Trainer Tuesday: How Do You Correct a Rider Who is Riding Ahead of the Motion?

Welcome to Trainer Tuesday! Each week we ask trainers a question and gather their answers for you. These trainers have a range of experience, backgrounds, and focus points of their programs, so the answers have as much variation as you would expect and also probably much more similarity. 

This week’s question posed is: How do you correct a rider who is riding ahead of the motion?

Here are their answers:

“Open your hip angles. Keep your weight down through your legs. Remember to keep your hips and heels in line. Practice riding in a two-point position at all gaits without using your hands on the horse’s neck for balance.” – Geoff Teall
An excerpt from the book Geoff Teall on Riding Hunters, Jumpers and Equitation.

“One of the main causes of riding ahead of the motion is not sitting deeply enough in the saddle and leaning forward, particularly when approaching a jump. This can be caused by stirrups being too long, which results in pinching with the knees, loss of lower leg contact, and improper balance (ahead of the rider’s vertical center of weight distribution). Sit deep, relax the shoulders, and especially one’s back. Stiff backs result in ‘perching.’ Practice (a lot) at the canter without stirrups!” – Scott Keller

“A rider that is ahead of the motion typically has a weak lower leg position. All riders can work on their base of support, however when a rider tends to ‘jump ahead’ that lower leg position should become a focus. A strong base of support will allow the rider to stay over the horse’s center of balance instead of in front of the motion. 

Simple gridwork exercises can help a rider solidify their position. Specifically working on their lower leg through repetition and no stirrup work if applicable. 

As a visual, I always remind riders that they need to think about their leg and position to be in a place that if the horse were to be erased from under them, they should be able to land on the ground in balance.” – Kari Briggs, Otterbein University
Read Kari’s answers in a previous Trainer Tuesday here.

“Put them on a stopper.” – Geoff Case 
Listen to Geoff in a previous episode of The Plaidcast here.

“I have them ride bare back or without stirrups. They will find their balance in the middle of the horse naturally.” – Georgy Maskrey-Segesman
Read more from Georgy here.

“One of my favorite analogies — that I picked up and tweaked from my previous mentor — is to sit deep in the saddle and imagine there is a string tied to your belt that pulls you forward with the horses nose. If someone were to actually pull you by your belt, your shoulders typically go back to counter balance your position, keeping your upper body from getting ahead. Imagining that string being connected to the horses nose gives a more clear mental image of following the horses movement so you don’t get ahead of what they give you. You also want to make sure you have a strong, supportive lower leg to keep your center of gravity over the center of saddle.” – Payton Medford

“A rider who is ahead of the motion (in regards to riding on the flat – not jumping) is, in my opinion, a somewhat uncommon issue and one that is somewhat easily resolved because being ahead of the motion is not really a place of comfort or intuitiveness. Therefore a rider doesn’t necessarily want to be there.

It’s more a question of just educating and having them find a better position. Oftentimes this could be as simple as a reminder to sit back, open the hip angle, slow the posting (at the trot), engaging the core (as oftentimes a rider who is ahead of the motion also has a collapsed core). 

I’d also point you towards last week’s Trainer Tuesday that talked about getting ahead/leaning in terms of jumping if you have an issue with getting ahead of the motion when jumping. Some suggestions that help with that could also help with being ahead of the motion on the flat—ensuring the shoulders aren’t rounded, maximizing the space between each of your ribs, and working W/T/C on down hills (at your comfort level). Even something as simple as walking down a hill will get a rider thinking about their own balance and body position. A rider is not physically going to want to be ahead of the motion when riding down a hill. It is not a pleasant feeling.

Working on the hills, up and down, will help a rider develop their sense of how to position their body in correct balance with the horse. You can get away with poor position on flat ground, but gravity will make you figure out the right way very quickly if you aren’t in the right position on an incline/decline!

If the cause of the “being ahead of the motion” has to do with rider anxiety (and sometimes rider anxiety due to horse quickness), long slow work with someone who can help point out your body position (and/or mirrors) could help. You need to build confidence and comfortability in the saddle, so slowing it down and doing a lot of walking and some slow/small trotting sounds boring, but could help. As with many things with horses and riding, if you have a problem that will take time to truly solve the foundation of it, take the time. Don’t gloss over it and put a bandaid fix on it because it will come back to bite you later. 

Some of the most influential lessons that I’ve personally taken have been walk/trot lessons, working on positioning, biomechanics, and balance/etc. Even as an upper level rider.” – Michael Willham, Equine Academy
Read Michael’s answers in a previous Trainer Tuesday here.

Read last week’s Trainer Tuesday article here.