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how do you find your 'dressage seat'

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  • how do you find your 'dressage seat'

    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?

  • #2
    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. )
    Last edited by Velvet; Dec. 31, 2007, 11:29 AM. Reason: Typos--I'm sure I missed some, but I cleaned up a few.
    "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

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    • #3
      Ahaaa

      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.
      Last edited by kansasgal; Dec. 31, 2007, 05:06 PM.
      What's the scoop?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by kansasgal View Post
        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.
        "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

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        • #5
          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.
          Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.

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          • #6
            [QUOTE=AnotherRound;2902560]She knows everthing, and the most famous people! QUOTE]


            She always has, and always will--at least in her reality.
            "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

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            • #7
              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.
              www.destinationconsensusequus.com
              chaque pas est fait ensemble

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              • #8
                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.
                InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)

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                • #9
                  Absolutely true! Good point, pinto.
                  "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    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!
                    Last edited by Equibrit; Dec. 31, 2007, 12:06 PM.
                    ... _. ._ .._. .._

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                    • #11
                      I have to second the lunge lessons!!
                      "Adulthood? You're playing with ponies. That is, like, every 9 year old girl's dream. Adulthood?? You're rocking the HELL out of grade 6, girl."

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
                        Then remove all other body parts except your butt
                        I really want to see the youtube video of people doing this!
                        "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          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.
                          Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I think you'll find that is not so, if you try it! (both legs on the same side of the fence.)
                            ... _. ._ .._. .._

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                            • #15
                              OK, I'll try it!
                              Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                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.
                                "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  pass the monkey butt powder

                                  YOWCH. Both legs on same side of fence? NOw you tell me!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by AnotherRound View Post
                                    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.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      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.
                                      ~Equine Jewelry~
                                      Used Saddles For Sale
                                      www.divadesigns.biz

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by egontoast View Post
                                        YOWCH. Both legs on same side of fence? NOw you tell me!
                                        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.
                                        "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

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