We believe in science based development. We are sharing different scientific studies that prove the importance of a good seat.
Since the communication between rider and horse is predominately embodied and depending of the quality of the rider’s seat.

Mari Zetterqvist Blokhuis

The better riders’ can control their pelvis movements, the better they synchronize with their horse.

The rider’s pelvis is particularly important because this is the main point of contact with the saddle and therefore between rider and horse.

In the trot, the rider’s pelvis plays a crucial role in maintaining balance and absorbing the horse’s movement.
Investigations of dressage rider suggest that the performance outcomes of riding can be enhanced by a rider who adapts the motion of their pelvis to that of the horse with well-adjusted seat.

The trot is a two-beat diagonal gait with a stance phase where the horse deaccelerates and a suspension phase where the horse accelerates.

In sitting trot, the rider’s pelvis moves in a forward and backward motion as the horse’s back moves up and down with each diagonal pair of legs. When one of the horse’s diagonal pairs of legs is in the air (the suspension phase), the rider’s pelvis will move slightly forward with the horse’s movement, and the rider’s lumbar region extends.

As that pair of legs returns to the ground (the stance phase), the rider’s pelvis will move slightly backward with the horse’s downward movement, and the rider’s back flexis.

The aim of an English study was to assess weather riders with better control of their pelvis movements, had increased postural stability and horse-rider synchronicity.

Results from the study.

The result suggests that riders that could not perform pelvic tilt, without major compensation, whilst sitting on a Swiss ball, had a more leaning forward posture.

Were more asymmetrical between the left and right sides and more phase shifted during the swing and stance phases while riding, than rider who could perform pelvic tilt with mild compensations.
No riders in this study were able to perform anterior or posterior (forward and backward) tilt, whilst seated on a ball without demonstrating mild or major compensations.

The most common of these were inclusion of the lumbar spine or leaning forwards or backwards.

How was the study performed?

Twenty-six amateur riders rode 35 horses in active dressage training. Riders were divided in two groups according to their ability to perform posterior pelvic tilts whilst sat on a Swiss ball.

High-speed motion cameras were used to assess rider body posture angular measurements and horse-rider synchronicity whilst riding a pre-defined test.


The rider’s pelvis is particularly important for the rider to be able to coordinate his or her movements to the horse’s movements.

The conclusion is that the better the rider could tilt their pelvis forwards or backwards on a Swiss ball, the better the rider could adapt to the movements of the horse.

To perform a posterior (backwards) tilt, it is suggested that there is a need for recruitment of the core muscles.

Therefore, riders should add dismounted exercises on a Swiss ball or a Balimo stool together with strengthening of their abdominal muscles to their training regime. For riders to practice their pelvis movement is likely to improve their riding skills and thus the communication with the horse.


Walker, V.A., Pettit, I., Tranquille, C.A., Spear, J., Dyson, S.J. and Murray, R.C.
Relationship between pelvic tilt control, horse-rider synchronisation, and rider position in sitting trot. Comparative Exercise Physiology: 16 (5) – Pages: 423 – 432.

Riders’ pelvic roll ability important for equestrian skills and horse welfare

The horse moves, both rider and horse by generating ground reaction forces, that are transmitted through the limbs to the horse’s body and via the saddle to the rider.

The rider’s pelvis interfaces directly with the saddle and is regarded as the key component both in allowing the rider to follow the horse’s movements and in facilitating cues to the horse.

Thus, horse riders need to be stable and well-balanced to give clear instructions to the horse.

The aim of a recent study was to evaluate whether the rider’s performance in a series of exercises performed on a gymnastic ball, are related to the rider’s ability to ride in harmony with the horse.

Results from the study.

Results showed that the rider’s ability to role the pelvis from side-to-side on a gymnastic ball was highly coordinated with ability to circle the pelvis on a ball, and with quality and harmony during riding.

When ridden by riders with higher scores for pelvic role ability, horses showed fewer conflict behaviors.

Horses also worked at higher heart rates, which reflect a more effective rider producing more impulsion while riding.

How was the study performed?

Twenty experienced riders were scored performing three different exercises on a gymnastic ball (pelvic roll, pelvic circle and balance), and for quality and harmony when riding on their own horse.

The riders’ ability to roll the pelvis from side-to-side was correlated, with a subjective scoring of the quality and harmony of their riding performance as well as horse conflict behavior.

