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A long time ago I asked a question about dragon saddlery(Dragon Riding Question) and later on how to pilot flying animals(How to pilot flying animals?), but recently I saw a lot of art on the internet with characters riding flying animals and they do it by sitting on animals and I remembered that in Game of Thrones Daenerys rides Drogon in a different way, she lies on it instead of sitting. Noticing this, I had a question: What would be the best way to mount flying animals, sitting or lying down? Which of these two ways would be more efficient and why?

Take into account situations where the animal is with a saddle as well as situations where it is without. Like, if his rider doesn't have what it takes to buy or make a saddle or has unsaddled the animal, but lost it, doesn't have time to get it, was destroyed, is stored in a distant place, etc... Depending on the fantasy work, the creatures can have multiple wings or legs, but for this post we're going to set a limit on members: The creatures flying creatures only have a maximum of 6 limbs (like pegasi and griffins), there are no creatures with 8 or more and there are some with 4 limbs (like giant birds and pterosaurs).

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    $\begingroup$ I would've suggested a hanging saddle, think in similar terms to a hang glider but slightly tighter against the underside of the vehicle(dragon), but you seem pretty set on either sitting or lying on top of the dragon itself. And the fact that it must work without a saddle also hampers the hang glider position idea, but then again the dragon could carry the rider in its graspers until the appropriate harness is made. $\endgroup$
    – Lemming
    Jan 28 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ If you want the rider to fight, and magic/wands aren't on the table, you're looking at a bow. Which will be almost impossible to use laying down. $\endgroup$ Jan 28 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Clockwork-Muse Crossbow? $\endgroup$ Jan 28 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ A little like @Lemming suggested, the most interesting treatment of this I've seen in fiction is in Kate Elliot's Crossroads books, where the Reeves are carried by giant eagles in a harness strapped to their chest. Closer to how the eagles would carry someone and the rider has an unimpeded view/can use a bow etc. $\endgroup$
    – glenatron
    Jan 28 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ From experience as a pilot, a much more significant concern would be how far forward or back the rider positions themselves, in relation to the animal's normal center of gravity. While sitting would shift the center of gravity up more-so than laying down, this is not likely to have significant effect on flight. Shifting the center of gravity too far either forward or back, on the other hand, can have catastrophic consequences for flight capabilities. $\endgroup$
    – Harthag
    Jan 28 at 20:20

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The rider's position is going to depend on the specific animal's anatomy as much as anything else. A few examples:

  • If the animal has a head that rises up above the torso (horse-like, as opposed to a lizard-like head in line with the torso), a rider lying down likely won't be able to see much other than the back of the mount's head. A sitting position would be more likely.
  • When the animal is highly intelligent and can handle navigation on its own, the rider can afford to lie flat. A less-intelligent animal that merely responds to rider commands (like a horse) would require the rider to have as much mobility, visibility, and freedom as possible and thus would more likely use a seated saddle.
  • An animal with slick scales or skin will likely use a seated saddle, as there's nothing to hold onto if you lie down.
  • Some flying creatures (e.g., Eastern-style dragons) bend and undulate through the air as they travel. A prone rider would bend and twist along with the mount. Since the rider's body is likely not designed to move that way, lying would be unlikely.
  • If the animal tends to roll a lot during flight, a prone position is less disorienting for a humanoid rider. Their head would be closer to the animal's centerline, so it wouldn't experience as much angular acceleration.
  • If the animal performs very steep ascents or dives, it would almost be required for the rider to have a chair-like seat that they could securely strap themselves into.
  • Lying might be necessary on certain animals. The wings of a griffin, for example, connect to the torso across an area that covers over half the animal's length. It would be almost impossible to sit on one like a horse because the rider's legs would hang down onto the wings and interfere with their operation.
  • Similarly, sitting might be necessary on certain animals. One big reason that we don't lie down on horses is because we're too long. The bottom half of our body would hang off the back of the horse. I would assume you'd have similar problems with a pegasus.
  • If the animal has a spine that's close to the surface of their back (like a human has), lying would be rather uncomfortable for both mount and rider. Sitting in a saddle minimizes the contact area plus gives you the opportunity to add cushioning for both parties. It doesn't matter how practical or effective something is; if it's not comfortable for both rider and mount, it's not going to be done.

The particular situation at hand will also contribute to the decision. A few examples:

  • In your example of an improvised mount with no saddle available, the rider would almost certainly lie down. Sitting bareback on a flying mount would be very difficult and tiring for the rider if the mount was traveling at any appreciable speed. A saddle would have a chair-like back to support the rider against the push of air resistance. Without a saddle, the rider would have nothing to support them and it would be too easy to fall off. They would be much more likely to lie down where they could grip the animal tightly with both hands and legs, and minimize the forces that might try to knock them off.
  • If the rider needs to be able to attack a foe while mounted, then a seated or standing position would be almost necessary. A prone rider would not have the freedom of movement necessary to operate most weapons.
  • If the rider is under attack while mounted, they would be more likely to lie flat. This would reduce their profile and make them much harder to see and hit. The same logic would apply if the rider was trying to be stealthy.

In general, I think your riders will most likely be seated in a saddle. Saddles are really just inter-species adaptors that have one side customized to the mount's biology and the other side customized to the rider's biology. They're designed to provide the optimal fit for both parties. I don't see you getting that same level of compatibility when lying flat on the animal's back.

