Correcting a Rocking Upper Body

(aka “How to have a calm upper body”)

Causes of a rocking upper body:

  • Exaggeratedly following horse’s movement
  • An insecure seat
  • Incorrectly think it will achieve a strong driving aid and balanced seat – they try to move the horse like they moved a rocking horse in their childhood
  • Pinched knees, not enough weight in the back of the calves, so they are actually pivoting on the knees

Results of a rocking upper body (why we don’t want it):

  • Behind the motion
  • Disturb the horse’s balance
  • Makes your back tense, losing the ability to follow the horse supply, lose harmony with the horse
  • May pull backward with hands
  • Causes the horse to stiffen

Correcting a rocking upper body:

  • Realize that a real horse moves by itself, no rider’s help required (unlike a rocking horse)
    • And you must sit as quietly as possible so he can balance
  • Review correct seat and leg, and following the horse’s movement
    • Pelvis follows the movement smoothly
    • Upper body stays quiet, upright, balanced
    • Use abs and lower back to contract and relax rhythmically
    • Relax your legs (don’t grip with thighs, which lifts you out of the saddle)
    • Let your horse “roll under you”
    • “Move your hips more, so your upper body can move less”
    • Reestablish at the walk first
  • Strengthen base of support
    • Ride without hands
    • Longe lessons without stirrups
  • Strengthen legs so you use them to get your horse going rather than rocking
  • Use abs to sit up tall
    • Imagine a zipper going all the way up your abs, stretch it as long as you can, and keep the abs tight to keep the zipper closed. Let the lower back flex with the motion.
    • “The solution does not lie in stiffening the shoulders and back, but rather in lifting the sternum (breast bone) and lifting the rib cage off the spine.” Julie Goodnight
  • Relax arms and let them move with the motion of the horse, instead of moving the whole upper body
  • Activities
    • Egg and spoon
    • Hold the reins in one hand and let the other hand drop
      • With the dropped hand tap the saddle pad in rhythm with the horse’s stride
      • If you are rocking you won’t be able to truly let the hand hang straight
      • When you get more balance, start moving the free hand around
      • Progress to no stirrups
    • Beanie babies or bean bags on their shoulders

Do you have anything to add?



Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *