You have seen them haven’t you? Even at the highest level!!!!! Check out some of the Olympic riders! In an attempt to follow the horse’s movement you see extravagant rocking back and forth of the upper body in the canter.
To a lesser extent at the lower levels you will also see this ‘pumping’ action of the upper body. The efforts involved are actually putting the rider constantly behind the movement.
- A tell-tale sign that the seat is not so secure.
- It disrupts the balance of the canter
- Makes both horse and rider’s back tense.
If you are guilty of this, because you are now behind the movement, your aids become delayed and less effective.
To correct a pumping upper body, revisit the development of your seat and leg position at the halt. Look in a mirror or ask a person on the ground to check to see that when you sit in the correct position in the saddle. Check if you are in true alignment and are able to draw a line from your shoulder to your hip and straight down to the back of your heel.
Your leg needs to hang long and relaxed. Your seat must rest in the saddle in a relaxed manner, and you should feel both seat bones in the saddle.
Merry Go Round
Think about the motion of up and down and forward on a merry-go-round. All very smooth and rhythmic due to the mechanical nature of the ride. When your horse moves at the walk, trot or canter, your pelvis follows the movements smoothly while your upper body stays quiet, upright and balanced.
The secret is in the Core
- To maintain a quiet upper body your abdominal muscles and those of the lower back, have to contract and relax rhythmically.
- Try not to grip with your thighs because this will lift you out of the saddle.
- Relax your leg muscles so that you can sit as deeply as possible in the saddle and go with your horse’s movements.
- When your horse canters, allow his canter to ‘roll’ under you.
- Keep checking that you are sitting upright.
As always with potential positional faults you should consider lunge lessons and work without stirrups. This will help you to develop balance and really feel your horse’s movements in the canter. By riding on the lunge whilst your instructor takes control of the horse you can focus on your seat and leg position.
Once you find and establish the balanced seat at the canter the pumping will stop.