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View Full Version : how do you find your 'dressage seat'



ottblove
Dec. 31, 2007, 09:19 AM
I've been learning dressage for eventing but still don't feel like I really get it. I'm a lot better at pushing my horse from my leg through my seat to my hands, but still don't feel like I'm using my seat totally properly. I came from a hunter background, so I always worked more on sending my weight down through my heels. Starting dressage, I'm having trouble 'reaching down in my legs' and feeling balanced. I can do a ton of no-stirrup work and I don't think it's an issue with being out of shape, it's more just trying to 'get it'. I know eventing dressage is a bit different, but can you offer any help?

Velvet
Dec. 31, 2007, 10:03 AM
The reason riding without stirrups probably seems to be easy is because you're still using your jumping muscles. Most people who do a LOT of jumping (hunter or eventer style) use the inside thigh muscles a lot more than dressage people do. They use them to draw the leg into the horse and also lift the seat out of the saddle. When you ride without stirrups and you already have those muscles, you tend to use them again to keep you in the saddle. It's all a matter of muscle memory.

Maybe try to think of taking your leg off your horse's sides, when riding without stirrups. This means the thigh, too. Pull it away, and feel your seat balance and follow (and make sure you don't use your reins to help--as I'm sure you already know). Don't lift them up, don't crank them away, just lift them of a bit to either side while staying centered. Then, let them softly fall down and instead of thinking about pushing both legs down on either side, try feeling each side of the horse's back lift and drop under your seat, and follow that motion with your legs getting a bit longer through the ENTIRE leg (thigh, knee and heel with toes slightly up and only lifted by the front muscles on your shin--not the calf muscle).

If you stretch the inside of the thigh, it naturally creates a small about of tension. Think of it like a rubber band. If you stretch a rubber band over something that is round and has a bit of stick to it (not stretched so far it is about to break, but some where in the middle) and let it relax around that object, it will want to stay stretched around it. Your muscles work that way. I'm not sure I'm being clear. Hmmm...

I think of it as my hips (hip bone area that you can see if your stomach is flat) are slightly following the forward and up motion of the horse's back on either side. This takes some ab muscle to follow, but not that much. The legs are pulled away and then as they are dropped down long and around the horse, the saddle is wide enough that it keeps my inside thigh just a bit taught and holding me in the saddle --through no strength of my own. This the "wet noodle" leg that is draped around the horse. If I want to start gripping and the horse is trotting, I then have to make sure I relax through the leg and let it stretch back out to where I want. Sometimes this is created by focusing on the hips following and at the same time feeling like you are back pedaling and dropping through the entire leg. The drop down matches the horse's back as it feels like it moves down and away. Then I let it relax on that side as the horse's back comes up, and I am at the same time working on the down feeling on the other side. (All this is at the trot. :) )

Does that make any sense? It seems to work for me and a lot of my students, when they are trying to learn not to use their nice gripper muscles anymore. ;) (It's a case of much less equals more. :D )

kansasgal
Dec. 31, 2007, 10:36 AM
It's a lot more about letting go than hanging on. The absolute best thing for me was to be able to take some lunge lessons on a school master.

I also started out huntseat, and it took quite a while for me to get the idea. I had to let go of any notion or inclination to hold a certain position, after all those years of mainly 2 point and heels down. Without knowing it, I was getting by with tight/ almost locked heels and hips most of the time.

I also found a fabulous Centered Riding instructor, and she helped a lot esp. with developing more "feel" through my whole body. If you're tight anywhere, it is much more difficult to find your seat. I do real well with all the imagery that the CR teaching method uses. I'm now a Centered Riding groupie. Did you know that Sally Swift was presented a lifetime achievement award at last year's USDF convention?

I think I remember reading somewhere, from a top dressage instructor, that riding without stirrups can actually be counter productive. The stirrups are meant to support your leg.
So you can release and sit deep.

Of course it's a life long endeavor. I still live for those MOMENTS each ride when it all comes together.

Velvet
Dec. 31, 2007, 10:48 AM
I think I remember reading somewhere, from a top dressage instructor, that riding without stirrups can actually be counter productive. The stirrups are meant to support your leg.
So you can release and sit deep.



