Top 5 riding postural faults and how to overcome them

5. Over-extending through the back & tipping pelvis forwards

If this rider was a horse, we'd say she had a sway back. You can see that she has an increased curve in the lumbar region of her spine (low back) and that her pelvis is tipping forwards. 
Why is it bad? 
Having all of your weight forward in the saddle makes your seat less stable. To compensate riders tend to grip with the thighs and hang onto the reins for balance.
What causes it?
Most often riders with this posture will be tight in their hip flexors and lower back. They typically will have poor core stability and pelvic control, with a weakness in their gluteus medius muscles.
How to address it?
Lots of work on releasing the tightness in the hips and lower back. A core stability program, with a focus on gluteus medius activation will help. This will involve lots of stability exercises, particularly those requiring single leg balance whilst maintaining a level pelvis. 

4. Lifting the heels & leaning forwards

These 2 faults often go hand in hand, largely as it's hard to sit up straight when your heels are lifted. You can see in this picture that the rider's heels are higher than her toes and her foot is jammed right into the stirrup. She is very flattened through her back (ie she has lost all of her normal spinal curvature), with her head flexed forwards as she looks down to the horse's outside shoulder.
Why is it bad?
First and foremost, her foot position in the stirrup is dangerous should she fall off. It is also very difficult to give effective aids with your leg in this position. Looking down, with the head in a forwards position, leads to tightness and strain in the muscles of the neck.
What causes it?
Most often tight hamstrings and calf muscles cause this lower leg position. Her upper body position suggests that she would have tight pectorals (chest) and neck muscles, with a weakness in her upper back, deep neck and core stabilising muscles.
How to address it?
Stretching for the hamstrings, calves and chest. A prescribed core stability program, with a focus on shoulder stability, would also be beneficial.

3. An unbalanced seat

Coaches will often describe such a rider as one without an independent seat. In this picture we can see that this rider is using the reins to try and balance herself. Her hands are held at different heights, her shoulders are elevated and her lower leg has come forward. 
Why is it bad?
Her chances of falling are high! Not only that, her horse is going to have to work exceptionally hard to get around this course. It's very difficult to get your horse going forwards and round when you are hanging onto the reins like this. This is often the type of rider who flops about in the saddle.
What causes it?
This is typical of beginner riders, who lack the strength, skill and co-ordination that comes from training. In saying that though this rider is clearly not a complete beginner given the course she is jumping! In her case I would say that at a minimum she is lacking general core stability and strength.
How to address it?
I would be going back to basics and getting this rider to practice on the lunge with no reins and/or stirrups. A thorough assessment to determine specific issues would enable a core stability and strength program to be tailored specifically for her.

2. Rounded shoulders & chin poke

We've all seen this person, and not always in the saddle. This is also a typical posture of office workers spending hours at their computer. We can see that this rider is very rounded through her shoulders and has her chin poking forwards. Not only this, she has her lower leg forward, her heels up and her foot too far through the stirrup. 
Why is it bad?
This posture, whether you're sitting on a horse or in an office chair, typically gives rise to headaches and neck pain. It also isn't a very effective posture for riding. You can see in this picture that her horse isn't very balanced and that he is hollowing through his back.
What causes it?
Weak scapula stabilisers (the muscles that control your shoulder blade position) and deep neck muscles, along with tightness in the neck and chest. Her lower leg position suggests tightness in the hamstrings and calves, with her overall position suggesting, once again, that core stability is an issue.
How to address it?
Firstly working on posture, which will involve stretching through the chest and neck and strengthening the deep neck and scapula stabilising muscles. For this rider I would also prescribe lower limb stretches, particularly for the hamstring and calf. Not surprisingly, a core stability program would also be of benefit to this rider.

1. Crooked in the saddle

This is probably one of the most common postural faults and it's rarely seen in isolation. Often one or more of the faults listed above is the reason behind a crooked seat. This young rider has lots of things going wrong with her seat. We can see that her whole trunk has shifted over to the right, with her right shoulder elevated and right hip dropped. Her right stirrup is sitting significantly lower than her left. Her saddle is way off centre and is sitting over to the right.
Why is it bad?
For obvious reasons, a rider who sits like this is going to be less balanced and less effectual in giving aids to the horse. But more concerning is what a seat like this may be doing to the horse. In this picture we can see that the horse is unstable in his pelvis, significantly dropping through the left side. I'm willing to bet the horse has developed these issues from the rider (and not the other way around). You may find a degree of soreness in this horse's back given that most of the riders weight, not to mention the saddle, are over to one side.
What causes it?
Most often this type of crooked seat is related to the rider being asymmetrical in relation to strength, stability and flexibility. I would expect to find asymmetry in this rider in relation to her back and neck range of motion, pelvic stability and lower limb strength and flexibility. 
How to address it?
A rider such as this would require a thorough assessment to determine where her issues lie, with a specific rehabilitation program tailored to address these. When significant asymmetries are present a standard exercise program that works all areas and both sides equally is usually not 100% effective. A professional who is trained in biomechanics and skilled at identifying postural faults will yield the best results. 

You will note that a common thread through this post is the suggestion that all of these riders could benefit from core stability training. To learn more about core stability for riding, click here.