"Heels Down!" *
"Leg, Leg, Leg!"
"Chin Up, now drive!"
"You look like a sack of potatoes!"
If you ride frequently (or at all) with a trainer, there's a fantastic chance that you've heard these exact words before. Different positions are used for different riding styles and different methods of training. However, every rider can count on a good neutral position to aid you in your riding.
So the question is, how do you achieve a good neutral position? The answer isn't quite as easy as it sounds. Remember that looks aren't everything. Even if you look like you are in the correct position, the use of aides and correct muscles may not be present. This is when it's always helpful to have a trainer (or friend!) on the ground who can spot any errors. Now, in short, here's a list of what your body should be doing:
Head: Held with chin up, so your eyes are looking through the horse's ears
Shoulders: Carried naturally, but brought back slightly to support your chest
Elbows: Relaxed and touching your sides
Hands: Forms a straight line from the bit ring, through your forearm, and to your elbows.
Seat: The lowest point in your saddle. Weight should be equal in each hip bone and inside thigh muscle. Seat must be balanced in order to apply the aids correctly.
Thighs: turned slightly inwards in order that your knees can rest against the saddle and be as near the vertical as possible.
Calves: inside of your calf should rest gently against your horse's body, just behind the girth strap. Be careful not to turn your toes out so that you use the back of the calf! Your feet should rest comfortably at about a 45 degree angle in order to use the inside of your calf.
Remember that this is just a brief sum of the neutral position in order to help you grasp the concept, working with your trainer or another knowledgeable horsemen (or horsewoman) can surely assist you. Happy Riding!
P.S. Julie Andrews can sum it up in five words.
Notes were taken from Essential Riding: A Realistic Approach to Learning to Ride On Lesson Horses by Steven D. Price and Horses and Equine fitness : a conditioning program of exercises & routines for your horse by Jec Aristotle Ballou
Price, Steven D. Essential riding: a realistic approach to horsemanship. New York: Lyons Press, 2000. Print.
Ballou, Jec Aristotle. Equine fitness. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2010. Print.
* When trainers tell you to put your heels down, they don't intend for you to shove your heels down. Confusing, I know. But what they do want you to do is drop your weight into your heels so that your toe points upwards and your stirrup rests on the ball of your foot.