Let’s chat about “deep seat” – Part 2 aka when seat bones become our feet

We finished the Part 1 with a conclusion that it is possible to produce a relatively effortless and rhythmical movement if we rely on gravity, inertia and intelligent design/structure…

What were your thoughts on those concepts? How much muscular effort do you put into daily tasks of moving your bones around? How much muscular effort do you need to turn your horse in balance?…

Let’s explore some more exciting details about “deep seat” 🙂


One American trainer, Beth Baumert said, balance your horse under a place where two spines meet: yours and your horse’s…and then, there is another great saying that made a huge impact on my own riding and teaching even though I have no clue who was the original author. I first heard it from a centred riding coach I had lessons with some 12 years ago: “ride with your bones, not with your muscles”…

So – how about we look at the “deep seat” as a spine to spine connection? Connection that relies on gravity and stability? 

How about we connect with the horse’s spine in the same way as a gymnast connects with the beam – “deeply” through the use of balance playing with gravity…

Balance (what if you think of your seat bones as your feet…)

If our seat bones were our feet, would we slide them, push them into the ground, “polish” the floor with them to achieve better, deeper connection with the surface we were on? Would we “drive” into the surface muting all sensors with each push?

We definitely wouldn’t. And yet – we seem to be taught sometimes (or often) to do so with our seat bones. To push, to “polish”, to drive.

Before I post Part 3, here are some questions I would like to leave you with: 

1. What is your movement style? Are you tall with long limbs, large range of motion? Does your movement looks a little lazy, lanky? Or maybe you have shorter bones with strong muscles that create quick, stiffer motion? Perhaps you are somewhere in between? Have a think 🙂

2. How easy is it for you to maintain good, well aligned posture when standing or moving on the ground?

3. How easy it is for you to maintain this same good, well aligned posture in motion in the saddle? In walk? in trot? in canter? Which part of your body misaligns? Do you collapse in your hip? Waist? Neck? Chest?

Part 3 coming in a few days to give you some thinking time 😉 

Practical Equine Wound Management – Free Veterinary Webinar

A shout out for an interesting and informative – www.thewebinarvet.com – site publishing free and paid-for webinars that are well worth watching. Despite the fact that the material is directed to the vets, it’s a great one for horse owners, students learning towards BHS exams and yard managers. Search for ‘equine’ in free webinars for all horse related videos.

The one below is a very good watch (just bare in mind some pictures are graphic…)

Watch the webinar here: http://www.thewebinarvet.com/webinar/practical-wound-management-for-equine-vets/

#Barebruary by Nigel

Nigel is a rider on Aspire Equestrian Foundation Programme and today he shares a few thoughts on his bareback lessons’ experiences from a novice rider point of view 🙂

Nigel on Star during their today’s training session

Riding without the saddle makes me more aware of small movements I make and the difference they have on Star. This is helpful because often I am out of ideal position or posture; it’s like the saddle wraps your body in cotton wool so that you don’t feel the actions and responses so strongly…Riding bareback allows me to feel the differences between balanced seat and one that is about to become an unbalanced one! I am able to feel the issues much quicker and make smaller corrections thanks to that.

Thank you for sharing Nigel!

Would you like to join in #Barebruary training theme? If you do, email your bareback pictures to aspire@outlook.com, post them to our Facebook page or Tweet at @aspireacademy adding #barebruary hashtag with a few words about how bareback riding has helped you with your riding skills – I will publish your photos on the blog throughout February!

To read more about #Barebruary click HERE

*Please note: I don’t accept any pictures, no matter how beautiful, of riders without riding hat/helmet or of horses wearing “creative” bits/bridles suggesting violent training methods.

Aspire Equestrian @ Café Time London Chapter i.e. learning with a difference


Before I tell you what this is all about, let me clarify, the Group header photo is not how the Café looks like 😉 I wish!