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    $\begingroup$ Wow... That's all I can say, just wow... $\endgroup$ Jan 29 at 2:08
  • $\begingroup$ That is one excellent and well-researched answer! $\endgroup$ Jun 26 at 13:42
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Airflow-wise, a laying position is much less disruptive than a sitting one and will create less drag, allowing the rider to exercise less force to stay mounted and the mount to get less tired from the flight.

Also, being less exposed to the air-stream would make easier for the rider to not get chilled and save on padding (weight is always a concern when flying).

Additionally, it reduces the risk that the rider bumps their head when the mount passes too close to an obstacle with its back.

Shortcoming of laying is that the field of view will be somewhat more limited than when sitting: watching behind will be more difficult and also the front view will be hampered by the mount's neck/back. Unless some periscope is used.

There is also an additional effect: a sitting rider would shift the center of mass more up than a laying one. I am no expert in flight dynamic to assess how that impacts the flight performance.

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  • $\begingroup$ Shifting the center of gravity up will decrease stability, but might increase maneuverability slightly. Imagine a tightrope going through a hole drilled in a log. Now imagine you've got the log in a bear hug. Compare the stability by comparing your position if you're on top of the log, vs if you're hanging underneath it. For maneuverability, compare how fast you could get the log to roll over if you're on top of it, vs if you're hanging underneath it. This is obviously a much more extreme example, but it illustrates the effective differences of shifting the center of gravity. $\endgroup$
    – Harthag
    Jan 28 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ Not only will a sitting position create much more drag than a lying-down one, but this drag will be exerted on a point considerably above the ridee's center of mass, producing a potentially-large pitch-up moment that could result in loss of control. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Jan 30 at 11:43
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The sitting position probably derives from the fact we don't have any antecedent of riding flying animals. Thus artists envisioned the riders like those they are aware of, namely riders of horses, camels, yaks, elk, or even bipedal animals like ostriches.

A lying position will have less of an impact on air resistance, but a sitting position will allow for more control over the animal. Riders may want to vary their position according to their needs, but ultimately the best position depends on the synergy between the rider and their mount: what kind of animal are we dealing with, how much the mount trusts their rider, how much control the rider wants or needs to exert, how important speed is, what the angle of attack is, what the position of the rider is (on the neck, on the shoulders, on the back), how much of their field of view they want to compromise, &c.

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    $\begingroup$ I think the nearest analog to riding a flying animal would be riding an aquatic animal like a dolphin or somesuch. Drag in water is likely to be an even greater problem than in air. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Jan 28 at 15:50
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I am going to suggest laying down just so the rider can hold on.

Even professional bull riders can barely handle any torque. So imagine a flying creature diving straight down and reaching terminal velocity, then pulling up hard. The rider would be effortlessly tossed off. By using a harness laying down while holding your feet and arms you could hang on much better. You might even safety strap yourself to your mount so you can't fall off.

To put it another way. enter image description here Let's not do this on the back of a griffon.

A griffon doesn't have a nice little spot to snug yourself into to hide inside its body like a plane has. So you're riding on its back. Sitting up right means you have no support for your back, minimal support for side to side. By laying down on the back of the creature, you can use a foot harness to support your forward movement, which also includes dives and climbs. And using your arms, you can support yourself from any side to side movement.

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  • $\begingroup$ Gryphon (in flight), just like an airplane, probably can't expose you to anywhere close to the lateral forces a bull can. See how the wing walker is standing on the wing even though the plane is inverted (she has a safety tether, but she is just leaning against the back rest)? That's because the wings are producing positive lift in a loop and the “gravity” on the wing walker is just the opposite of the sum of aerodynamic forces on the plane – or the gryphon. And since most of the force comes from the wings, the rider always feels “down” into the body of the mount and won't fall off easily. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jan 29 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ If the gryphon dived and then pulled up, the rider would just be pushed more strongly against their body, not tossed off. The only way the gryphon can toss the rider is to push down into negative G – if it has enough pitch authority for it, which I would expect not to be the case, because a gryphon does not have any significant elevator and relies on weight-shift control (moving the wings forward or aft a bit), but weight-shift control stops doing anything at 0 G. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jan 29 at 14:01
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Is there any reason you couldn't do both?

At a lower and/or steadier speeds I would imagine that you'd want to sit up for easier precision control.

In a dive or other fast acceleration, I'd think you would want to lean in.

This would just be an "exaggerated" version of what horseback riders already do.

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I mostly agree with the other two answers (at the time of writing this), that wind resistance would make lying down better for control, and (not) shifting the centre of balance, and the cooling factor requiring more padding and thus more weight. At the cost of field of vision, true, but better than a tired mount that can't continue midair.

But one factor I usually don't see, is the effects on the mount in the long term. Horses tend to be ridden with rider sitting upright, and over time this weighs on their backs, creating slump. How would this affect your winged mounts? If the rider sits upright, how would their hollow bones and already (relatively) fragile build be affected by a regular weight atop their spine and rib cage?

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The animal will carry the rider.

eagle money

https://www.pinterest.es/pin/739786676282127312/

This is much more physiologic for the "mount"; these fliers will not be used to having wings and backs encumbered by riders lying, sitting, squatting, surfing or otherwise being a nuisance up there. But the flying animals will be very well suited for picking things up and carrying them away. The "rider" will then have all 4 limbs free for doing whatever he or she wants to do with them, and will be able to see in all directions.

Some may object that riders will not want to be carried by the buttocks. I humbly suggest the riders try it a few times to see how it goes. Try it with open minds.

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