Tag Archives: deep seat

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” 🙂

HOW TO DEVELOP Part 2

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 😉 

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

HOW TO DEVELOP DEEP SEAT PART 1

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.

SCRAP PRE-GIVEN MULTIPLE CHOICE – START FIGURING THINGS OUT 

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/

How to “Sit Deep In the Saddle” – Part 2: Weight Transfer and Body Integrity

Part 1 here: How to “Sit Deep In the Saddle” – Part 1: A simple, magic stretch

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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 🙂

BODY INTEGRITY

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,

Wiola

How to “Sit Deep In the Saddle” – Part 1: A simple, magic stretch

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The phrase “sit deeper in the saddle”, “deepen your seat” or “sink down in the saddle” is heard on many arenas in all countries I have taught and ridden.

If you ask several different riders and instructors what “sitting deep” means to them and how they do it, you are likely to hear many different concepts and ways of achieving a deep seat. How do you understand it? How would you teach it if you were to asked to explain it?

Put simply, a deep seat to me is the ability to remain in close contact with the saddle during motion. This is reliant on ability to synchronise muscular contraction and weight distribution in the rider with that of the horse when both are in motion. The better the synchrony and harmony, the “deeper” the seat looks without also being heavy.

Today I will chat shortly about a very simple stretch that any rider can do before getting in the saddle to help achieving “deeper seat”, tomorrow I will look at a set of exercises that aid the ability of weight transfer without becoming “heavy” in the saddle.

THE PIRIFORMIS STRETCH

piriformisIf you read my post about achieving stability in the saddle through good use of core and thigh muscles (About Stability (Core, Pelvis and Thighs Connection) in The Rider and Why To Work On It) you will know how important it is to be able to rotate the hip and thigh inward in a way that wraps the rider’s legs around the horse.

For the upper and lower leg to lie closely around the horse’s barrel without undue pressure or unnecessary gripping we need flexibility in one little magic muscle…

It’s an interesting muscle that’s also involved in sciatic nerve pain so if you suffer from sciatica or are at all unsure about the stretches it’s best to consult your doctor.

HOW TO STRETCH

I start these stretches from beginner courses onwards and below you can see a rider on Start Programme during the exercise. The rider will have groomed and tacked up and so will have warmed up all the muscles in her body as well as marched in place for several minutes – all to make sure no stretches are ever done “cold”.

There is a floor version of this exercise which apparently works better for many but I find it’s vastly impractical in riding environment…I ask the rider to stretch her piriformis muscles before mounting for a few minutes as part of a short stretch routine.

If you have higher step that you use to get on the horse, it will do a great job for this.

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  • Sit down on it making sure your upper body is well aligned with your pelvis so you feel the weight of your head dropping right down into your tail bone and your seat bones are pointing downwards (not backwards or forwards). Take a couple of deep breaths and let the air out slowly letting the weight of your ribcage drop down (but do not collapse through your waist)
  • Bend your knees so they are at the right angles with the ground.
  • Lift one leg and position it so your ankle rests just above your knee as on the photo above
  • Inhale and on exhale slowly lean forward bringing your chest to your lower leg. Hold this position for 3-5 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other leg
  • To increase the stretch press gently down on the resting leg over the knee (as on the photo)

I recommend doing this exercise 2-3 times on each leg every time before you get on if you are learning to ride or working on improving your seat in sitting trot or canter. I do it often even now and love the feeling of looseness it gives when I sit in the saddle.

Let me know if you try it before mounting next time you ride!

All the best,

Wiola