky to accomplish. When you are riding, your body automatically wants to follow the pace of the horse. It takes a lot of practice to be able to go against your horse’s pace and keep a steady pace within yourself. Once you start setting your own pace while in the saddle, your horse will have no choice but to follow your lead. But in order to be able to set your own pace, you need to be relaxed in the saddle, have flexible hips, good upper body control, and steady hands.
Muscle strength also plays a key role in establishing an independent seat. Riders must be able to have good core muscle stability, as well as having strength in the gluts and thighs for a sturdy riding base. Leg strength is a necessity for riding! Without having the proper leg stability, a rider is not balanced and therefore does not have a secured seat. Besides using riding as a means to build up your body strength, you can also do some muscular exercises outside of the saddle to help you improve your muscle strength. Some exercises that you can do to help improve your muscle strength and flexibility include:
- Doing “running” stretches to help improve your leg muscles and give you more flexibility.
- Doing crunches to help increase your abdominal strength and to give you the core muscles that you need for riding.
- Sitting on a ball and lifting one leg off the floor at a time while you are keeping your butt bones evenly placed on the ball.
- Do squats to build up your leg and thigh muscles.
- Yoga and Pilates is also a great workout to help tone and strengthen your core and leg muscles.
Often times the horse is the one that ends up getting blamed for not going the speed that the rider wants. When in all actuality, it is the rider that is not sending the correct signals to the horse! Controlling your horse’s speed is all about keeping your own riding rhythm and not following the pace of your horse. In order to achieve setting your own rhythm, you need to learn how to establish your secured/ independent seat. This comes with having flexibility in the hips, a good strong riding base (your legs), and learning how to keep yourself balanced in the saddle while riding. Once you have mastered these things, you will be able to properly communicate with your horse and keep him at the pace that you want him to go. Practice makes perfect, so keep on practicing!