Improve Your Dressage Position with Better Posture- 13 Tips & Exercises

It is certainly a beautiful site to watch an elegant rider on a balanced horse. What is the key ingredient to create that elegant picture? Great posture of course! There is an immediate, 100% improvement in the overall picture of you and your horse if you correct your posture. When a rider rounds over in their upper body it creates unnecessary movement throughout the back. All the motion from the horse will travel up the spine, get "stuck" and then travel back down, creating a wiggly or noodle-like back. Others take the motion in the hips and "flip" them in an attempt to stay with the horse's center of gravity. A slouched, hunched over, sloppy rider can transform into a tall, straight, elegant rider fairly quickly with consistent practice. However, for some riders it can be quite difficult to sit up straight due to physical problems, tension, and confidence.

My journey to improve my  posture came from years of practice. At the Isaac Royal Academy of Equestrian Arts I spent the first 6 months on a lunge line riding without stirrups and holding onto the pommel. My instructor Carolyn Rose had me continue to ride without stirrups for years to instill independent balance. I also love to dance and practice yoga so that helps me with core strength and being open in the shoulders/chest.  Here are some exercises to try on and off your horse to help improve your posture.

Exercises to Practice Correct Posture On Your Horse:

  • Ride with one hand held above your head. Place your reins in one hand and stretch your other hand high to the sky. This will lift and stretch your torso, helping you to stay balanced and straight. This is also an excellent exercise if you tend to drop one shoulder more then the other. Try it at the walk, trot and canter if you can.
  • Start with some warm-up exercises for your chest and shoulders like large arm circles. Try stretching your arms up high as you look up at the sky to open up your chest. While your horse is halted you can put one hand on the pommel and reach the other one back to the cantle to add some gentle twists with your upper body to help loosen the back,
  • Lift your chin and pretend that you are a snob!! Looking down at your horse too much will cause you to tip forward and round the shoulders. By keeping your chin up you cannot help but lift your chest and actually see where you are going! Remember to look between your horse's ears or even higher to help keep your chin level.
  • Imagine that you are drinking tea! I really like this one because it also helps riders feel elegant and still in their upper body.
  • Try to pinch your shoulder blades together, this will open your chest as you ride.
  • Take a lunge lesson and hold the pommel with one or both hands. Use your hands to help you lift your chest.
  • Place a whip behind your back and wrap your elbows around it. Do this in your warm-up at the walk on a safe horse. This may over-arch your back but it can help open your chest and shoulders if you are really rounded in your upper back.

Usually a person with poor posture on the ground will also have poor posture when they ride. Rounded shoulders also portray a lack of confidence and self-esteem. This may or may not be true but try to imagine that you are a King or Queen parading around the house, that is what you should feel like on the horse! Proud, confident, and strong!

Exercises to Practice Correct Posture On the Ground:

  • Take dance classes, there are so many to choose from! Try tango, ballet, bellydance, salsa, or ballroom! (see video below)
  • Practice yoga (videos below) and tai chi.
  • Try a pilates class for core strength.
  • Lift your sternum while you walk, lead with your hips and keep your chest high to the sky.
  • Practice sitting up straight anytime you sit, this will help correct your muscle memory. You can sit on an exercise ball while you are on the computer to help bring awareness to your seat and spine.
  • Wear a shoulder brace that helps remind you to stay in correct posture. There are many different styles to choose from on Amazon.

Yoga Videos To Help Your Posture:

Bellydance Video To Help With Your Posture:

If you live near me in Dover-Foxcroft, ME you should check out the Color of Life Yoga Studio. Becky Feaser teaches yoga classes daily. Click here to visit her Facebook Page: Color of Life Studio. My friend Lydia Rose Spencer teaches a bellydance class at the same studio on Mondays (she is the instructor/dancer in the video above). Click here to visit her Facebook Page: Lydia Rose Belly Dance. 

If you have any pain or discomfort in your back you should seek therapy to help correct the issue. I have been to many massage therapists, chiropractors, osteopathic doctors, and alternative physical therapists to keep my body in good working order to ride well. Regular exercise and stretching is very important to prevent yourself from being injured. Treat yourself like a dancer because you really are! To ride a horse is the ultimate form of dance, involving the body, mind, and spirit of both partners. Take the lead in your riding and in your own life! 

Please let me know if you have any other tips for improving posture, I would love to share them with my readers. You can post a comment below or email me at beginthedance@gmail.com. Thank you!