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Canter Position - Conflicting Information

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  • Canter Position - Conflicting Information

    I've received/heard conflicting information regarding the rider's position in the canter from BNTs and I've seen conflicting positions that is causing my head to spin from confusion of what is suppose to be correct.

    If I had to describe these positions, I would put them into one of three categories:

    1) Leaning forward (aka: slight closing of the hip angle)
    2) In the middle
    3) Leaning back (aka: opening of the hip angle)

    Mary Wanless' video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ise87B1eA9g) talks about position #1 and #3. I believe she is saying that many riders lean back (position #3) which I have seen a BNT do while watching her ride several times; if I had to quantify it for visual purposes, I would stay it has been anywhere from 15* to 30* behind). But, when the horse is in the "up" phase of the canter, she is sitting up straight.
    And it sounds like Mary is advocating for a slight closure of the hip angle (position #1).

    There is a UL rider that I follow on instagram because I love her position. She looks so light, relax, and elegant. When she rides, it looks like her upper body is always straight, shoulders back, back flat (not rounded or hollowed). I was able o find a youtube video of her riding and slow it down to really watch and it looks like she "leans back" and "leans forward", but it is such a small degree in each direction that neither looks exaggerated while in movement. So she doesn't look like she is leaning back or leaning forward.

    But, what I noticed about her overall position is that her seat "sweeps" the saddle in the canter a bit more than the BNT w/ position #3. The BNT seat tends to stay in contact with the saddle more.

    So here is where my confusion comes from.
    I hear from trainers that you should keep your seat in the saddle.
    But that you shouldn't lean forward when the horse is in the down phase of the canter.
    But how is leaning so far back in the down phase better or ideal?

    Paraphrase from Scribbler: This question is coming from a spectator's point of view, why do people at the top of the game end up riding in ways that look wrong when ammies and beginners do it?
    Last edited by mydogs; May. 15, 2019, 09:09 AM.

  • #2
    DOn't lean forward, it puts the horse even more on the forehand.
    As he becomes more balanced at the canter, the up-down ossilation of his withers will change to an up-level ossilation.
    SIt up straight but not forced. Yo may feel as if you are leaning back when the horse is in the down phase but I'll bet you are still at right angles to the ground. You may feel as if you are leaning back as you give a half halt by tightening your back and shoulder blades, or to MOMENTARILY push him forward BUT that is best done with hip action not leaning shoulders back -
    When you first start sitting up it may feel as if you are leaning back. you probably aren't.
    "Sweeping" the saddle may push him forward, or keep him the same - depends on the strength of the action. "Stilling" that sweep (with closing legs to keep the canter) will collect him.

    Try riding without stirrups. It will help.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Without obviously asking the BNT, why do some riders lean so far back in the canter that most of their upper body is behind the cantle?

      If we aren't suppose to close the hip angle/lean forward, why would Mary Wanless demonstrate that?

      Comment


      • #4
        I am to sit straight up (and this is consistent with what clinicians have largely instructed). I try to let my hips absorb the motion, but any motion that is not absorbed may tilt me a tiny bit back momentarily.

        Can you share the name of the instagram account? I would like to follow it.

        Comment


        • #5
          Probably depends on the canter stride of the horse too. Watch the riders in an extended canter vs collected.

          Comment


          • #6
            The ideal is sitting up dead center with your leg under you. Yes, some current high level competitors lean back over the cantle. It's not correct and I wouldn't want a beginner to emulate this. However dressage is not judged on equitation and if the riders position is effective to get a good performance from the horse then they would not be penalized for this habit.

            Riders also lean way back in the extended trot. I've always assumed to try to ride the huge almost unrideable trots of the top horses.

            IME horses get rougher at the canter when they are on the forehand. It would be interesting to look at the riders who lean way back and at their horses hind legs and see if they are engaged or not.

            As far as leaning forward, jumpers can ride full seat upright, slightly forward or two point. It doesn't throw the horse on the forehand necessarily to ride forward seat though full seat is more effective to collect.

            My guess is that many top dressage horses doing their biggest gaits are up at the extreme end of what even a pro can ride correctly, especially sitting the extended trot. And so I wouldn't be surprised to see a top competitor who can ride a lesser horse perfectly correctly, having to improvise and compromise a bit on position to effectively ride a horse with big gaits.

            Some top jumpers have eccentricities over fences you wouldn't want your intermediate students copying either.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
              My guess is that many top dressage horses doing their biggest gaits are up at the extreme end of what even a pro can ride correctly, especially sitting the extended trot. And so I wouldn't be surprised to see a top competitor who can ride a lesser horse perfectly correctly, having to improvise and compromise a bit on position to effectively ride a horse with big gaits.

              Some top jumpers have eccentricities over fences you wouldn't want your intermediate students copying either.
              That makes sense and helps to put things into perspective. Help lift the confusion a bit. Thanks!

              Comment


              • #8
                It depends on your frame of reference. Are you talking about being forward as relative to the horizontal, or relative to the horse's back? IMHO, if the horse's withers are coming up, your knees are coming up slightly and you close your hips slightly but you are still perpendicular to the horizon. Ideally, that is! Leaning back pushes the horse on the forehand, and unless you are very very strong, your lower legs slide forward and you are in a chair seat.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I do see photos and video of very strong Grand Prix riders keeping their legs correctly under them but leaning back over the cantle with a rounded upper back if that makes sense. So their head and shoulders are upright.

