HOW TO USE YOUR SEAT
By Tammy Fifer
In the many styles of riding, how often have you heard you instructor say, "Use you seat. Use your seat!"? , . . . Especially by those dressage instructors. As a matter of fact, in any discipline, a rider should be able to use their seat correctly. Have we ever really been told "how"? We have been told how to sit, but how do we "use" our seat - and just how do we control our horse with our seat?
Let's discuss your dressage seat. Well, to begin with, you must be balanced and have your weight evenly distributed within the saddle. To truly be balanced your elbows must be under your shoulders, and your hips directly under your elbows, and your feet must be under your hips.
Now, be careful that you are not leaning to either side, forward or backward. To keep your seat bones from digging into the horse's spine, pull in your tummy and tuck your bum. It is like doing a stomach crunch. You will find that your pelvis is tucked underneath you. To check, imagine you have a shiny belt buckle on, and that it is aimed up the horse's ears, and not down at his withers. You may feel like you are slumping, but to fix this, bring your breastbone upward - do not arch your back and push your chest out or pull your shoulders back. At this point, your hips should level and straight - evenly placed on either side of the saddle, with your weight evenly distributed.
Now, "using" your balanced seat: when you want to turn your horse, first look where you want to go, bring your shoulders around next, then, by using your hips (not at the waist) rotate them around in the direction you want to go. You will be rotating the saddle, not turning within the saddle. Think of sitting on the handlebars of a bicycle, and having your hips rotating those handle bars. Now, also make sure your hands keep a light contact with the bit, and that they stay on their respective sides of the neck - no neck reining.
Do not turn the horse's neck to turn, although you can gently place his nose with an open-inside rein while you are turning your body. Do not pull back. The better you use your body, and your horse learns to respond, the less you will ever need to place his nose anywhere. Give him a chance to respond, and be sure that you are straight, not leaning, and really placing your body in the direction you want to go.
Note: Be very, very careful not to lean or pick up your weight from any side of the saddle. Keep even pressure and level hips. You may use some leg aid pressure if you need to, but many times, once you are efficient with this, and your horse understands the language, you won't need to. Your horse will be turning from your hip and saddle movement, and your resultant thigh pressure.
Now, you do the same when you trot, but when posting, you can control the speed by slowing your body down to maintain the speed you want. You are NOT following the horse, you are taking the lead and having the horse slow down and follow YOU. This takes some practice, but don't give up. Count down from five (5) SLOWLY, lower your voice as you count down, breath out, say EASY, but be sure to slow your posting movement down as you go. Practice bringing him down to a halt at first. Then just bring him down to almost a halt, and then send him forward again, until you see that he can follow your seat. It does not take too long for you both to get this. It works no matter what style you ride. You can even do this while longeing your horse. Using your voice is a great aid in this. Usually the horse "gets it" quicker than the rider.
There, of course, is more to using the seat. But this will give you a great start! My online dressage course goes into more depth.
Click here for information about the online course: Dressage: Foundation for All Riding Disciplines
Visit Tammy Fifer's web site at: CIRCLES OF HORSES