“SITTING PRETTY” – is that really the point? Pondering on body position vs body use

A few days ago I received an email enquiry from a rider interested in my lessons. I read with interest about issues the rider has with her horse and then I arrived at the sentence concluding the enquiry. The person writing had heard I work a lot on the rider, their position and way of riding and wanted to make sure this wouldn’t be the case with her as she wanted to work mainly on the horse.

Photo taken during Aspire Coaching weekend at Cullinghood EC

This email made me think of other riders who perhaps think the same so I would like to clarify a few things. Although I do put a lot of emphasis on rider’s seat it is not at all to achieve a pretty picture. In fact, my increasing interest in posture and seat of the rider has very little to do with visual outcome. My greatest fascination with rider’s biomechanics is due to an incredible effect a correct body use can (and does) have on communication with any horse.

In the same way though as it is impossible to execute a  jump over something with your knees locked and legs straight, it is not possible to communicate certain wishes well to the horse out of an unbalanced seat.

During all posture and seat work at Aspire training my focus is on creating best possible balance in any rider because that gives them best possible starting point to understand balance in the horse.  And pretty much everything we do with horses is somehow connected to balance…most of our schooling problems relate to balance. Even simple hacking or lunging issues might be balance related.

In the last few years I almost completely gone away from explaining riding via “aids” or “signals” even to beginner riders because I realised that without the rider’s feel for balance, those signals mean very little to a horse. You learn riding much faster (in the long run) if you understand how to control the position of the horse’s ribcage, of the weight through his shoulders and how your own body language affects the horse’s legs.

Do you remember being told the aids for a movement you were to ride for the first time? Let’s say, your first ever transition to canter or  shoulder in? Did it work from simply “putting your inside leg there, outside leg here and hands like so” ?

I believe signals only work when they are understood by a horse and generally speaking, horses react to balance changes much more readily than to any amount of “inside leg just there”.  If a rider develops a seat that feels the balance in the horse, riding becomes a much happier affair for both parties.

This is why I started teaching in-hand work to all levels of riders, including beginners. When a rider knows that to bend a horse they need to place his ribcage in a certain position and position his inside hind leg in a certain way and they can do it from the ground, and that to do that they need to use certain body language, signals from the saddle become meaningful and much more effective. But that’s a subject for another blog 🙂

I hope it’s clear now that sitting pretty is not the point of any of Aspire’s training programs. Effective body use, is.To me, balanced seat is like a petrol station to a driver…you might have the greatest car and most amazing road in front of you but without fuel you won’t go far, if at all.

7 thoughts on ““SITTING PRETTY” – is that really the point? Pondering on body position vs body use”

  1. I wish I had the money to come get a lesson from you! I’m bringing up a young horse and I know my dressage position is not where it needs to be. I spent so much of my life doing hunters and eq (ew) that it’s hard for me to position myself correctly because I always want to return to my “default” light seat/in front of the vertical position! I am improving, but I’d love all the help I can get. In my last lesson, I let my trainer jump on and it was amazing to watch the change in my horse when she rode with consistent correct balance. Wish I could give him the same consistent ride. Something to aspire to 🙂

    1. Hello there 🙂 Great to hear you are working towards a better balance goal 🙂 You are welcome to try my virtual coaching programme, still a workout but possibly more affordable for many rider. Details here: http://issuu.com/aspireeq/docs/aspiree-academy/1
      or email me with any questions!

      I have a rider here in the UK with US hunter/jumper background. She’s only 14 but a lovely young rider. Has fantastic lower leg but when she started with me she had the same issue with upper body. Two years later she can use both seats well and working on further improvements so it’s definitely doable! Good luck 🙂

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