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Two Point Riding: What it is & How to Learn

Two-point riding is a specific position that a rider sits in for some types of horseback riding. The two-point position is used because it permits a greater range of movement in a horse’s back when it is most needed- such as when jumping.

Two point riding position is named two-point because your body connects with the horse in only two places: right knee and your left knee. This is in contrast to the “normal” riding position in which a rider has 3 points of contact, the first two points are your knees, and the third is where your rear connects with your saddle.

In this article you’ll learn:

Why Should I Ride in Two-Point?

The main reason to use this position is to increase your horse’s comfort and movement. It also helps them balance better when you shift your weight forward. In certain scenarios, riding in two point position may decrease your horse’s risk of injury and thus allow for you and your horse to achieve a higher level of performance.

When to Use the Two-Point Riding Position?

The two-point horseback riding position is used frequently. You have likely seen it in many different riding scenarios. Two point is utilized by jockeys, showjumpers, cross country riders, trail riders, and even recreational riders having fun in the back pasture riding without any arena at all.

Jockeys utilize the two point position in training and on the race track. They use this position because it allows their horses to stretch the back as much as possible when galloping. Mobile spines translate to longer strides, and longer strides can win or lose a horse race when all else is equal.

Showjumpers ride in two point in the lead-up to a jump, while they are going over, and landing after a jump. This position is useful to jumpers because it allows the horse’s back to curl, making the jump easier, smoother, and safer for the horse. If you jump in a fully seated position, the horse will struggle to arch their back over the jump- which may result in a serious injury to the horse. A horse struggling with a rider impeding their spine is more likely to hit (called “clipping”) an oxer or another type of horse jump with a hoof, which results in penalties in horse shows.

Cross county riders should use this position when moving at speed across the course, as well as when they are jumping obstacles. The two-point position is more comfortable for the horse when moving at speed between obstacles and, like with show jumping, will help prevent injury when jumping an obstacle.

A bashkir curly horse on a cross country field with a rider in two point position.
A Bashkir Curly horse on a cross country field with a rider in two point position.

Trail riding is another place horseback riders may need to use the two point position. Moving up a steep incline requires a lot of effort and movement from your horse. By shifting your body into to the two-point position, you can ease the strain on your horse’s back. Knowing how to move into two point can make it easier for a trail horse to navigate up a hill.

Riding Lesson students – Even if you never plan to jump, your riding instructor may have you ride in two point from time to time. Two point riding builds different muscles than typical riding, and time spent out of the saddle in two point position can make you a stronger, more balanced rider. Two point riding can also be a way to ride while healing from saddle sores.

Recreational riding in your back pasture may also call for use of this position. If you enjoy taking your horse for a gallop, practice two point riding (first at slower gaits, then a canter and gallop!) Riding your horse – even for fun- in a two-point position while galloping will help ease the burden on your horse’s back and help them stay healthy longer in life. As an added bonus, it will also strengthen your legs and back muscles which will help your riding in the long run!

 

While pro riders spend years perfecting their two point position with the use of coaches, video-analysis, and even riding in front of mirrors, most riders with basic riding skills can teach themselves a basic, functional two point position. Here’s how:

Young rider jumping a small jump in two point position.

How to Horseback Ride in Two-Point

Shorten your stirrups.

If you leave your stirrups at their usual riding length it will take a lot more effort to stay in the two-point position. Draw them shorter to help you crouch over the horse’s back. Experiment a bit with which length feels the most comfortable.

Shorten your reins.

You are now sitting higher on the horse and this means your reins have become looser. Adjust your grip to ensure the same tension is maintained as when you are in a fully seated position.

Move into position.

Lean your shoulders forward slightly and lift your bum out of the saddle. As you lift out of the saddle, move your hips back a bit.

Fix your balance.

If you are struggling with your balance, grab a fist full of mane to help you steady yourself.

Practice

At first, you may only be able to ride your horse at a slow pace for a few minutes before tiring or losing your balance, but with practice, you should be able to maintain the position without this aid.

What Not to Do in Two-Point

Do not try to learn two point at a gallop!

Master this position at a walk, then a trot, and then a canter before you attempt this at a gallop. It’s a new position and you should practice at a safe pace. It’s like learning to ride all over again- Remember, you didn’t just get on and gallop! You started at a walk and gradually learned how to ride at the different paces.

Don’t balance yourself in two point using the reins.

If you use the reins to balance, you will pull on the bit and could cause injuries to your horse’s mouth. Your horse is also likely to react to constant pressure on the bit. They may stop, pull, jerk or even rear at this constant pressure. This could cause serious injury to both you and your horse.

Don’t hold on with your calves.

If you apply pressure with your lower legs you may confuse your horse and cause them to speed up! If you are giving mixed signals like pulling on the reins while squeezing with your legs, your horse will become confused, frustrated, and may act out. Instead, stick to a walk until you can hold the position without relying on reins or squeezing your legs to balance.

Pro Tip: Ask a riding instructor to lunge your horse while you practice two point. With someone else in charge of your horses’s speed and direction, you can drop the reins and focus on finding your balance in two point.

Don’t tense up!

At first, your body will try and protect you through stiff rigidity, and tht’s normal. You’re in a new position and you may not have great balance yet, it’s understandable if you’re a bit nervous about riding this way.

However, if you tense up your horse will feel it and his assumption will be that there is danger nearby. This could cause your horse to become frightened and make an unexpected movement, leading to a potential fall from your horse.

cf two point position
Rider in two-point landing from a jump.

How Do I Get Better at Two-Point?

Practice, practice, practice! As with every new skill, it is going to take time to master. This position will also be using muscles that are usually less active during your usual riding routine. To help you with this, try these exercises that should help you master two-point:

Practice While Riding Your Horse

Start by practicing at a complete halt. Mount your horse like normal, then once you are comfortably seated, lift yourself out of the seat while leaning your shoulders forwards and moving your hips back. On your first few tries, you will probably find yourself falling onto your horse’s neck or back into the saddle. That’s ok, it’s going to take practice.

When you lose your balance, take note of whether you are going forwards or backward and adjust your position. For example, if you are falling forwards onto your horse’s neck, you need to put your hips further back. If you are falling back into the saddle, try leaning your shoulders further forwards.

Once you have found your position at a halt, hold it for as long as you can. When you are able to hold yourself there for 30-40 seconds, try doing the same thing while your horse is walking. Once you have mastered walking, repeat the process for trotting, then cantering, and eventually a gallop.

Exercises You Can Do At Home

Use Your Saddle

If you have a saddle, secure it on a stable object. Adjust the stirrups to the length you want to practice with. Mount your saddle and raise yourself to the two-point position. Hold this position for as long as you can without losing balance before sitting back into your saddle. Repeat this as many times as you can.

If you repeat this daily, even for just a few minutes, your strength will grow- it’s one of the best exercises to do to stay in shape for riding when you can’t ride as often as you’d like. Research is clear that even extremely brief exercise sessions (like, 3 seconds!) can build muscle when part of our routine. Over time you will notice you can hold yourself there for long periods of time.

Ride a Push Bike

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Not only will riding a bike help your fitness and balance, but it can also help you with the two-point position. To grow your two point position skills, while riding your bike, stand up slightly on the pedals, lean forward with your hips pulled back, then hold the position as long as possible.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we’ve reviewed what two point riding is and what type of riders use it, and discussed tips for how to teach yourself to ride in this position, or how to do it with a riding instructor. Equally important, we covered what NOT to do in two point, and finished with some tricks you can use on your horse and at home to develop your seat and balance for a better two point position.

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