I'd like to read that article and know the context in which a statement like that was used. True, it can be counter productive, but in the case of someone who has been riding with shortened stirrups and doing a lot of two point work, the correct work without stirrups (I agree a lunge line is optimal, but it's not always practical for people to do frequently) is VERY beneficial. Actually, most of the time it is beneficial and necessary.

AnotherRound
Dec. 31, 2007, 11:02 AM
ask slc - she just did/built/had/trained/rode that. She knows everthing, and the most famous people! She'll tell you how, fer sher.

Velvet
Dec. 31, 2007, 11:07 AM
[QUOTE=AnotherRound;2902560]She knows everthing, and the most famous people! QUOTE]


:lol: She always has, and always will--at least in her reality. ;) :lol:

Petstorejunkie
Dec. 31, 2007, 11:15 AM
If you havent read Sally Swift's Centered Riding yet, i suggest you do so. She has fantastic visuals to work with. Better yet if you can find a centered riding instructor!
What really helped me is if i found that i felt off, lots and lots of breathing, like goofy pregnant lady deep breathing. Remember your stirrup is there to just hold your toe up, that's it in the beggining. Equal weight in your feet as your seat, and stretch tall upward and you will grow deeper.

pintopiaffe
Dec. 31, 2007, 11:20 AM
Velvet's post was really excellent.

I would only add one caveat, which seems obvious to some folks, but not to others.

Make sure you are truly allowing your weight onto your SEAT on your horse's back.

Don't hover. Don't try to 'take some weight off.' Both very strong/fit riders and heavier riders tend to try to hover, rather than truly allow their weight to rest on their seat.

It took me about 30 years to figure out that I was hovering, and another year or so to let it go and SIT. :yes:

Velvet
Dec. 31, 2007, 11:30 AM
Absolutely true! Good point, pinto. :D

Equibrit
Dec. 31, 2007, 11:42 AM
Go find a four board fence and climb up to the top board. Sit on it. Then remove all other body parts (from the fence!) except your butt and sit up STRAIGHT and balance. That is how it should feel when you are riding!

Ibex
Dec. 31, 2007, 11:50 AM
I have to second the lunge lessons!!

CatOnLap
Dec. 31, 2007, 11:52 AM
Then remove all other body parts except your butt
I really want to see the youtube video of people doing this! :winkgrin:

AnotherRound
Dec. 31, 2007, 12:01 PM
Me too. I can just see all the butts sitting on the fence.
By the way,is that sitting on the fence astride (ouch) or sidesaddle? Cause, honestly, if its sideways, that isn't areally a good deomonstration, because it demonstrates finding your balance with your legs in front of you chair seat. You really need to learn how to bring your legs under your hips. Centered riding is the key to finding this seat.

Equibrit
Dec. 31, 2007, 12:06 PM
I think you'll find that is not so, if you try it! (both legs on the same side of the fence.)

AnotherRound
Dec. 31, 2007, 12:07 PM
OK, I'll try it!

CatOnLap
Dec. 31, 2007, 12:17 PM
video it for me!
you can put that old Eagles song as background music.

Desparado, you better come to your senses
You've been out riding fences
for so long now...


PS: I tried it. I fell off the fence. My horse laughed.

egontoast
Dec. 31, 2007, 12:20 PM
YOWCH. Both legs on same side of fence? NOw you tell me!:cry::cool:

~Freedom~
Dec. 31, 2007, 12:37 PM
ask slc - she just did/built/had/trained/rode that. She knows everthing, and the most famous people! She'll tell you how, fer sher.

I can hardly wait.

petitefilly
Dec. 31, 2007, 12:39 PM
I'm hoping the fence has VERY wide boards!!!!!

Ouch!

To the Poster: Try relaxing in the seat. AS a hunter rider you wanted to stay more in a two point, off your crotch type of seat with the leg pinched at the knee to stay on. You now have to have your knee loose and elastic. It is no longer a pivot point, it must move with the horse, for a time you will want some actual space off the saddle for your knee so you can feel your seat bones drop into the saddle. I do a lot of exercises with the leg by rotating the leg inward, or outward to ease the hip joint which is probably tight on your body. The hip opens, the knee drops, the leg loosens, and the seat becomes deeper.

