Let’s Discuss: Rider Conformation Faults

I spent some of the weekend visiting with best friend N, and yesterday got to hop on her one-eyed wonder mare, Rea, and her mom’s mare, Ace.

While Rea rode a lot like Foster, Ace immediately called me out on my biggest conformational fault- my hollow lower back. A yoga instructor once told me (how’s that for a professional diagnosis) that I had lordosis of the spine – in horses we call it a dippy back, or sway back. In humans it looks like this:


All I know is that it’s something a couple instructors have caught on to, but tends to fade into the distance after a while. N’s mom worked with me to get me to “fill” my lower back to release the tension there, allowing my pelvis to swing and get Ace to relax and swing her back in return.

Some of the visualizations included putting a hand on my hollow back and trying to fill it up, or push against it with my muscles (which engaged core muscles I realized I haven’t used in some time!), imagining I was widening my lower back, or stretching my shirt in that area. All these were super helpful, and while it will definitely take some time to make a relaxed, non-hollow back muscle memory, gave me a lot to think about in the meantime.

What about you? What is a personal “conformation fault” that you deal with? How do you overcome it, or how does it affect your riding?

7 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Rider Conformation Faults

  1. I have scoliosis – S curve that is more severe in my lower back. Riding photos from the back make it very evident – I lean noticeably to the left. I have to consistently remind myself to sit right (which feels all wrong to me, but I am told looks correct). On my big mare, Riva, I know it affects her way of going – I haven’t noticed a difference yet on Fergie, the newbie.

  2. I have a looooooooong waist (5 inches from rib to hip). It makes me seem taller than I really am, and changes my balance point in the saddle. It also means that I have to ride with a much more engaged set of abs, or my middle gets wiggly and my seat pops out of the saddle. Sometimes I wish I had a super short upper body, so I could just plug my shoulders directly into the saddle!

  3. My shoulder… though recently I did something to it and now I’m wondering if I inadvertantly fixed it. I’ve also found that a lot of riders with extreme hollow back also have extreme forward head position and I think some of it stems from being yelled at to look up/chin up and forcing the head/neck into an unnatural position that the shoulders and back follow suit.

  4. I also have an extreme hollow back, curved spine, weird extra vertebrae… I’ve worked hard on it over the years and now default mostly to ‘flat’ vs ‘hollow’ but it took a long time to get there!

  5. I think my favorite visualization for engaging my core and filling up my lower back is to “squeeze my belly button” lol. Probably just bc it sounds funny…. Seriously tho my conformational faults are numerous and irritating as all get out. We just keep chipping away tho…

  6. Do giraffe legs count? My trainer has told me that any movements I make are 100x more obvious because I have gorilla limbs (my words, she was a bit more tactful) so my goal is to get super solid!

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