How can you tell if you have an independent seat when riding?
The independent seat happens when a rider can move one part of their body independently of other parts of their body and independently of the horses’ movements, while maintaining balance. The rider is moving with the horse but still maintaining a level of independence so if the horse stumbles or transitions gait the balance is maintained. There is a level of softness to the contact and aids, with no added pressure.
The independent seat is not legs jammed down into the stirrups with your ankles locked and knees firmly in contact, it is legs that are relaxed that naturally sit lightly in the stirrup and hug but don't grip the horse. The independent seat is not a rigid, inflexible posture, it is upright and balance and fluid in movement while at the same time lacking unnecessary movement. The independent seat is not hanging onto the reigns, but instead soft contact with the mouth that alters slightly in response to the horses actions and desired outcomes.
So how can we improve our seat without actually riding?
When we lack balance, we rely on our horse to balance us in the saddle. This means we cannot achieve an independent seat at all.
Most of us believe we have good balance- after all, we can stand and walk without falling. Unfortunately this doesn’t always translate to good balance in the saddle.
To test your balance, try standing on a balance ball. Once you can securely balance on the ball, start adding extra tasks and build up. My favourite is to play a game of catch on the balance ball, then kick it up to a game of catch while naming objects in a category, like fruit (thank my Physio for that one!)
Good posture is critical for your aids and your movements to be fluid and with the horse, yet also helps maintain independence.
This video has a great way of demonstrating good posture - click here to watch.
Our core is the ultimate area that tends to be neglected, but is critical for our balance, posture and coordination. A strong core will help your develop a stronger seat and allow independent movement.
One test you can do to access your core strength is the Plank Test - click here to watch.
Good coordination in the saddle can be somewhat difficult to organise out of the saddle. However, it does rely on your fitness, posture, core strength and balance to be strong.
You can try juggling, rub tummy/pat head routine, essentially any exercise that stretches your brains by making your hands, fingers, legs or thighs work independently of each other.
None of this can come together if you lack a ‘can-do’ attitude. We are what we think, and if we believe we cannot do something, our bodies will actively sabotage our attempts.
Keep positive thoughts, break down the challenge into small but achievable wins, and you will be well on your way to success.