Practice on a high stool, the fence seems more ouch than it's worth. :):):):):):)

Good luck to you.

Velvet
Dec. 31, 2007, 12:40 PM
YOWCH. Both legs on same side of fence? NOw you tell me!:cry::cool:

For some reason I doubt you would really try this one, eggie. I think that you and I, unlike others out here who have been hit with suzy's frying pan a few too many times, know that riding is the best way to find your balance. Not sitting on a fence. ;)

ottblove
Dec. 31, 2007, 12:55 PM
Thanks for the wonderful descriptions Velvet!

Just wanted to add a few things...


Make sure you are truly allowing your weight onto your SEAT on your horse's back.

Don't hover. Don't try to 'take some weight off.' Both very strong/fit riders and heavier riders tend to try to hover, rather than truly allow their weight to rest on their seat.

I do think I'm allowing my weight to sit, but think that then I tend to let my legs slide forward into a chair seat. I think I struggle finding that balance between riding off the crotch with my weight down into my heels and sitting down but letting weight go into my legs as well.


To the Poster: Try relaxing in the seat. AS a hunter rider you wanted to stay more in a two point, off your crotch type of seat with the leg pinched at the knee to stay on. You now have to have your knee loose and elastic. It is no longer a pivot point, it must move with the horse, for a time you will want some actual space off the saddle for your knee so you can feel your seat bones drop into the saddle. I do a lot of exercises with the leg by rotating the leg inward, or outward to ease the hip joint which is probably tight on your body. The hip opens, the knee drops, the leg loosens, and the seat becomes deeper.

I'm way beyond a two-point and pinching with my knees, it's really finding the balance I describe above.

As Velvet mentioned, I do use my thighs a LOT and need to learn to relax them and sink down. I also noticed that the longer stirrups make me uncomfortable. I try to reach for them or end up going back to using my thighs and have no weight in the stirrups at all.

If I work on the longe without stirrups, is it OK to grab the pommel to pull myself in or is that counter-productive?

Thanks for all the help!

lstevenson
Dec. 31, 2007, 01:11 PM
If I work on the longe without stirrups, is it OK to grab the pommel to pull myself in or is that counter-productive?



Yes, this is a great way to 'find' your seat.

BTW Eventing dressage is NOT different than pure dressage.

Velvet
Dec. 31, 2007, 01:13 PM
If you are on the longe, always keep on hand on the pommel at all times. With that said, it's okay to reposition yourself and open your hips more by using your hand on a quick adjustment, but be careful not to use it to hold you pressed into the saddle. You really need to find your balance point. And as pinto said, you need to relax your buttocks. (The confusing thing is that later you'll add a bit of butt muscle back in, but you need to learn to sit deeply for now--not HEAVY.)

UT
Dec. 31, 2007, 03:45 PM
i went from hunt seat to dressage in 1991. I definitely agree that Centered Riding technics help. I also recommend strongly Eckert Myers and the balimo chair. It is switching from holding on with the adductor muscles, to riding more with the "core" abdominal muscles. It takes time.

egontoast
Dec. 31, 2007, 04:33 PM
Nothing beats lunge lessons from someone who knows how to teach this.

Hard to come by, though, because it requires both the good trainer and the right horse that someone is willing to use for this. Most of the appropriate horses with the good gaits should not be subjected to lunge lessons.

Brady'smom
Dec. 31, 2007, 05:31 PM
Go find a four board fence and climb up to the top board. Sit on it. Then remove all other body parts (from the fence!) except your butt and sit up STRAIGHT and balance. That is how it should feel when you are riding!

How wide's the top board??

goeslikestink
Dec. 31, 2007, 06:23 PM
Go find a four board fence and climb up to the top board. Sit on it. Then remove all other body parts (from the fence!) except your butt and sit up STRAIGHT and balance. That is how it should feel when you are riding!

haha i was going say somthing simular - like ride from your arse
haha

Equibrit
Dec. 31, 2007, 09:12 PM
How wide's the top board??