                  I agree most of us would be in chair seat if we tried that, but they aren't.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    One other thing to add...I just got a new custom dressage saddle and noticed a difference in the canter immediately. The proper placement of my leg results in my upper body defaulting to a very upright position...it is not longer something I am struggling to maintain, but rather just the position that the sweet spot of a saddle fitted perfectly to me and my horse places me in. In short...I think saddle is Chapter 2 of this discussion.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by evilc123 View Post
                      One other thing to add...I just got a new custom dressage saddle and noticed a difference in the canter immediately. The proper placement of my leg results in my upper body defaulting to a very upright position...it is not longer something I am struggling to maintain, but rather just the position that the sweet spot of a saddle fitted perfectly to me and my horse places me in. In short...I think saddle is Chapter 2 of this discussion.
                      Though my guess is the top riders have saddle fit figured out.

                      I was reading this question as one from a sports spectators point of view. Why do people at the top of the game end up riding in ways that look wrong when ammies and beginners do it?

                      However, if there is an element of a personal question here, if OP is asking because their trainer wants them to sit up straight but they can't, and wonder why they have to if Olympic contenders don't always?

                      In that case I would say check saddle fit for sure, you and the horse!

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                        However, if there is an element of a personal question here, if OP is asking because their trainer wants them to sit up straight but they can't, and wonder why they have to if Olympic contenders don't always?
                        I'm actually horseless right now, so I'm not riding or taking lessons

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by mydogs View Post

                          I'm actually horseless right now, so I'm not riding or taking lessons
                          Yes, that's how I read your question!

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

                            Yes, that's how I read your question!
                            Which was perfect! lol

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Sorry both...I didn't know the answer to the *real* question (reiterated nicely by Scribbler ), but still had a few peripheral thoughts to share. Feel free to disregard if the posts aren't really relevant. Part of me subconsciously likens the tilted back rider position to the over-dramatized frames and movements of ULDHs you see these days. I don't have UL goals, so I tend to ignore the over-exaggerated horse and rider positions/movements and focus on what I have been taught is correct. Still following the thread, because it is an interesting topic!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                There's a similar thing in Hunters where riders exaggerate their two point and lie on the horse's neck. And sometimes their legs slip way back. I believe it's supposed to make the horses look more scopey. Again, wins ribbons but not how you want to learn to jump.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by mydogs View Post

                                  I'm actually horseless right now, so I'm not riding or taking lessons
                                  I would have suggested that you get off the computer and take lessons to have a real feel of what is needed and should be done at your level, with your horse.

                                  BNT and Pro riders do what is needed to get whatever they are aiming to.

                                  You can also not compare what is being said in a book that talks about general canter position and what goes on during a test. Sometimes, riders do cheat in the corners!

                                  What you get to see are also mostly moments in time, and since riders are not robots, neither are horses, their position can be off balance at times.

                                  Also, you don’t close your hip angle; you have to let the horse do so.

                                  Half seat, and a more forward position, is good with youngster or in warm up, to allow the back to go through smoothly.

                                  Sitting and driving more with a deeper seat might be necessary at times. It’s a more agressive position.

                                  Core strength is also common for younger riders (or new to), so they will get behind the vertical in order to use their seat properly and get the horse to engage.
                                  It is quite normal.

                                  Riding a little more forward in a position that is slightly over the withers can be useful in the changes, in pirouettes, and piaffe, so the horse don’t just climb up.

                                  Despite whatever it is said that should be ideal, it really depends on the horse and the rider.
                                  There is no « one position ».

                                  Same goes for cues in general. How does one ask for the canter cue?
                                  ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                                  Originally posted by LauraKY
                                  I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                                  HORSING mobile training app

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    There had been a lot of wisdom so far. My thought, and big generalisation, is that it can depend on the mindset of the rider. IF they are used to going forward, such as cross country, they tend to have a more balanced posture in a canter. If they are used to only riding in an arena on a big moving WB, I think riders are inclined to lean back, or at least hold themselves more defensively. It is instructive to watch and compare 'pure' dressage and eventing dressage.
                                    "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Willesdon -Unfortunately many event riders do what ever they need to do, to get the job done, their equitation devolves into a bit of what DQ would call cheating to get results. Top riders usually have figured out the benefit of riding correctly.

                                      At the canter the rider should be sitting in shoulder hip heel alignment. The seat should be in the saddle. At strike off the riders hips lift upward. Their upper body stays put. Every stride of the canter is a repeat of the strike off. The more relaxed and swinging the back of the horse is the easier the canter is to ride, and follow with the seat.

                                      Look at the best when you watch video.Forget the rest.
                                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        As a former H/J rider (25 years), this has been one of the hardest things about switching to dressage! (along with maintaining the correct connection.) My trainer tells me to try to touch my horse's tail with the back of my head. Obviously that's an exaggeration and not what we are really trying to achieve, but I'm so far the opposite direction there is no real danger of that! Case in point:
                                        Click image for larger version

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                                        http://trainingcupid.blogspot.com/

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