How To Use Your Seat
When discussing the aids, many people think solely of the rider’s hands and legs. However, the influence of the rider’s seat plays an important role too.
This article looks at how you can develop a good seat, and how you can use it in conjunction with the other aids.
Before you can use your seat, you must be able to sit in balance without becoming tense or stiff. Your weight should be distributed evenly over your two seat bones and a light contact should be maintained between the saddle and your pubic bone.
Keep yourself upright and allow the top of your pelvis to tip forward slightly. This position allows your lumbar spine to curve slightly, allowing you to absorb the concussion generated by the horse’s hooves as he moves.
Don’t hollow your back as this will lift your seat bones from the saddle and cause you to bump and lose your balance.
Relaxation is crucial to the development of a good seat. If you’re tense, you’ll become wobbly and unbalanced, and your horse will feel this through the saddle.
You’ll need to develop good control over your muscles so that you can keep yourself upright without stiffening and becoming tense.
So, it’s not just your horse that needs regular work to keep him fit! Pilates and Yoga are really good for developing core strength, and stretching exercises will help to ease muscle tension too. There are actually gym classes specifically aimed at dressage riders, so if you don’t already work-out, now’s the time to start!
Following the horse’s movement and using the seat as an ‘aid’
The ability to ‘follow the horse’s movement’ is fundamental in establishing a good ‘passive’ seat.
A passive seat is one that follows the movement of the horse perfectly, allowing him to continue making progress in the same manner, without variation in his gait or stride length.
As the horse walks, trots or canters, your pelvis should quietly follow his movement underneath you. You shouldn’t bounce or bump in the saddle, and you should allow your hips to gently absorb the movement without tension or effort.
When you want the horse to lengthen his stride, you should use a ‘driving seat’. This is achieved by moving your hips and seat as you would when pushing a swing, or polishing the saddle from back to front. Use the driving seat in combination with a subtle leg aid and be careful that you don’t push the horse out of his rhythm.
In order to bring the horse back to the working or collected pace, you should use a ‘stilled’ seat. You created a ‘stilled’ seat by sitting tall, dropping your heels, and tightening your core muscles as if you were performing a sit-up exercise. The ‘stilled’ seat effectively stops the movement of the hips and seat and can be used to half-halt, or to execute a downward transition if held for long enough.
It’s only through the development of a good seat that the rider can use a combination of the most subtle aids to guide the horse through the movements of the dressage test, seemingly by telepathy.
During your schooling sessions, practice asking your horse to lengthen, shorten and make transitions by using your seat alone; you’ll be amazed just how effective you can be with such a subtle aid!
Balance, relaxation and the ability to follow the horse’s movement in all the paces are the essentials of a good independent seat.
The development of a good seat takes time and practice, and your core muscles will certainly tell you if you’ve been working hard enough! However, all that effort will be well-worth it when you can ask your horse to lengthen and shorten his stride, and execute smooth transitions, apparently without having to move a muscle in the saddle.
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