The conclusion.

The ability to actively move the pelvis when sitting on a ball appears to be more relevant to equestrian performance than balancing statically on the ball.

The authors suggest that simple exercises on a gymnastic ball (or a Balimo stool), that emphasize the ability to move and control the pelvis may be useful to evaluate and potentially improve rider skill.



Uldahl, M., Christensen, J.W., and Clayton, H.M. Relationships between the Rider’s Pelvis Mobility and Balance on a Gymnastic Ball with Equestrian Skills and Effects on Horse Welfare. In Animals 2021, 11, 453.


Did you know that dressage riding can increases the risk for both asymmetry and pain?

There is a common opinion in equestrian sport that symmetry in riders is desired, but it has been indicated that riders often have anatomical and functional asymmetry, that could put both riders and horses’ health at risk.

Symmetry, strength, and flexibility were assessed in a large population of riders, to determine whether typical traits existed due to riding.

The aim of the study was to determine whether anatomical asymmetry (leg length, pelvis and shoulder height), functional asymmetry (trunk lateral bending and axial rotation range of motion (ROM) during sitting) and dynamical asymmetry (grip strength) were prevalent in a larger population of riders.

Results showed that riding influence the rider’s body to become more asymmetrical.

The longer riders had been riding, the larger pelvis asymmetry was found, resulting in that riders’ pelvis.

It was higher on the right side compared to the left. Right grip strength was greater for all groups, which would be expected for a right-handed population and grip strength was correlated with muscle mass.

Moreover, the lateral bending to the left was also reduced in higher level riders, that had ridden for a longer amount of time.

This may be attributed to asymmetric shoulder height, suggesting that strength and therefore muscle development is greater on the right side of the body.

Moreover, a trend was seen in riders with postural defects developing back and/or neck pain with an increasing level of competition.

How was the study performed?

127 right-handed riders from the UK and USA were categorized, according to years riding and their competition level.

Leg length, grip strength and spinal posture were measured and recorded by a physiotherapist.

Standing and sitting posture and trunk flexibility were measured with 3-D motion capture technology.

Right-left differences were explored in relation to years riding and rider competitive experience.

For functional asymmetry, a significant interaction was found. For lateral bending and axial rotation range of movement (ROM), for years riding x competition level meaning that the more years of riding – the less ROM.

The conclusion.

The demands on dressage riders competing at higher levels may predispose these riders, to a higher risk of developing asymmetry and potentially chronic back pain, rather than improving their symmetry.

It is suggested that further studies would be warranted to develop educational strategies, including methods of how to decrease these risks.

S. J. Hobbs, J. Baxter, L. Broom, L-A. Rossell, J. Sinclair, and H. M. Clayton. Posture, Flexibility and Grip Strength in Horse Riders. Journal of Human Kinetics volume 42/2014, 113-125.

Did you know that rising trot is less demanding for the horse compared to sitting trot?

The common opinion in the equestrian world is that rising trot is less demanding for the horse than sitting trot.

But could this be objectively measured? The aim of a study performed in the Netherlands was to quantify the force on the horse’s back in sitting and rising trot by using kinematic data.

Results showed that at trot, there are two force peaks presented during one stride circle (one step). Both peaks in rising trot were lower compared to sitting trot, especially in the part of the stride where the rider is standing in the stirrups.

This supports the general assumption that rising trot is less demanding for the horse than sitting trot.

The peak forward-backward and sideways forces were also lower in rising trot compared to sitting trot.

Interestingly, there was a difference in vertical and forward-backward force between the two horses, which had been trained for different types of riding and were on different age.

How was the study performed?

13 female riders and two horses participated in the study. One horse was ridden by 6 riders and the other by 7 riders.

Horse and riders were prepared with infrared light retroreflective markers.

Data were collected while the horse trotted in a straight line at its preferred speed by using eight infrared cameras.

Four full strides at both sitting and rising trot were analyzed for each horse/rider combination. The riders body weight was also taken into account.

The conclusion

It supports the general assumption that rising trot is less demanding compared to sitting trot.

Rising trot can therefore be used to prevent injuries in the horse.

In addition to reducing peak forces, standing up by the rider might also reduce the energy expenditure of the horse.

