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Keeping yourself "back"...

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  • Keeping yourself "back"...

    Ok, so I am truly a hunter/jumper rider, but I am beginning to learn about dressage. I have always wanted to take some dressage lessons, but being a broke college student, I could never afford it. Now I am riding a horse for a boarder at the barn who is coming off of a knee injury.

    The horse is a morgan, used to do saddle seat, so he is truly a very different ride for me, and I have to sit waaay back on him. The woman who owns him spent a year as a working student with Lendon Grey, became a certified instructor, and is basically teaching me to ride dressage, but im working with her horse at the same time.

    So my question is, being a hunter rider im not used to sitting "so far back", and I have trouble keeping myself there because its a little different feeling. Any advice on helping me keep the position?

    otherwise im excited to be learning about dressage, because it will only make me a better rider!

    *We tolerate behaviors in human beings that would horrify us if we saw them in a horse.*
    R.I.P El Salvador*

  • #2
    It's funny, because as a dressage rider, you don't sit 'back', you sit upright, tall and centered. When I first made the transition from HJ to eventing I had to get to where I felt too far back. My trainer always said as soon as I felt like I had put my shoulders too far behind me, I was finally vertical. Working on the lunge and stretching myself all the way back-laying on the haunches-then coming to vertical helped alot. I found that for several months I had to feel like I was way behind the motion. It took at least a year before my new position was truly comfortable. I still (many years later) find that I get forward-almost a half seat-when I post the trot. Because of this I only post the trot in warm-up. Once I'm working, I do all my trot work sitting. I'm the only one at dressage shows warming up on a long rein in a half seat! Old habits!!!
    Don't toy with the dragon, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!


    • #3
      Our perception of our body position is relative. So at this point I think your best bet is to have lots of feedback from the ground so you can start feeling when it's right and build correct muscle memory. Also, any exersizes that build core strength and open up your chest/shoulders, and dancing with a partner (salsa or something) get you in the correct position too.
      "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht


      • #4
        Time to free the hips. What puts your upward body forward or back is your hip angle. In a forward seat, you are in a posterior pelvic tilt. That means your pubic bone is tipped down, and your seat bones are pointed backward. In a dressage seat, your pubic bone is tipped up, and your seatbones are pointed straight down. To achieve this neutral pelvis, you might try an anterior pelvic tilt to over compensate in the beginning. Grab the pommel of the saddle, pull your seat bones toward the front of the saddle, and leave your shoulders behind. In the words of Leslie Burr Howard, pull your seatbones under his withers. When you feel the connection, stack your spine up straight over your tailbone. It might take awhile to "earn vertical."
        Kathy Johnson


        • #5
          I have the same problem. Its taken a lot of work because I'm dealing with my horse also but I'm starting to get it at moments (so my trainer says ) I just have to feel that I'm sitting way way back and then I've got it. The problem I'm having most is keeping my legs so far back though.
          Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


          • #6
            I am also a H/J convert...

            The thing that made a difference for me was commiting to changing my posture everywhere I could, so that upright/tall/centred became my natural position both on/off the horse.

            During my commute, I adjusted my carseat to "upright" and always sit in that position while driving, core muscles engaged, with my head against headrest (which is apparently safer in any case), upper arm hanging loosely at sides, hands low on steering wheel so my whole upper body is in a riding type position,

            On airplanes during business travel, unless I am sleeping, I force myself to sit with perfect posture

            At desk..same thing (I am not perfect 8 hours a day... but I try to be!)

            On cardio machines at the gym, no slouching over the handrests - I look in the mirror, and try to hold my core exactly how I want it to look on the horse during my entire cardio period. I even have added in my arm/hand positions - one of the machines has the handrests in a position very similar to where I would hold my reins - I practice having perfect upper body "equitation" while I exercise

            This is obviously not going to fix *everything* (and people around me may think I look like a freak) but I never slouch forward anymore. I still have to work on fine details - shoulders down/relaxed for example - but I am confident I can make progress on this off of the horse as well.

            I have also commited to keeping my toes pointing forward and aligned with my knees during all of these activities, since I tend to have airplane toes. It is helping too. Sit at desk with perfect posture, toes/knees aligned, feel even pressure on both seatbones..

            It may sound silly, but as an AA who only gets to spend too few hours per week on the horse, it seems to be a compromise that is working for me. At very least, it is improving my body awareness.