Regular fence board - isn't that 7/8" ?

slc2
Jan. 1, 2008, 06:31 AM
developing a dressage seat - i think there is no one single thing that does it - longeing without stirrups, riding without stirrups, riding with one stirrup, riding with both stirrups and no reins, exercises in the saddle, exercises while not riding, exercises off the horse that develop core and leg strength and suppleness, a stretching routine, something that develops basic aerobic fitness....

i also think a person can go along and do all of this and not see progress - someone to guide them in how to do exercises in the saddle correctly, when to not drop the stirrups (especially initially it can be very counter productive), even making the stirrups too long and trying to reach for them can help, but like any exercise that can backfire if done at the wrong time or done without thinking thru what is to be accomplished by it.

some people ride w/out stirrups and then can't keep their leg correct with stirrups, some of these people pull their knees up and tense their leg to hang on (riding defensively, or 'clutching') so that riding w/out stirrups actually causes problems that are very hard to fix.

i think being relaxed is a big part of it, and allowing oneself to flop around and just try to follow the motions initially...then there comes a point where that's counter productive too and it's time to firm up the position.

the horse one rides is really crucial. a big mover can cause a lot of 'clutching' and position errors - some people get very, very crooked when riding a horse that simply has inappropriate gaits for where they are at. the smallest mover possible for a very long time tends to actually produce better results in most people. if a person feels overwhelmed and overfaced at every step they are going to develop bad habits. some horses are just jarring and lack suppleness, and some of these are jarring no matter how skilled the rider is, but a person learning position can't possibly be expected to train and improve the horse's way of going at the same time - so the horse chosen is really important. some smaller movers are actually very unsupple and jarring, it's hard to find an appropriate horse to learn on.

bottom line is just a lot of checking the position in the mirror and lots of instruction by someone who spots mistakes. everyone is uneven in some way and everyone has to work on it - indefinitely.

ButterflyIris
Jan. 1, 2008, 10:52 AM
I had a dressage lunge lesson yesterday on my draftieX beast. We haven't been doing dressage for very long. Mainly hunt seat.
My big revelation was that I found out that I can bring him from a trot to a walk just using my seat!
It really blew my mind.
I hope to do lunge lessons maybe once a month or so. We worked on the lunge for about 1/2 hour and then canter transitions off the lunge for about 15 min.
I can't believe how much there is to learn :-)
Sorry I can't give advice about finding your seat EXCEPT to say that I have found personal success with balance in riding bareback. But, my horse is round and comfy like a Lazy-Boy, so no worries about sharp withers.

ride-n-tx
Jan. 1, 2008, 11:36 AM
To the OP I totally know what you are going through! I also started out as a hunter/jumper rider and it took me quite a while to be able to do a decent sitting trot. and i know what you mean about work without stirrups. my jumping trainers used to make me ride without stirrups and post all the time, so that did not help me relax my thighs. in fact, it was quite the opposite!

one thing that helped me was understanding hip angle. just to clarify, when you look at a horse and rider from the side the hip angle is the angle that the rider's leg makes with their torso. as a hunter your stirrups are short so your knees are more bent and you have a small hip angle. that is what i had to fight when i switched to dressage. whenever my thighs would grip my knees would bend and i would gradually draw my legs up into that smaller hip angle. this would cause me to constantly lose my stirrups and have trouble getting my weight into them.

to deal with this i had to learn how to keep my torso straight and my legs long with an open hip angle. you have to keep your spine straight by using your core stomach muscles to support. don't let your back curve in or slump out. when i first got on the horse i would stand up in the stirrups and let my weight settle down into them to get the feel. having mirrors in the arena helped a bunch! it takes a lot of core strength to maintain your position, and your body has to remain a unit (if that makes any sense ;) ). your legs should have a firm connection with your back so that your whole body can move with the horse (i think hunter/jumper riders grip so much with their legs that they prevent this from happening). i would definitely try to take advantage of lunge lessons if you can.

it's sort of a catch-22 because it is harder to maintain a good position if your horse isn't balanced, but it is hard to balance the horse if you do not have a good position!

