Riding a Horse is Like Riding a Bicycle

Finding your own balanced position on a horse is very similar to riding a bicycle. Your body must make constant, small adjustments to maintain balance. The stability of the bicycle (or not) reflects your constant relationship to gravity. Beginners may lean too much of their weight on the handlebars, on the seat or on the pedals. They may lean too far forward, too far back or too far to one side while learning but they rapidly discover imbalances in their bodies because a bicycle will not compensate very well for a loss of balance – and you can’t blame the bike for being naughty.

While riding a bike, you may be in an upright, lengthened position when riding a cruiser, a partially folded or shortened position when riding a mountain bike or a very folded, crouched position if riding a racing bike. Even though the angles of your body change for each type of bike or sport you are still able to find a stable relationship with gravity that allows you to balance and move with two skinny tires. Riding a bike over uneven, unpredictable terrain requires better balance as does riding at fast speeds or on tight turns. It is also a big challenge to ride a bike that is not operating correctly.

Balancing over gravity, independent of the object you are sitting on or the terrain, is what it takes to ride a horse, just like it does for riding a bicycle. A rider’s body must remain stable and level over gravity, especially if the horse loses balance and becomes unstable. This simple concept is what excellent riders have either learned to do or just find instinctually. A horse will always have its own balance challenges. It is up to the rider to find self-carriage despite an unbalanced horse, creating stability with subtle weight shifts instead of gripping with muscular tension. A rider that is stable and balanced over gravity can act as the hub in the center of the horse’s movement and help the horse to organize its balance.

Finding correct balance on a horse is entirely an internal process for every rider. Correct balance creates the sensation that you are almost floating above the horse and if the horse could evaporate out from under you at any moment, you would land squarely on your feet – without falling forward, backward, left or right. To do this on a horse that is struggling with its own balance may mean that you are adjusting your own weight side to side or from front to back as needed. Your ability to internally shift weight while still maintaining a balanced alignment of your skeleton over gravity is the essence of riding well. It is not as simple as just sitting in the middle of the saddle and using the stirrups or reins to help you stay atop the horse.

Next time you are on a bike, try riding with your hands off the handlebars. The direction and stability of the bicycle while you are doing this will tell you much about your balance.

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