            • Original Poster

              Originally posted by rabicon View Post
              The problem I'm having most is keeping my legs so far back though.
              Yea I had that problem yesterday, although I am going to lengthen my stirrup and im hoping that will help.
              *We tolerate behaviors in human beings that would horrify us if we saw them in a horse.*
              R.I.P El Salvador*


              • #8
                The right saddle made it all that much easier... amazingly so.
                Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                • #9
                  my main issue is that my neck hurts when i'm vertical.....old injury....


                  • #10
                    Wow, I am currently in LOVE with a little morgan mare...

                    that I recently started taking lessons on. I have been a horseless rider for most of my life, so have ridden lots of different horses and taken lots of lessons, mostly in huntseat, and maybe 24 months, altogether, spead out over the years, in dressage. And I have to go to where there are lesson horses, or lease horses.....

                    So now I'm at mostly morgan barn, and all 3 school horses are morgan. My instructor has a lot of experience with morgan hunter pleasure, and is an equitation fanatic, but not a dressage instructor. While she isn't formally trained in dressage, her approach is pretty classical, so it's been going very well.

                    I have quickly become a morgan fan.
                    This morgan mare is the most willing to please, forward, but not hot or spooky, tuned into seat horse that I've ever had the opportunity to ride. Up till today, I have been riding her in my instructor's Duett all purpose saddle. But this little mare just BEGS me to sit straight.
                    And I know it will be easier to do in a dressage saddle. So I have decided to try my best to find one that fits both of us. Anyway, I've got a Duett Encore dressage saddle on trial, and put it on her today. Wow, what a difference. While before I felt pretty balanced
                    in the all purpose saddle, in the dressage saddle, that straight up and down position is effortless.

                    So I'm jealous of you that you have access to a morgan AND an instructor. Bonus that she's worked with Lendon Gray, who wrote one of my favorite books, " Lessons With Lendon". I would suggest that you try this horse in his regular dressage saddle. Hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised. The classical position, as others have said, isn't "back", it should feel as if you're standing on the ground. Your hip angle will be more open than you're used to in huntseat, but it shouldn't feel tight or uncomfortable. Sometimes it helps me to "think western". "Tall upper body, long lower body"......

                    Also, one additional note. If you're using your own saddle on this horse, make sure it fits.
                    Many morgans are wide beyond the standard wide tree.....

                    Hope this helps.

                    And above all, hope you have fun, and don't be intimidated, or discouraged. The transition for me took quite a bit of time, but now I feel I can switch back and forth pretty easily, and I think my huntseat riding is a lot more fluid.

                    Good luck and have fun.
                    What's the scoop?


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                      The right saddle made it all that much easier... amazingly so.
                      Big ditto to that.

                      While you will still have to work on the muscle memory and strength, the correct saddle will help balance you where you need to be.

                      I'm a h/j converting into dressage also. I have to be very conscious to my position. I ask for the canter and instantly go into half seat which almost face plants me in a dressage saddle. Relax your hips, open your hip angle, bring your shoulders back. Think of it one thing at a time while you are still adjusting. I'll usually do have a lap around the indoor, then trot, and then ask again, each transition concentrating on where I need to be when I am asking for it and once my horse canters. The best thing is to have someone on the ground who can be picky about what you are doing and make sure to correct you. Only perfect practice makes perfect.

                      [Paint It Black - "Kiddo"]


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks for all the input!

                        I rode the horse again today and I did much better with sitting back/up. I am just trying to think open hips, butt pressing down and sit so far back that it feels funny (to me-the hunter rider ).

                        We are just working at the walk right now, as the horse himself needs work. He needs to learn that his rider isnt going to hurt him, and that the bit isnt either. His previous owner was afraid of him and had him in a 3inch curb!

                        Anyways, Im excited and our ride was even better today than it was yesterday!
                        *We tolerate behaviors in human beings that would horrify us if we saw them in a horse.*
                        R.I.P El Salvador*


                        • #13
                          Some good advice here. It is funny how what we think we are doing is not what we are really doing (i.e. leaning back vs sitting up straight). As convert from h/j, I would think I was leaning way back, my trainer would say "look in the mirror as you go past" and lo and behold....I was just sitting up straight!
                          The mirror is a useful reality check!