The magic feeling

Saturday Sept. 1st, Stefanie Staudinger gave a lecture on the riders seat, while riding my 18 year old knabstrupper horse, Bastian.
Now, Stefanie doesn´t just sit on a horse while she talks in long fluent sentences about perfect riding art. Stefanie is eager to communicate her knowledge, so she explains by demonstrating her riding. She makes her points clear with precise body movements. Both ”correct” and ”not correct”. Words are just a part of the lecture.

However, I wrote down some of her points.
The main thread is the use of the seat as the primary aid. It is as simple as that. The neverchanging goal of classical riding

What we are striving for is ”the magic feeling”.
To get the magic feeling – to ride the horse from the seat.

Where to find inspiration? -Old books, old masters like Pluvinel. The turning point for Stefanie was watching Bent Branderup ride – how could he ride with ”invisible aids”?

Goal: to ride without body power.

Method: First ask with the seat, then the hands and legs.

A good rider should learn to feel the movement of the back, how the hindlegs are moving. When the inside hindleg is swinging forward, the riders indside seatbone is moved forward-down. The seatbone is moved upwards-backwards , when the inside hindleg is moving backwards.  The good seat can feel what the hindleg is doing. The seatbones give information, where the hindlegs are.

Why is this so important? –To know when to use the leg, in the moment the horses´ hindleg is swinging forwards . A riding horse should swing forward and carry with its hind legs, not pushing so much backwards. Don´t push with both your legs at the same time. The horse swings one hindleg forward at a time. Follow the hindlegs.

Also important: feel, and reflect when and how much to give an aid. If an aid is given all the time, the horse will get less responsive. Practise responsiveness.

Different positions of the seat:
The light seat is a forward tilting of the pelvis. Light seat is used if the horse is not relaxed in the back. The rider goes into the light seat to take pressure off the horses´ back.
Collected seat is a backward tilting of the pelvis.  Don´t overdo it by leaning back in the upper body. Often, just breathing out and sinking into the horse is enough.

Different positions of the seat demands of the rider, that she is able to use the body good and controlled.
Daily movements matter: A good rider posture is of course natural to a professional rider. For most riders with office work during the day, and only one horse to ride, the rider posture comes less natural. If you sit all day in your office chair in a slump pose – you will need more training/sports, besides ridning your horse.

Good breating is important when riding.
Short breath, superficial breathing can make the horse nervous.
Good breathing is calm and regular. Breathing into your tummy, having a relaxed breathing is more essential, the more sensitive your horse is.

Changing of the bending – going over to the new seat: The goal is, that legs and hands are not necessary. ”1-2-3”
1: First, give the new bending with the seat,
2: If necessary support with the new inside leg,
3: If necessary bend the horse to the new inside with the new inside rein.

Changing between gaits, ex. walk to trot: First, change the rhythm of the seat. Then, if necessary, support with legs and voice.

Changing of the shape and the stride length: Going in the direction of a collected seat, the horse makes the steps shorter. Going in the direction of a forward seat, the horse makes the steps longer. ”1-2-3” Ask first with the seat, then the legs, then the hand.

To collect the horse is not the hand working backwards, so the hand should never be the first aid or the only aid. The goal is to do tempo changing only from the seat. Using the relaxed breathing and changing the position of the pelvis, going carefully from middle to collection, and back out into extension.

Take care not to think of ”collection”, before the basic gait is steady: Right from the start with a young horse – a steady rhythm in the gait is important. Before there is a steady rhythm, don´t try to alter the length of the stride. Otherwise, the horse will from itself change between slow and running.

Side movements: Work with the picture of sitting in an office chair.
To do a shoulder in:
1: turn your office chair in,
2: if necessary, support with hand and leg
3: turn your office chair out again.

Common mistakes:
-if the rider is too quick in turning her body, it is not possible for the horse to follow.
-the rider may fall to the outside seatbone. In the side movements it is important to stay on the inside seatbone, to keep the logic of the horse´s muscle groups working as inside (concentric contraction) or outside (eccentric contraction).

Practise to be secure in your seat when riding exercises. Work with the picture that you turn your body like it is the center piece of a revolving door, like those you pass through in hotel lobbys or shopping malls. Your shoulder, your seat and your leg should stay stacked right over each other, while you turn. Stability in movement.
It takes good rider skills to stay steady, but not stiff in the body.

By the time, it should look like the horse and the rider are one unit.

Basic gymnastic is important. For the health of the horse, and for reaching higher exercises. But it is a long way  for the horse to learn. And often an even longer way for the rider.

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