Mounted & Unmounted Exercises to Improve the Rider’s Seat

Learn about the following mounted and unmounted exercises to improve your students' seats:

Unmounted Exercises: seatbone awareness and a pilates exercise 

Mounted Exercises: riding without stirrups, jockey seat, heel turns, and standing in stirrups.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Unmounted Exercises

Seatbone Awareness 

Here is a great exercise to help students become aware of their seatbones and how they should feel in the saddle! Try this in the barn before students ride:

  • Sit on a bench or hard chair.  
  • Practicing 'walking' seatbones forward until you are at the edge of the seat. 
  • Place your hands under your seat and sit as tall as possible by raising (not pushing forward) your breastbone. You should now feel your seatbones pressing against your hands!  
  • Rock slightly forwards and the pressure lessens as you go forward. Rock backwards and the pressure becomes firmer with the feeling of giving a push! 
  • Practice putting more weight on one seatbone, and then the other one by keeping both hands under your seatbones to feel the difference. 


Pilates Exercise

Enhances posture and balance while strengthening your core. 

  • Stand with your toes facing forwards and hip length apart. Take a deep breathe in and contract your muscles of your abdomen and pelvic floor (like a kegel) while continuing to breathe. 
  • Feel your feet firmly on the ground and lift one leg behind you, a little bit off the floor. Imagine a pole running through you from the top of your head to the foot and on the floor. 
  •  Hold for 30 seconds. Use a chair if necessary if you are too woobly. 
  • Repeat with other leg. 


A Couple of Great Tips:

  • Anytime you get dressed focus on doing so by always standing up and balancing on your own. Don't put your socks and underwear on by sitting down!  
  • When you get up from sitting down, do not use your hands to help you up. Instead use your core! 

Mounted Exercises 


Riding Without Stirrups 

Creates a deeper seat and improves balance but if done in excess it can have the opposite effect. 

*Almost any riding exercise with stirrups can certainly be done without stirrups! Always try at slower gaits first before moving on to faster. Let students know they can hold onto the saddle with one hand when they need to stabilize themselves.  

  • Cross stirrups over the saddle in front of you. 
  • Ask your horse to move into a slow trot from the walk.  
  • Stay relaxed. Tensing your buttocks or thighs will make you bounce more. Allow your legs to hang down and your lower back to absorb the movement. 
  • Increase your horse's speed slowly and only when ready to handle it. 

If rider becomes very uncomfortable and starts losing balance, things will only get worse so give them a break. Best not to regress! 


Jockey Seat

Shows you how to sit in closer contact with your saddle. 

  • Halt your horse and place both reins in one hand. In opposite hand, hold the front of your saddle for balance. 
  • Raise both knees as high as your horse's withers until they are almost touching each other. 
  • Make sure you seat bones feel as though they are resting in the saddle – walk them forward if necessary to the lowest part of your saddle. Keep your weight even in each seat bone! 
  • Slowly stretch both legs out and to the side. Lower them back to riding position.  


Heel Turn

Helps to stretch your muscles around your hip and top of thigh thus creating a deeper seat in the saddle.  

  • Halt your horse and place the reins in one hand. Hold your pommel with your opposite hand to maintain your balance 
  • Left your right leg outwards and away from the horse's side so it is off the saddle 
  • Turn your heel slightly outwards and then slowly allow your leg to touch the saddle again while drawing your knee back and downwards.  
  • Repeat with left leg 


Standing Up in Your Stirrups

  • Practice standing in your stirrups at all gaits without using the reins to support yourself. 
  • Use a neckstrap (stirrup leather wrapped around the horse's neck) in the beginning to hold onto  when your first stand up. Progress to using it less and less as you ride 

When you can canter around on both leads while standing up without using the neckstrap for balance, you've got it!  

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