Riding Position: a fine balance

Riding Level 4: Position & Balance

At Riding Level 1 we are only looking for basic control of the horse and don't mark you on your position.  At Level 2 we want to see an adequate basic seat position at walk and trot, but don't mark  your canter position, and at Level 3 we are judging your effectiveness but not the fine details of your position at walk, trot, and canter.  For Level 4 we get pickier.  The checklist reads:

3. Position & Balance. Good position at walk, trot, canter.  Trot, no stirrups.



To review basic seat position, go back to this Level 2 blog post and be sure to take a look at the video which contains exercises for correcting position errors.  (Note that the video shows a classical or dressage seat, with a slightly longer stirrup than basic seat, but the principles are all the same).  In the exam we will be watching to see that

  • Your ear, shoulder, hip, and heel are all aligned at all three gaits.
  • The ball of your foot is angled across the stirrup iron correctly and your heels are lower than your toes with a relaxed flexion.
  • Your elbow, wrist, and the rein to the horse's bit form a straight line with an elastic, following hand.
  • Your shoulders and hips are level with each other and the with the horse's back.
  • You are sitting in the deepest part of the saddle and your spine is aligned with your horse's.
  • There are no gaps between yourself and the saddle at any gait (except when posting the trot).
  • When sitting the trot with no stirrups your legs maintain a correct position as if they were still in stirrups.


Molly flag
Proper balance allows you do do all manner of activity with your upper body, such as games, jumping, and combat

If your position is correct as above you will find that balance comes naturally.  With good balance your hands are able to move independently of your body, and you never find yourself ahead or behind the horse's motion. Clues we will be looking for to tell if you are in balance are

  • Your hand follows the motion of the horse's head at walk and canter with no looping of the reins.
  • At the rising trot your hands remain still in relation to the horse while your body rises and falls with the rhythm of the trot.
  • You are not 'left behind' — ie, your torso does not sway backward — when making the transition to a faster gait.
  • You do not fall forward when making the transition to a slower gait.
  • Your legs and seat are quiet in the saddle.
  • You seem both poised and relaxed at all gaits.

Trotting without Stirrups

sitting trot stirruplessIt's good practice to go without stirrups for at least short time during each ride.  Ditching the irons improves your seat dramatically since it prevents you from bracing against the stirrups.  To correctly drop stirrups during a test:

  1. Slide the buckle of the right stirrup down an inch or so to clear the bar.
  2. Cross the stirrup over your horse's withers, flattening the leather under the skirt for your comfort and gently resting the iron on your horse's shoulder.
  3. Repeat with the left stirrup.  We always cross the right stirrup first, since we may dismount and want to remount in a hurry, which is easier to do if we can uncross the left one only.

While you are riding the sitting trot remember to relax through the waist and follow the horse's motion.  Keep your legs long and your heels down.  It's easy to let the legs creep up, but that will make you bounce more in the saddle, especially if you grip too much with the knees instead of relying on your balance and long inner thigh.

Position and balance are something that you never stop working on ... but, fortunately, they never stop improving!

Current & Upcoming Courses

Classes started up again on Sunday, and most of them are full.  However, there is one space available in Beginner Riding & Horsemanship, as well as some spaces in Mounted Combat Fundamentals.  It's not too late to start, and signing up for the course will still save you money over drop-in rates or private classes.

NEW! Youth Riding & Horsemanship

This course for kids aged 6-13 will introduce your child to ponies and horses in safe, fun, and friendly series of six classes taught by Pony Club qualified instructors. Each class contains a riding lesson as well as a horsemanship lesson where students will learn to handle, groom, and care for ponies and horses. Curriculum follows the Canadian Pony Club D level lessons and will prepare students for testing Academie Duello Mounted Combat Riding 1 or Pony Club D Level.


Thursdays 4:30 - 6:30pm
2 February - 9 March
cost: $300 + gst for 6 classes
Instructor: Kate Landels
register here

Beginner Riding & Horsemanship

If you’ve never been on a horse, or if it’s been a long time, here’s the place to start.  When you arrive at the barn at 11am you’ll begin with a horsemanship lesson, familiarizing yourself with the horses and their tack, as well as how to groom, handle and tack them up.  Then you will have a riding lesson, working through the requirements of Riding Level 1 — the prerequisite to most of the fun stuff we do on horseback!

Sundays 11am – 1pm
22 January – 5 March *note: no class 19 February
12 March - 16 April
cost: $300 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Stephanie Laversin

Register here, or bundle with Mounted Combat Fundamentals and save $26.

Riding & Horsemanship Level 2

A quiet, upright seat will help your horse balance through turns

This course is intended for riders who have taken classes through the program and are comfortable tacking up their own horses.  Riders should arrive at 9:30am to tack up and warm up their horses before starting their riding lessons at 10am, followed by Horsemanship Level 2 or 3 lessons at 11am

Sundays 11am – 1pm
22 January – 5 March *note: no class 19 February
12 March - 16 April
cost: $300 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Stephanie Laversin

Register here, or bundle with Mounted Combat Fundamentals and save $26.

Riding Level 3+

jumping positionThis class is intended for independent riders who have achieved Level 2 or higher.  Riders are expected to be tacked up and warmed up prior to class.  Your own helmets, boots, and half chaps are recommended, as are safety vests for the occasional cross-country class, weather permitting.

Sundays 10am – 11am
22 January – 5 March *note: no class 19 February
12 March - 16 April
cost: $200 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Stephanie Laversin

Mounted Combat Fundamentals

Sword Drills

This 6-week series of classes is intended to give you the basics of swordplay from the ground to prepare you for fighting from horseback.  Participants at this level will practise from the ground and the falsemount to achieve the combat skills needed to attain the rank of Green Spur and participate in Mounted Sparring clinics and tournaments.  Students who have their Riding and Horsemanship Level 1 and who attend all five classes can reasonably expect to attain their Green Spur by the end of the series.  Once you have your Green Spur, you can sign up for Intermediate Mounted Combat, and can spar in our regular Playday event, as well as competing in our annual Carosella tournament.

Sundays 1pm – 3pm
22 January – 5 March 2017 *note: no class 19 February
12 March - 16 April
cost: $135 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Stephanie Laversin

Register here, or bundle with Riding & Horsemanship and save $26.

Mounted Combat Membership

DevonJennMCtackleOur six-month and one-year membership packages are a great way to get more out of the program.  With a membership, you get two free practice rides a month, a 10% discount on all Riding, Horsemanship and Mounted Combat courses, a $5 discount on private lessons at Red Colt Co-op, and free weekly Mounted Combat Practice sessions on Monday nights.

6-month membership, January – June 2017: $200 + gst
1-year membership, January 2017 – December 2017: $300 + gst

2017 memberships can be used immediately, so if you purchase yours now, you can still take advantage of practice rides and purchase discounts in December. To acquire a membership call the front desk at 604 568 9907 or email info@academieduello.com.


Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.