P. de Cocq, A. M. Duncker, H. M. Clayton, M. F. Bobbert, M. Muller, and J. van Leeuwen. Vertical forces on the horse’s back in sitting and rising trot. Journal of Biomechanics 43 (2010) 627-631.


Did you know that there is a relation between ridden asymmetry and performance on a balance chair?

The symmetry of the rider is highly relevant. Since a symmetrical rider has a better possibility to influence the horse in an optimal way.

Moreover, the rider’s pelvis has been identified as the most important part of the rider’s seat, since it is central in the communication between rider and horse.

Is there a relation between a rider’s asymmetry in unmounted and ridden situations?

The aim of a Swedish study.

It was to analyze frontal-plane kinematics of the rider’s head, trunk and pelvis when riding on straight lines, circles and leg yields in both left and right directions.

The data were compared with the unmounted situation while the rider was rocking a balance chair from side to side.

Results showed that there was a correlation found between ridden asymmetry and performance on a balance chair.

Moreover, all riders in this study were asymmetric when comparing riding in right vs left directions and they adopted the same asymmetrical posture weather they were riding in the left or right direction or on straight lines, circles or leg yielding.

How was the study performed?

Ten moderate skilled riders wore a full body marker set, that was tracked by a motion capture system. As they rocked a balance chair from side to side, by placing more weight alternately on their left and right seat bones.

Kinematic data was collected using in 3D using eight motion capture cameras.

Nine of the ten riders also rode one horse, and one additional rider rode a different horse.

All riders were instructed to ride the same program. For the ridden data collection, the riders wore kinematic markers, plus inertial measurement units, attached to the rider’s head (top of helmet), trunk and pelvis.

Riders used the same pattern, when sitting on a chair as riding on a horse.

This suggests that it is not the horse that causes the rider to be asymmetrical.

If the rider is asymmetric, it is likely that it is more difficult for the horse to perform ridden exercises, like for instance riding on a circle or riding leg yield.

Thus, it is suggested that there may be value in performing a specific off-horse training program individually tailored to make riders more symmetrical.


M.T. Engell, A. Byström, E. Hernlund, A. Berg, H. Clayton, L. Roepstorff and A. Egenvall. Intersegmental strategies in frontal plane in moderately-skilled riders analysed in ridden and un-mounted situations. Human Science, August 13, volume 66: pages 511-520.

Did you know that many riders suffer from back pain?

Do you sometimes feel pain in your body during or after riding? On one hand it is well-known that riding is a demanding sport for rider’s body.

On the other hand, riding has also been reported to have a positive effect on pre-existence back pain.

The aim of a German study was to evaluate to what degree horseback riders suffer from back pain, and whether there is an association between this parameter and the intensity of horseback riding.

Results showed that the incidence of back pain was 72.5 %. Overall 58.7 % reported to have pain in the lower back (ländrygg).

No difference between back pain and riding discipline, gender or riding level could be found.

Despite the fact that a large fraction of dressage riders claimed to have problems in the lower back areas.  61.6 % of dressage riders reported an improvement of their back pain when riding.

How was the study performed?

508 horseback riders competing in either dressage, showjumping or vaulting were interviewed using a questionnaire.

The intensity with which riding was performed, and the localization and intensity of back pain was assessed, using a VAS (a tool used to help a person rate the intensity of for instance pain).

The conclusion

It was that compared to the general population, a high incidence of back pain is found among riders.

A significant correlation between the intensity of riding or the riding discipline and frequency or severity of back pain could not be found.

For riders with pre-existent back pain the pace “walk” seems to have a positive influence on pain intensity.

This study highlights that if we want to last for a long time in equestrian sport, we need to prevent back pain for instance through training for instance of the core- and back muzzles.

The riders pain will most likely have a negative effect on the interaction with the horse and thus hinder rider and horse to perform optimally together.

Kraft, C. N., Urban, N., Ilg, A., Wallny, T., Scharfstädt, A., Jäger, M., & Pennekamp, 460 P. H. (2009). Influence of the riding discipline and riding intensity on the incidence of 461 back pain in competitive horseback riders. Sportverletzung Sportschaden: Organ der 462 Gesellschaft fur Orthopadisch-Traumatologische Sportmedizin, 21(1), 29-33. 463 41.


Did you know that many riders put more force onto the horse’s shoulders during collection?

How do you use your seat, when you want your horse to become more collected and to engage his or her hind limbs?

