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RIDE WITH YOUR SEAT!
Ride with your seat is the apogee of ridden horsemanship we are told and I agree. What better feeling than developing the sensitivity of your horse to respond to the slightest change in pressure and combination of pressures.
One of the problems I see all the time though is that people use the saddle to sit on! Let me explain...For me the saddle has 2 roles:
1. A shock absorber and a cushion between my bony (or not so bony bottom) and the horses spine
2. A place to attach the stirrups
We teach our horses to move away from pressure. We also teach that a horse soon learns to ignore constant pressure or movements so put the leg on, for example, and let it go once the horse has responded. In the same way if you don't want your horse to just ignore your seat you need to keep it light until you specifically engage it.
First the stirrups are your ground. 70% (or thereabouts) of your weight should be in your stirrups by default. This does several things:
1. It keeps the weight off your horse's back (thus helping to protect it from damage)
2. It protects the horse's spine from the weight of your bony bottom coming through your 2 seat bones
3. It drops your weight down thus lowering your centre of gravity (excellent, if not essential, for keeping your balance)
Now that you have your weight off your horse's back and you have independent balance you can begin to engage your seat independently.
If you're interested in finding out more give me a call to arrange a few lessons (1 is rarely enough). A great exercise you can do to practise this is the 3 beat rising trot. Have someone hold your horse on a longe, tie up the reins, put on a neck strap in case you become unbalanced and then circle round in trot. When rising stay at the top for 2 beats thus effectively changing the rein every other step. You'll struggle at first but it's surprising how quickly you get used to it. Good luck!