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With the exception of the Driving event, the fundamental requirement of equestrian is the ability to stay on your horse.
When sitting down on your horse, your body should be aligned from your head through your hips. Sit in a relaxed and comfortable manner on your seat bones, without using your thighs to grip the horse. When you are comfortable just sitting on your horse, you can move on to standing up in the stirrups. When standing, your upper body should be in the same alignment as if you are still sitting. While standing, the alignment continues through the centre of the hips to the back of the calves and down the heel.
The next exercise is very helpful in developing your balance and strengthening your lower leg. Riding without stirrups makes you instinctively sit deeper into your saddle, centring yourself on the horse's back. This exercise helps those with a tendency to lean to the sides when in the saddle.
Posting trots is a good way to improve the feel for the horse's moving rhythm. The act of having to lift yourself out of the saddle in accordance to the movement of the horse trains your core and lower body strength. Posting without stirrups will allow you to lift your body up from your saddle using just the horse's stride.
The next exercise will instil in the rider the ability to pay attention to where the horse's hooves are by feeling the movement through the horse's body as it moves. Five-Five-Five simply means sitting in the saddle for five strides as the horse walks, before posting for the next five strives. Lastly, you stand for five strides. Doing these three sets of movements allows you to become accustomed to the rhythm of the horse’s stride.
When you are confident of being in the saddle, you can move on to jogging in a circle. Start with a trot and lead the horse in establishing a large circle. Once your large circle is established, tighten the circle by half and lead your horse into a jog. As you tighten the circle, drop your inside stirrup and keep your balance. When you feel you have the hang of it, turn the horse around in the other direction and practice. This exercise builds your confidence in staying in your saddle when attempting movements that do not go in a straight line. As the circle gets tighter, it will be more difficult for you to keep your balance on the horse.
By practising these exercises repeatedly, you will become more confident in the saddle. These basic exercises will help you in any event, Endurance - where you have to navigate diverse terrains, Jumping - where you need to keep balance when the horse moves over obstacles, and even Dressage - where the horse needs to be precise in its movements and move at speed to various points in the arena.
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