A Swedish study performed by researcher Maria Terese Engell showed, that when comparing the active seat (active riding posture with the horse ridden in collected trot) with the passive seat (rider passively following the horse’s movements).

Results showed that most of the riders applied increased pressure on the withers area, during active riding and with increased collection of the horse by rotating the chest and pelvis backwards.

Thus, the riders center of force moved onto the shoulder region in the active seat.

This is likely to make it more difficult for the horse to become more collected.

Moreover, it is suggested that this could cause cranial pressure under the saddle and thus may cause pressure injuries onto the horse’s back.

How was the study performed?

Seven warm blood dressage horses were ridden by their own riders (elite riders). With reflective markers attached to different places of the riders as well as the horses’ bodies and traced by 12 infrared optical cameras.

Kinematic data were recorded when rider-horse combinations were moving on a high-speed treadmill. Saddle pressure was also measured using a saddle mat.

The long-term goal should be to produce healthier individuals and better performance and the results from this study may promote development.

However, there is a need for more scientific documentation of the optimal postural position and the technical skill required for riders.

Results suggest that riders should try to keep an upright position when collecting the horse instead of tilting the pelvis and shoulders backwards.


M.T. Engell, H.M. Clayton, A. Egenvall, M.A. Weishaupt, and L. Roepstorff. Postural changes and their effects in elite riders when actively influencing the horse versus sitting passively at trot. Comparative Exercise Physiology, 2016: 12 (1): 27-33.

Did you know that physical training can improve the rider’s position?

Do you have problem with rounded shoulders? Or difficulties to relax your hips and legs, so that your legs fall to the horse’s sides?

It was shown in a British study, that a fitness program, specially tailored for riders, can improve the rider’s position and contribute for instance. So that the rider is able to ride with “longer legs”.

A group of students took part in a eight-weeks fitness course, based on exercises especially created for riders. The exercises were developed by the German sport physician Eckhart Meyners.

How was the study performed?

The participating riders were equipped with markers at the shoulder, hips, and heals and riders movements.

They were measured in walk, posting trot and sitting trot, both before and after the intervention.

An analyze program was used to register the rider’s deviations from the upright seat, both before and after the intervention.

Already after four weeks, the riders’ position was generally improved.

The problems with rounded shoulders decreased and the riders’ showed a longer distance between hips and heals.

This study shows that a tailored fitness program for riders can be used to improve your position. On the website Rider’s Position we present some exercises that you can use to become a better rider!

Boden, E. & Randle, H. The effects of an 8 week rider specific fitness regime on rider position and leg length whilst mounted. In: Proceedings of the 8th conference of International Society of Equitation Science, Edinburgh, July, 2012.

Does horse’s and rider’s asymmetries effect each other?

We all know that horses are asymmetric (unequal in the right and left side).

And how important it is for the riders to try to make the horse work with equal contact on both reins. But what happens if the rider is also asymmetric?

How might for instance a rider’s right or left handedness effect the performance of the horse?

What was the aim of the study?

The aim of a study at Hartpury College in England was to investigate the symmetry of rein tension in right-handed riders, and to find out if the horse’s asymmetry and the rider’s handedness play a role.

The results showed that the left preference horse was ridden with overall higher mean tension in the left rein compared to the right rein. In both horses taking part in this study, higher tension was applied to the outside rein in a clockwise but not in a counter-clockwise direction. This suggests an advantage of the rider’s dominant hand while trying to adjust rein tension.

The least minimum tension and a higher amount of maximum tension occurred in the left rein of the right-preference horse and right rein of the left-preference horse, indicating that the rider had a less steady contact in the horse´s non-preferred rein.

How was the study performed?

Eleven right-handed riders rode two horses, one right preference horse and one left preference horse. Laterality of the horses was determined by an established test for asymmetry of the horse based on preferred leg during approach of a feed bucket.

Rein tension was registered using a rein tension meter during three circles of walk, trot and canter and four walk-halt transitions in each direction. Data was analyzed accounting for the effects of rider, what gait and direction the rider was riding in, side of rein, and laterality of the horse.

The conclusion is that performance in the rider-horse combination is influenced by both the lateralization of the horse and handedness of the rider. Thus, riders need to be aware of this to be able to improve their own and the horse´s learning and performance.