At the beginning of last year, I taught someone who was preparing to move countries and wanted to buy a horse once settled. For three months prior to her departure, we met once a week “for a coffee” and I ran an informal discussion about all things horse husbandry with her. It turned out, she had a friend who wanted to take British Horse Society exams and wanted to brush up on her knowledge and ability to chat about it without becoming nervous. The sessions had been great fun and so whenever I heard someone say they would love to learn more about horse care and/or needed some help with their exams, I suggested the ‘Café sessions’ 🙂

Over the course of months these became on/off occurrences on private and semi-private basis but not until one of my London riders asked me about theory learning options had I thought about forming a regular group.

We had our meeting 0 yesterday and I am really looking forward to seeing how beneficial these sessions will be. I don’t really like traditional learning options where someone just tells you everything you “need” to know from one particular source and you sit and listen so I apply my riding coaching style (here are the clues, figure things out and share your findings with me/others) to the theory “lessons” too 😉

If you live in London and would like to join us, please email Wiola at aspire@outlook.com. Sessions are about 1h 20 min long, free of charge for Aspire riders (riders on my riding programmes) and £15 per session for all other enthusiasts. We will be meeting on Saturdays at various locations within short walking distance from Ealing Broadway station.



Let’s chat about “deep seat” – Part 1 aka moving with no muscles and no brain…


There will be no step-by-step instruction manual in this little series on developing, what we come to call “deep seat” in teaching language. If you are looking for the exact “what to do” manual, I will tell you straight away to not waste your time on reading further.

I will, however, attempt to describe the clues I personally found invaluable when working on my own “deep seat” and on the skill of teaching it to others.


Due to individual nature of our awareness as riders there are some elements of riding that cannot be simply described and “tried” – they need to be figured out…What I mean by this is that you might be told what to do and then you try it 1000, 5000, 10.000 times and you still might not achieve the result you are after. Trying the same thing multiple times is not going to cut it. You can try to open a door with the wrong key million times – the key still won’t fit no matter how many times you try.

When riding, you might be feeling that you are trying your best and still not getting “that” feel, your horse is still at the same stage of his schooling as last year and nothing feels more harmonious than before.

What does it really mean to sit deep(er)?

How would you describe it with your own words if you were to explain the concept to a 10 year old? Take a minute now and write down your immediate thoughts. Don’t use any of the “horse riding” language, only words and concepts that might make sense to that 10 year old…

Done it?

Now, bare with me and let’s watch this 1 minute video together… 

What you see there is a robot with no motor, no muscles, certainly no brain (nor a computer substitute either) casually walking in a rather relaxed manner, in a good rhythm and at constant speed…

There are many lessons from that video for sure but what could we learn from it that is going to help us with our “deep seat”? 

Lets list 3 important points that allow the robot to remain gracefully moving in an effortless rhythm:

1. The robot relies on gravity and inertia 

2. The robot relies on its design (structure/posture – the way it got put together)

3. The robot relies on additional stabilisers that prevent it from falling over

Now, picture a very effortless rider who seem to be using not much muscular effort and yet stays beautifully in a “deep seat”. How about we swap a robot with a rider to describe what we see:

1. The rider relies on gravity and inertia 

2. The rider relies on his/her “design” – structure (skeleton) and posture (the way he/she organises that skeleton)

3. The rider is aware of the movements of his/her skeleton and automatically “uses” their ligaments, tendons to control joint movements

See also (just because I love simple definitions!): Inertia for kids: http://scienceforkids.kidipede.com/physics/space/inertia.htm

skeletonNow, we have some material to figure out… How is your skeleton “designed”? How does it move in the saddle? Is the position of your head helping you use gravity to its best advantage? Are your joints in neutral position? If you had no muscles, no brain – would your bones alone, in their current structure be well stacked? If not, which part wouldn’t?

If your “design” isn’t ideal, how are your (as in – your personally not other riders) muscles helping you or hindering you? And helping with what? Hindering what?

I am leaving you for now with the above questions – Part 2 coming shortly…Have fun spending the next few days paying heightened awareness to your bones 😉 

PART 2: https://aspireequestrian.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/lets-chat-about-deep-seat-part-2-aka-when-seat-bones-become-our-feet/

Video: Simple pole work exercise for a rushing, anxious horse

This exercise was initially suggested to us by Sam of Back-In-Line as a follow up training element complementing the McTimoney treatments the horses have been receiving. The idea is to encourage the horse to become more mobile and relaxed through the whole back area behind the saddle. It certainly does that but it also made two rather buzzy, over-reactive horses deal with pole work in a much calmer and relaxed manner.

