Unbalanced Collapsed Side

Here is a list of techniques that may help a rider who is unbalanced with a collapsed side. It comes from the Facebook Riding Instructors’ Forum conversation about an elderly rider who has trouble keeping her balance on turns, sits to one side, and is very timid.

Tips for an Unbalanced Collapsed Side Rider


  • A diagnosis will help you know the solution.
  • Is she collapsing because she has scoliosis?
  • Is there an old injury she’s protecting? Is she in pain?

Body Work

  • Work on her body’s ability to be straight and long outside of lessons. She may have developed bad musclular/postural habits that need work. If she’s older or had a stroke, she may have lost muscle tone.
  • A chiropractor or massage.
  • Yoga to awaken deep core muscles that have gone dormant.
  • Strength training, especially on the weak side. Go to the gym!
  • Practice at home, to learn the muscle memory. Sit on an exercise ball in front of the mirror. Notice her posture when sitting or riding in a car (how she sits on the horse is probably how she sits through life.

Work on Body Awareness

  • Due to years of incorrect posture, she may feel straight when she is actually crooked, and so when she straightens up she feels very crooked! Her body needs to be retrained to know where center is.
  • She may feel straight when she is actually crooked, so when she straightens up she feels very crooked. Her body needs to be retrained to know where center is.
  • Before the lesson have her sit on an exercise ball in front of mirror, and use a whip across her shoulders and hips to show the incorrect levels. Have her exaggerate the faults, then exaggerate the correct posture (they end up leaning the other direction), lastly ask her to find the happy medium between the two. Ideally having felt both they’ll be able to find the correct alignment. Practice shortening and lengthening the waist. Next, on the horse do all the same exercises. In this way first she learns muscle memory in a safe and comfortable environment to then apply to riding.
  • At the halt, ask her to slide to seat bones slightly to one side – she will probably choose the easier side. Have her try to harder side. Ask her to notice what happens to her ribs each way, one side shortens and the other lengthens. This helps her understand lengthen and shortening her side. Also ask her to lengthen one leg and the other, sensing the difference in her seatbones.
  • Walk behind her as she rides straight and help her get aligned to feel what it is like to be straight
  • Just keep patiently reminding her to sit centered on both seat bones
  • Take video while riding, stop and show them right there what they’re doing
  • Timid b/c Older adult = may take longer to build up the needed core strength, don’t push her too far out of her comfort zone

Have her Lengthen the Collapsed Side

  • It may take finding the right phrase:
    • Shorten your long side
    • Inflate your lungs to lift up your ribcage off the collapsed side hip.
    • Lengthen your sides
    • Straighten your ribs
    • Lengthen your legs
    • Raise your shoulder

Use a towel

  • Use a towel folded to make an 8 inch square 2 inches thick and put it under the rider’s seat on her long side (non-collapsed side) – the rider will lengthen their short side to compensate. Usually only one lesson like this is needed to retrain the body to know where center is.


  • Stretched that will open up that side of the body
  • Ride with collapsed side arm raise
  • Arm rotations front to back
  • Reaching back toward the tail on that side
  • Reach with collapsed side arm to touch toe on opposite side
  • Lateral exercises which move toward her collapsed side

Turns in the opposite direction of the collapsed side

  • The force of gravity makes them straighten the collapsed side
  • Do circles
  • Make turns that way more often
  • Ex) if she collapses left, circle right
  • Weave cones and fig.8s to emphasize rider’s position relating to the bend

Lunge lesson

  • This was highly recommended to allow her to work on her balance without worrying about controlling the horse.
  • If she’s scared, use a neck strap, have the reins nearby, or start with a long lead rope at the walk.

Exercises (on the lunge line or with a leader)

  • Work on keeping back straight and balanced while doing exercises at the walk, even with eyes closed:
    • arms up, arms out front
    • arms out to the side
    • arm cirles
    • scissors arms
    • shark bite arms
    • then at the posting trot
    • then sitting trot
    • then no stirrups
  • 2 point – Work on keeping even hips, shoulders, weight
  • Drop the stirrup on the collapsed side – to encourage more weight in the collapsed seat bone
  • Shorten the stirrup on the strong side – Forces the seat to the weak side, sending the weak side rib cage up
  • Equicube, or hold riding crop level under the thumbs

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 judgment!

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