S. Kuhnke, L. Dumbell, M. Gauly, L.J. Johnson, K. Mcdonald, and U. König V. Borstel. `Influence of the horse´s laterality on rein tension in the rider´s dominant and non-dominant hand´. In: M. van Dierendonck, P. de Cocq. and K. Visser, K. (Eds), Proceedings 7th International Equitation Science Conference, Academy Bartels, Hooge Mierde, The Netherlands, October 27-29th, 2011, p 60.

Did you know that a steady lower leg essential for riders in show jumping?

How is your leg position in show jumping? It is well-known that unstable lower legs can have a negative effect on your stability over the fence and can thus have a negative effect on your own as well as your horse’s balance over fences.

An English study showed that the position of the rider’s lower leg between take off and suspension is more stable among elite riders compared to non-elite riders.

How was the study performed?

Ten riders that were ranked among the best 150 show jumping riders were compared with ten non ranked riders during a 1.20 m competition. A number of angels in the riders’ seat were registered at takeoff and landing (after the fences) on both upright fences and oxers.

Results showed that the high ranked riders had a more “closed” angel of the hip compared to the unranked riders. Moreover, the unranked riders tended to push their lower leg backwards between the takeoff and the suspension over the upright fence.

This study suggests that less experienced show jumping riders need to improve the stabilization of their lower leg to improve their performance.

Take a look at a video clip or photo to analyse your own lower leg position during the takeoff and over the fence.

To be lounged over small fences where you can focus on your balance and leg position can enhance the learning of a more steady leg position and thus improve performance.


Herbert, L. et al. A comparison of the position of elite and non-elite riders over two different fences. In: Proceedings of the 8th conference of International Society of Equitation Science, Edinburgh, July, 2012.


Did you know that many riders are asymmetric?

Do you have a feeling that it is easier to ride in the right rein compared to the left? Or easier to approach a fence after a turn from the left compared to a turn from the right?

A British study showed that rider asymmetry does exist and that it is possible to measure this. All riders in this study exhibited a rotation to the left and a greater range of movement in the right shoulder in all gaits except right canter.

Moreover, all riders had a right leg shorter than the left but this did not affect the degree of shoulder displacement except in right canter.

The right canter showed a “chaotic pattern” with higher left shoulder displacement at one point and a higher right shoulder displacement at another point.

There was less movement overall for both shoulders and, differently from the other gates, the left shoulder had more movement.

It was concluded that rider’s uncontrolled movement in the right canter probably disturbs the balance and the synchrony of the horse.

How was the study performed?

The riders were 17 females that rode their own horses in walk, sitting trot, and left and right canter. Skin markers were placed on both rider and horses, and the riders were videotaped when riding a 5 m straight track way by two cameras, one at the side and one in the roof.

The videos were used to measure and analyse the angle of the line from one shoulder of the rider to the other relative to the line from the horse’s nose to the tail at each time the horse’s limb touched the ground for a complete stride cycle in each gate.

The results suggest that rider asymmetry does exist and this method could be used to objectively assess rider asymmetry.

It is important for us riders to try to check if we are sitting equal on both right and left seat bones since putting more weight on one side or the other can most likely jeopardise the health and welfare of our horse.


  1. Symes & R. Ellis. 2009. `A preliminary study into rider asymmetry within equitation´. The Veterinary journal 181 (2009) 34-37.

What are the most frequent seat deviations among riders?

A correct seat and position are the basis for good performance in horseback riding.

What are the most frequent seat deviations among riders? A Swedish study showed that the most common deviations were unbalanced seat, unstable or stiff seat, gripping-up thighs, and clamping thighs or knees.

How was the study performed?

A panel consisted of qualified, experienced judges and trainers scoring the occurrence of seat deviations in 20 riders each riding three different horses of different sizes. The test contained a mixture of paces but no advanced movements.

It was also interesting to note that, in this study, different judges struggled to assess and agree upon deviations in a given rider’s seat.

Thus, results show that the relationship between rider and horse is interactive and complex and that the deviations from the ideal equestrian seat are difficult to define and assess.


Zetterqvist Blokhuis, M., Aronsson, A., Hartmann, E., Van Reenen, C.G., and Keeling, L. Assessing the Rider’s Seat and Horse’s Behaviour: Difficulties and Perspectives. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science., 11: 191-203, 2008.