Muscles under seatbones
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Sunday, June 21, 2009 05:58 PM
I haven't talked about these muscles for a long time. I believe mostly because I forgot that I'm using them constantly. They are constantly on, and I got so used to the familiar feel I do not notice it any more. However, recently I decided to sit the old way. I consciously relaxed muscles in my legs, muscles under my seatbones, my stomach and in the lower back. Instantly, I started sliding back and forth and left and right on the saddle. The feeling was very troublesome. Like I'm so weak and disconnected, can fall down any moment from a slightest change of speed. Another feeling I got that I'm on top of the saddle instead of being deep in it, being around it and connected to it. No wonder some riders cannot really let go of the reins. Reins are their only means of security and balance.
Many muscles in our body must be toned during riding even at halt and walk. In particular, muscles right under our seatbones, muscles we sit on. If you are reading about this concept for the first time please read the Thighs article on my website.
It is very hard to engage these muscles for the first time. It is almost feels like you try and try and nothing happens. The change is very hard to detect, very hazy and disappears quickly. Many times riders mistakenly harden their buttocks or pull pelvic floor up. With practice it becomes easier to separate, localize and grade this engagement. In time you will be able to turn these muscles on every time you are in the saddle, it will become second nature. And the more proficient you become at that the more it feels like plugging your seatbones into the saddle. The seatbones feel very defined, with exact location that you can analyze and evaluate. And by changing the degree of muscle tone you can load your seatbone more or less depending on what is needed. This "loading" spreads down the leg and the feeling is like the whole leg starting from the hip is down and stretched.
There are a few common mistakes that come from not engaging muscles under seatbones while trying to use the seat:
  • Stepping more into the stirrup in order to stretch the leg - Unfortunately many riders end up exactly doing that when their instructor wants them to stretch their inside leg down. Stepping into the stirrup unloads the seatbone and disconnects the rider from the horse. And the horse is free to lean in with his whole ribcage - the seatbone is not there, the leg is not there, nothing can stop the horse. The rider can kick with her/his inside heel it does not tell the horse to bend. Bend comes from the seat not from the heels. The "loading" of inside seatbone and inside leg is especially important on the stiff side of the horse.
  • Shifting your weight over to the inside - It very often makes riders lean too much to the inside and/or disconnect their outside seatbone from the saddle. The feel of "more weight on the inside seatbone" comes from engagement of the muscles, intensity of forces involved, not from simply trying to shift yourself left or right.
  • Loosing outside seatbone - After inside seatbone is engaged during turns, circles and positioning of the horse it is pretty much becomes quiet and only supports bend like inside rein and outside seatbone becomes primary steering mechanism like outside rein. This is especially important in controlling your horse's haunches during turns, circles, shoulder-ins and travers, controlling direction of leg-yield and shoulder-in, controlling canter, pirouettes, etc. If you disconnect your outside seatbone from the saddle you will disturb your horse's balance and you will have very hard time controlling him.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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