Friday, October 4, 2013

Dissecting the Seat – Part 1: Pulling my seat apart

I will be starting a series on dissecting a rider’s seat as I am trying to reconstruct my own seat using the practice of classical dressage. This post is kind of the beginning of where I start with a muddle as I pull my riding apart! 

I have been busy trying out a few new things with Copper – I don’t really have anything solid yet, but I’ll report anyway.  (^ u ^)

I’ve really been concentrating on figuring out my seat and what affects it has on Copper’s way of moving.  Have you ever sat on an exercise ball and tried to feel what direction the points of your pelvic bones are pointing in?

rider seat positions- Left position: rider is hollowing back and disengaging the seat.  This will make her position precarious, and she will just bounce along on top of the horse’s back, rather than influencing it.  It also means she will fall off easier!  I know, because this used to be my seat…  : / 

Middle position: rider is in a good neutral position to have an independent seat, meaning that she can at will influence the horse’s back, hind end and thus, the gaits.  She can encourage a faster pace by swinging her hips more vigorously in time to the horse’s movement, or draw up and ‘brace’ her lower back – blocking the horse’s movement over his back and causing him to slow down.  If posting to the trot, the same effect can be achieved by posting slower than what the horse is trotting.

Right position: rider has tipped her pelvis forwards, and while you do not want to hold this position all the time – i.e. as your neutral, not asking for a forwards movement, position – this is a good example of a driving seat aid.  Once the desired forwards movement has been achieved, the seat should be allowed to swing back in the balanced, even position, or the rider will be sitting too far back to follow the horses movement and will be left behind, as well as put into a chair seat where the lower leg will come forwards off the girth and be rendered less effective. -

Sitting up straight and evenly, your pelvic bones should be horizontal to the ground,  with the points of your seat straight down, vertical to the ground. Tip them forwards, like you are pushing the exercise ball out from under you, and your core should curl forwards and engage, your lower back should round out slightly as your tail tucks under.

As far as I understand from all my reading(!) that’s the seat aid for engaging your horse’s motor – his hind end.  With this aid you ask for forwards; walk, trot, and when you use one side of your seat, or rather, lift one seat bone up and forwards, you can ask for canter with scarcely any effort at all.

Breath in and up; pull your spine up from the top of your head, drop your shoulders and “hold” your breath.  Drop your heels and your weight into the saddle and close your fingers on the reins. 

That’s the aid for halt; if you ‘block’ your horse’s movement with your seat only momentarily, that’s a half halt.

Basic stuff, yet as I am working on applying it to my riding, Copper is rounding up, lifting his back and coming through with uphill movement in a way I have never would expect a Standardbred to be able to manage!

It’s true what they say that correct dressage should improve a horse’s action and way of carrying himself under saddle. 

He’s far from perfect, he does not bend his hocks enough yet, so the suppleness of his hind end is somewhat marred by a lack of suspension.  He is being to understand lateral movements, but unfortunately, he is now a little confused about lateral work and how it relates to circling.  As far as I can tell (and I’m not quite sure, because I’m a little confused about what is happening underneath me!) he is moving away from my inside leg requesting bend and “slipping” out from underneath me sideways!  Now I tried catching him with the outside rein/outside leg, but that just made him go all wobbly and crooked. 

wobbly_line - I feel like this ^ is what our progress around the arena looks like! -

So I definitely have to work on that as he is going really well in straight lines but we seem to have lost all ability to do a 20m circle! He actually does a 15m circle quite nicely.  I wonder if I am applying too much inside leg?  With all the work I have been doing to use my seat aids only, I might be getting too strong when coming back to a movement that seems to require ‘more leg’ than tracking on the outside track.

circles- This would be an improvement on the current state of our circles… - 

I am feeling all discombobulated on his back – I can’t seem to post at the moment(!!), so I am mostly working in sitting trot to feel what he is doing.  His stride is so choppy compared to Joey’s *sniff* that it can be quite hard to do that without some serious breathing out to relax my pelvic floor.  Then he gets all bobbly and wobbly as I’m trying to work out what he is doing and how my seat relates, and just – ugh. 

On the upside, I do know I am on the right track, as one of the ladies down at my yards was commenting on how nicely he was rounding up for me.  Plus, Copper himself is confirming we are on the right track – I have never felt him so uphill in all my years of riding him, so we are getting somewhere.

Then I have been acutely conscious about how my saddle tips me backwards slightly – just enough that I have to struggle to get and keep my leg underneath me, and if I lose my balance, or forget to think about it I end up in a slight chair seat. 

I’ve checked the balance of the saddle on Copper – the gullet shape matched his withers and shoulder shape perfectly, and he always get an exact imprint of the saddle (for the sweat mark) when I take it off after a ride.  His back does not seem sore at all, so I’m a bit puzzled.  My conclusion is that the saddle fits him – it just doesn’t fit me

Wintec 2000

It’s an Wintec 2000 All-Purpose, with CAIR panels, and an interchangeable gullet system. I’m not sure if it actually doesn’t fit me, or it’s giving me the seat that an All-Purpose is supposed to, when I am looking for a dressage seat?

Anyone out there with saddle fitting experience and some advice?

I did lift it at the back a little the other day, and I like the results.  It helped me keep my leg underneath me easier and I didn’t feel like I was tipping backwards so much.  I’m thinking I would like to try a riser under the cantle – just a little one to help my balance a bit.  I just don’t know if that’s what is needed, or whether I’m trying to change the balance of a saddle that is designed to give you a bit of a jumping seat. 

Again – comments would be appreciated!  I’m thinking I might need a new-to-me second hand dressage saddle if the latter is the case.  I do want to jump, so I’d keep the All-Purpose, but a nice dressage saddle might really help me with the work I’m trying to do with my seat.

So that’s the run down on my rides and thoughts about riding for the last little while – I know it’s a bit of a dump, but I do like getting it out….

See ya,


1 comment:

  1. Hi Bonita,
    I am having Very Similar issues! I feel like I am not doing the best thing for my horse that makes me sad, also my lower back hurts a lot the more I'm in the saddle. I love your pic's! I'm now going to try another saddle after reading your blog;-). How is your balance these day's any new thoughts?



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