Securing Your Riding Seat

Posted on December 22, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: riding, training.

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Here are three secrets to establishing a secure riding seat.

1. THE FIRST SECRET TO A SECURE-SEAT: DO NOT GRIP ANYWHERE. This may come as a surprise to you. You may be thinking “If I don’t grip with knees, thighs, calves (whatever), I’ll fall off. What else would keep me on the horse?” -Your Balance. When you are in perfect balance, your seat stays in contact with the horse’s back no matter what he does. This is the essence of a perfectly secure-seat. So how to you get there?
Imagine that your horse was short enough so that when you sat on his back, you could just touch the ground with the entire soles of your feet. Imagine stretching through your legs into the earth from the sole of your left foot, up through your left leg to your seat bones, down through your right leg, and into the right sole. Imagine balancing your pelvis gently on your seat bones—gently enough so that if your horse moved, your pelvis would simple roll with the movement. Your legs lie softly on your horse’s barrel like damp cloths. This is the foundation of a secure-seat. No matter what your horse does, your pelvis will automatically adjust, your seat bones and legs softly accommodating and following the movement. No matter what your horse does, you will NOT fall off. You will feel perfectly secure in the saddle because you have a perfectly secure seat.

2. THE SECOND SECRET TO A SECURE-SEAT: DO NOT SIT ON YOUR CROTCH! I know, “crotch” isn’t a pretty term. But nothing else will do. A secure seat requires that you sit lightly on your seat bones, lightly enough that your pelvis is free to flex and roll with your horse’s movement. Your crotch and pubic bone should NOT be in strong contact with the saddle. If they are, either your back is hollow (thrusting your seat bones back behind you and tipping your pelvis forward), or your saddle is too small for you. You may have hear the term “three point seat”. Some trainers will tell you that means sitting on both seat bones and the pubic bone.

WHY A THREE-POINT SECURE SEAT IS DIFFICULT FOR WOMEN TO ACHIEVE. Most women have hollow (arched backs) compared to men. You can test this easily. Stand up against a wall (or lie on the floor). If you can fit a fist between your back and the wall (or floor), your back is arched and hollow, and your seat bone are rotated back. You may notice that when you sit in a chair (or on your horse), you’re sitting on your crotch, not your seat bones. When you sit in the saddle, this will be painful, so you will roll onto your thighs to protect your crotch, and end up in a “perched” seat, not a secure seat. (Men tend to have the opposite problem, sitting on their back pockets, which puts them into a chair seat.)

HOW TO SIT ON YOUR SEAT BONES: To sit on your seat bones, you have to roll your pelvis under slightly and engage your abdominal and back muscles. This “engagement” and neutral pelvis is the core of power taught in Pilates, yoga, and martial arts. Without this, you will either be a stiff mannequin gripping your unfortunate horse or a floppy rag doll who gets jerked around whenever the horse begins to trot. This is the essence of a seat seat for both men and women.

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THE THIRD SECRET TO A SECURE-SEAT: REALIZE THAT THE HORSE HAS TWO SIDES TO HIS BACK. Many riders think the trot is an up-and-down movement, and they try to “follow” this movement by “allowing” their seats to go up and down. But the Trot is diagonal gait; the fore and hind legs on opposite sides move together (unless your horse is a pacer). When the horse’s hind leg moves forward, his back will drop on that side. Your seat bone and leg must drop slightly in order to stay in contact with his back and barrel. This means that your pelvis and leg alternate with each stride. Sally Swift likened this to pedaling backward on a bicycle. Sally O’Connor talks about this at length in her classic book Commonsense Dressage.
If this concept seems foreign to you, you will never develop a truly secure-seat. So do this: Try focusing on what you feel in your seat and legs at walk. The horse’s belly will swing gently from side to side with each step, and his back will drop alternately on one side then the other with each hind step.     You’ll notice that to avoid interfering with this motion, your pelvis and legs must relax into it. If you simply relax your pelvis and legs, your horse’s barrel and back will move them exactly the way they need to move in order to stay with your horse’s motion. You don’t have to plan, think, push, pull, tip, or anything. You just need to allow the horse to move your legs and pelvis. When you can do this without thinking at walk, you’re ready to try it at trot. At canter, you will feel the same thing, except that the pelvis will circle slightly as in a hula dance. When you can do this, you will have arrived at your goal–a perfectly secure-seat. All of these activities will help you develop a soft, following, and perfectly secure-seat. The payoffs to this homework are enormous. Your horse will move more freely and willingly. You and your horse will be more balanced. Your horse’s gaits will show more “brilliance”, and will be much more comfortable for you to ride. And the cherry on top: A strong topline that will allow your horse to be a solid riding companion for many, many years.

from: Denise Cummins, PhD September 17 2015

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