The video below shows Emma B. with her ex-racehorse “Shabby” doing this exercise for the first time.


1. Approach a line of poles in walk (I set the distances fairly randomly at 2.5m to 3m apart)

2. Halt at random place(s) and stand immobile for 10 seconds or so.

3. Move off 

We repeated the exercise 10 times changing the rein half way through. As you can see, there is some resistance in Shabby’s reactions which we are working on but he remained calm enough for the exercise to have a really good effect on his later work in the lesson.


Merehead, another ex-racehorse, has quite panicky reaction to poles so we did the exercise in-hand. If you have a horse that gets anxious and jumpy when presented with new exercise I would really recommend getting off and doing it all first on foot. My reason being that the whole idea is for the horse to benefit from the exercise (physically and mentally) rather than simply “conquer” it…


Doing the exercise in-hand lets the handler guide the neck into horizontal position and prevent undue tension and ridden anticipation from turning the exercise from constructive into destructive.

At the end of the lesson Merehead walked over the poles very calmly under the saddle which was very unlike him (he tends to jump the poles or become very agitated at simply being pointed at them) so we will definitely be using this exercise more not only as part of physical training of a healthier way of moving but also mental acceptance of the task in hand.



#Barebruary by Mariana

Mariana is an instructor I link with whenever possible for development of Aspire programmes. She is also Aspire’s team blogger and certified Bowen Therapist. She sent these photos of her clients enjoying their bareback sessions and shared a few thoughts on riding bareback for rider’s education.

Barebruary by Mariana
To learn more about Mariana and how you could have lessons and/or Bowen session(s) with her please see http://www.equinebowen.net/

I love bareback and use it often.

Superb for kids and in combination with games they forget that they are learning and just have fun. Nothing better for balance, for learning to be at one with the horse, learning to feel the horse. They learn how to use the seat aids and how if you overdo them you just fall off 🙂

They learn to use the leg properly because they can feel the horse.  I tend to take long boots off, I think trainers are better for that. Lots of exercises and even the adult rider, Stella, was happy 😉

Thank you for sharing Mariana!

Would you like to join in #Barebruary training theme? If you do, email your bareback pictures to aspire@outlook.com, post them to our Facebook page or Tweet at @aspireacademy adding #barebruary hashtag with a few words about how bareback riding has helped you with your riding skills – I will publish your photos on the blog throughout February!

To read more about #Barebruary click HERE

*Please note: I don’t accept any pictures, no matter how beautiful, of riders without riding hat/helmet or of horses wearing “creative” bits/bridles suggesting violent training methods.

Secret to quick and easy way to achieve deep seat…


Ok, maybe some say it but if there is such a magic, quick and easy secret, I don’t know it. Solution might be quick but execution is rarely easy!

If you would like to read about not-so-secret steps to achieve a deep seat Aspire training style, check back here soon 🙂 The long post is coming up this week!

P.S. The title of this post is what someone typed into google and came across Aspire blog. 

How to Half Halt in Light Seat (also known as two-point seat/half-seat)

This question popped up during one of my lessons last week so although probably obvious to many jumping oriented riders, it might be interesting to explore for the others so let’s have a look at half-halting without fully sitting in the saddle.

Light seat is a very useful technique both for young horses whose backs tire quickly and for older horse’s as a relaxation and freedom giving way of riding between the jumps or out hacking. It is of no benefit if, the moment the rider lifts the seat off the saddle, the horse loses his balance, speeds up or drops his weight heavily on the forehand.

VIDEO: My own training – light seat to full seat back to light seat

Here is a short video of myself balancing a very powerful mare with on-the-forehand tendencies using frequent half-halts through my upper body, actions of the knees and passive resistance of the reins in short intervals in light seat.