Try not to get frustrated, and good luck!

Equibrit
Jan. 1, 2008, 04:45 PM
Hey AR!

How did that fence sitting go?

merrygoround
Jan. 1, 2008, 08:06 PM
Go find a four board fence and climb up to the top board. Sit on it. Then remove all other body parts (from the fence!) except your butt and sit up STRAIGHT and balance. That is how it should feel when you are riding!

Ouch! Thud! Just fell off the fence. :lol: :lol: :lol:

merrygoround
Jan. 1, 2008, 08:11 PM
Seriously though, get yourself some longe lessons on a schoolmaster. A horse on which you can learn to do your transitions with just your body, a horse you can spiral in and out with just your legs and seat. And don't let them make you keep your toes up, that's what stirrups are for. Forcing your toes up without stirrups only succeeds in stiffening your ankles. You don't want any part of you stiff(except after riding:) :))

Equibrit
Jan. 1, 2008, 09:42 PM
If you can't balance on your seat bones on a static fence - how are you going to do it on a undulating "board"? Forget trying to making the horse "do" anything. If you can't balance it's pretty pointless.

AnotherRound
Jan. 2, 2008, 12:38 PM
developing a dressage seat - i think there is no one single thing that does it - longeing without stirrups, riding without stirrups, riding with one stirrup, riding with both stirrups and no reins, exercises in the saddle, exercises while not riding, exercises off the horse that develop core and leg strength and suppleness, a stretching routine, something that develops basic aerobic fitness....


Jeessssus, Louise-us, Slick! How shaming can you get! These are things folks do to improve. You're making fun of the kinds of work people put into their riding. You're scoffing, so I can ASSume you aint' working on your own seat none. Nothing like marginalizing techniques of trainers and hard working folks across the country. Feel better for it? Your disdain for other riders and absolute confidence in your own superiority is laughable, even to those of us who've heard this from you before.

Go sit on a tack.

A Horse of Course
Jan. 2, 2008, 12:57 PM
Ok, I can get annoyed with know-it-alls as much as the next person. But constantly berating someone isn't any more attractive.

But on another point, I think your comprehension of that post is incorrect in the first place.

LarissaL
Jan. 2, 2008, 05:09 PM
Agreed. Tenfold. Grow up, get on with life, and hire a tutor for reading comprehension. Very useful stuff.

slc2
Jan. 2, 2008, 05:49 PM
the post i wrote said i feel no one thing alone develops the dressage rider's seat - all the exercises i listed, i think together help to really develop a rider's position and seat.

it's often said riding without stirrups alone does it, i don't agree with that entirely, despite being a really useful thing i have spent a lot of time doing, however, unless it's mixed with other things and done very well, then one finds people can't ride with the stirrups, and that's a problem that many people have posted here and said they now can't ride with stirrups (so without stirrups there may be some clutching or riding defensively). i think the person's program has to be designed to avoid that pitfall.

i think every rider who wants to be good is always working on improving their seat in many different ways. i think it's a constant and a lifelong process that never stops. anyone can always be better. many people admired reiner klimke simply because he would cross his stirrups and warm up at a big show without them. i thought he was an inspiration that encouraged lower level riders to really work and constantly improve.

Mozart
Jan. 2, 2008, 05:57 PM
It is clear, AnotherRound, that there are certain posters here that can really push your buttons. Sometimes I agree with them. Sometimes they push my buttons too. Learning to sit on your hands can be a useful skill. It is starting to look personal and that is just tiresome.

InsideLeg2OutsideRein
Jan. 2, 2008, 06:45 PM
at least for me, and it took a combo of the right trainer and right horse to let *me* learn on and "get it". I did many if not all of the things the above posters recommend and they all help, but there's not telling what will actually do the trick for you. Last week I had a lesson with an int. judge and she said one starts with the core and seat and does not worry about the legs bouncing or hands at first. Once the core is moving correctly, one can learn to quiet the legs etc.