1. Take a Stand
An insecure leg is an ineffective leg. You have to stay balanced over your horse’s centre of gravity with your leg directly underneath you. Your hips, knees, and ankles absorb the movement or your upper body will get tossed around, causing you to fall forwards or backwards. With your horse standing still, stand up in your stirrups and try to balance at the walk and trot. Check your stirrup length: a stirrup that’s too long and doesn’t allow a 90- to 110-degree angle behind your knee will force you to reach for it.
2. Skip the Stirrups
Working without stirrups encourages strength to maintain a solid position. When you remove stirrups, you remove the ‘bandaid’ that allows a lot of position flaws. Have a knowledgeable horse person lunge you; practice for short periods and gradually build up to longer sessions at all three gaits. Move off the lungeline and incorporate stirrup-less work at least once a week in your regular schooling routine.
3. Bounce, Bounce
Work through gymnastics, especially bounces. Because there’s no time to recover, a rider who gets out of position will find the bounce very difficult, especially when there are several in a row. You should land in the stirrups and allow your knees and ankles to act as shock absorbers. Set two bounces in a row of three jumps approximately 10.5-11 feet apart at cavaletti height. The ideal upper body position involves having a flat back, with seat and hips centred over the middle of the saddle.
4. Eyes Up!
Poor eye control has an enormous effect on the rest of your position. You need to look where you’re going, plus good eye control lends itself to upper body control and avoids a lack of balance and ducking that occurs when you look down. Have a helper stand at the end of the ring, then canter or jump towards them and tell them how many fingers they are holding up.
5. Release Me
Improper crest releases are a common flaw which can restrict the horse’s freedom to use its head and neck in the air and develop a nice bascule through the back. Another purpose of a solid crest release is to allow a third point of contact for the rider, offering a small amount of support. To avoid snagging the horse in the mouth if it jumps out in front of you, or using an ineffective a “floating” release where the hands are suspended in the air, put a piece of coloured tape in the mane as a target and reach for it over the fence. There is nothing wrong with grabbing mane; it is used by top riders in many situations when they are looking for ways to guarantee that they aren’t catching their horse in the mouth.