The horse should be able to be as balanced in light seat in basic gaits as he is when ridden in full seat. It’s the test of the rider’s balance for sure but all riders can learn it providing their leg joints can withstand some time with increased weight baring.

When I teach half-halt for the very first time to my Foundation level riders, I start from making sure we have the ingredients to approach the half-halt and so we need to know the following basics:

1. Can you increase and decrease the size of the steps of the pace with your weight aids and leg aids?

2. Are you aware of how upper body’s angle affects the above?

3. Do you know what it means and how to passively resists through the upper body, arms and reins?

4. Can you soften the resistance without losing your own balance?

If the above are not in place in walk and trot, I continue to work on the seat and direct transitions (which are like “pre-school/kindergarden half halts” for both the rider and the horse) until the rider has all the above skills within basic grasp.

For the purpose of this little chat we are going to assume you have the above basics in place 🙂 Without them, “half halts” are often just direct pulls on the reins at random moments…Let’s start.

An ex-racehorse with his owner in one of our lessons. He struggles with balance on circles and slower canter in the arena is pointless to him. Riding him in full seat is not the answer as his back needs time to adjust from race work to arena work – learning to answer half halts in light seat is important for his soundness.

There are plenty of ways of teaching, understanding and explaining the process of a half-halt: before transitions, before going sideways, after transitions, within paces etc etc but my personal choice is to think of it as an instruction to the horse that says: “now, re-balance under my seat”.  

This way, I cover front to back (longitudinal) half halt, sideways (lateral) halt halt and vertical balance (up/down half halt) as well as discipline in the rider: if the horse is to balance under rider’s seat, that seat needs to be defined and stable enough to balance under.

The more the rider focuses on balance, the more each of the actions make sense and become second nature.

Before you start half-halting in light seat in canter, follow these 3 steps (I do them in full seat first): 

Step 1: In walk go into your light seat and with a helper on the ground try to determine when the following happens (I will focus on left side for the ease of explanations but do this exercise for both sides):

– when the left hindleg thrusts/pushes forwards

– when the left hindleg reaches/steps under the centre of the horse (you can think of it as if it was stepping underneath your own tail bone – right under the middle of the saddle)

– when the left hindleg is bearing all the weight and carries/collects

Step 2: Attempt to affect each of these stages (no need for piaffing 🙂 Just experiment with each phase)

– decrease and increase the push

– decrease and increase the length of step

– decrease and increase the time the horse spends on the left hind leg

How long each leg does what contributes to the overall balance of the horse. If one hind leg pushes very strongly and the other is weak and pushes less, the horse will end end up walking very crooked and uncomfortable in himself.

Pay most of the attention to the release moment of your action. That’s when balance happens. First create energy (go), then enclose the energy (ask the horse to wait with momentary passive resistance through your upper body and reins), then release/soften (ask the horse to balance himself). Practice this until you can do it within 1-2 strides.

Step 3: Attempt Step 2 with mostly weight aids (down your thighs and into the heels for leg aids to control the hindquarters and through your upper body, arms and elbows/passive resistance on the reins to control the forehand)

Once you have had some fun with the three step exercise above and you feel your horse responding well, you are ready to go into canter and try to half halt in light seat when at speed or coming to the jump.


Transition to canter.

Did it feel forehand heavy?

Drop your weight down your shoulder blades and into your tail bone as you stay above the saddle, feel your elbows going heavy and wrists super light (but closed), resist the forward tendency on the forehand and visualise the hindleg stepping under deeper and carrying horse’s weight for 1/10 of a second longer than in the stride before. If the walk exercise was done well, your horse should react to your weight shift.

Breathe. (take a sip of imaginary tea of coffee 😉

Soften. Allow the horse to feel the effect of you weight drop and momentary resistance. Allow him to figure things out and find his own balance.

Then repeat. 2-3-5-100 times…how ever many times necessary until you both start feeling like you are responding to each other’s weight shifts and the balance of the pace improves (the horse’s back feels more and more centred between your seat bones).

The half halt in light seat might never going to be as powerful or even maybe as invisible as one done in full seat but it’s a good practice to learn to balance your horse both in and out of the saddle 🙂 

All the best and happy experimenting!