Let’s continue the chat about this elusive skill of “deep seat”…The fact how the same words can be understood completely differently by different people has always made me think about how best to describe the feels we are after when riding.
We’ve talked about the upper leg and pelvis position and their importance in synchronising oneself with the movement of the horse. Now, let’s look at the weight distribution and the ability to keep ones body “together” and how those two elements determine rider’s effectiveness and depth of the seat.
POWER OF GRAVITY
We are able to stand, sit, dance with certain ease thanks to intricate influence of gravity on our bodies. It’s a pretty useful force that we often forget to use when riding…
Our weight transfer downwards through our body as long as we let the gravity play the game with us. Our head as the heaviest part is crucial here and I have seen a horse visually changing the level of his uphill posture simply by the change of the position of the rider’s head. The weight distribution is powerful because it is a very natural and instinctive for any living creature to seek balance.
Now, over to the saddle. In my teaching and riding I follow the thought and feel of “dropping the weight of upper body into rider’s thighs” in a pretty similar way to that employed by a skier. The ability to drop the weight of upper body into ones thighs in riding position (i.e. ability to use gravity in the economical way) is one of the elements that transforms a wobbly rider into a stable one.
But that’s not all. The second element here is what you could call body integrity i.e. an ability to maintain whole body control whether in or out of balance…ability to keep all body parts together yet remain relatively relaxed.
One of the best exercises for awakening the feel of this is to me a good old “catch me when I fall” play 🙂
On the slow motion video above you can see 3 riders being pushed between two people. The task was to remain as easy to push as one managed and this was only possible when keeping entire body aligned, connected yet relaxed. You can see that the smallest rider (grey jumper) is actually the most difficult for the “pushers” to manage because of the lack of connection through her body.
The same lack of connection (or core strength as some might prefer to think about it) is also making it difficult for her to “catch” other 2 riders who do maintain good body integrity.
The interesting part here is that it is pretty impossible to keep your body “together” while collapsing in any body part or generally allowing some larger weakness on one side or the other. I like to think of the energy being bottled in, nothing is allowed to leak.
WEIGHT TRANSFER, BODY INTEGRITY AND DEEP SEAT…
I would like to really encourage you to have a go at the pushing exercise with your friends at the yard/barn. Clock in that feeling you get as you receive the push but do not yield into it…just remain DEEPLY ROOTED RIGHT DOWN INTO YOUR FEET with your energy enclosed in your own personal capsule… Don’t “help” the pushers by trying to use your legs or arms, help them by remaining integral throughout. Experiment too – do help by pushing off the ground or collapse in your waist or yield into their hands as they push – ask your pushers when it is easier to maintain momentum and pushing rhythm…
Then when you ride try to notice how many times you try to help your horse by yielding into his issues (leaning forward when he goes on the forehand, losing upper body balance when he drops his shoulder, losing your pelvis alignment when your horse pulls on the reins…etc etc) and how many times you actually try to help him by remaining integral and relatively unchanged.
Feel how maintaining consistent, gravity driven weight transfer through your whole body right down into correctly functioning thighs requires that exact muscle/spine/joints integrity – once you get that feel you will also have felt the “deep seat” 🙂 At first it might be for one stride, then for two, three, five…
That’s when you need a level of flexible strength – to remain in your spot when the horse “pushes you about” until your stability/deep seat gives him purpose and rhythm.
But about that, next time 🙂
As always, do let me know if you try these exercises, I would love to hear from you!
All the best,