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Balanced Seat - New to Dressage

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  • Balanced Seat - New to Dressage

    And perhaps I am confused about the point of dressage...I love the challenge of riding anxious, uptight horses and getting them to relax and carry themselves with as little tension as possible. I was taught the forward seat and still find it to be the best seat for working with an uptight horse although I'll admit it may just be because I have 20 years experience riding hunt seat and only 2 years attempting to develop a balanced seat.

    In classical dressage you use a balanced seat to ideally get the horse to thrust his hindquarters under him and elevate the forehand. But if the horse's head is raised, how can he raise his back/ribcage? And how does digging your seatbones into his back and putting the bulk of your weight towards the center of his back which has less weight-bearing support from his front/hindquarters going to help? I can attest that the rider is most secure in this position but is this really best for the horse? Horses are not designed to carry our weight either way, but wouldn't it better to shift it slightly forward to the shoulder which is designed to carry weight? And what's wrong with riding with a shorter stirrup and closing your hip angle which essentially helps absorb the shock of your weight (through your knees) and keeps it off the horse's back- wouldnt this be best for getting a horse to raise it's back and stretch through its topline?

    I guess my bigger question is, in upper level dressage you are asking for movements that require an extreme amount of tension on the part of the horse (a horse at play is tense...so is a spooked horse doing a passage of his own free will). But if I don't want my horse to be tense, shouldnt I be riding with a seat that encourages the horse to stretch its head down (RELAXED) and raise its back up? And wouldn't this be the lightest seat possible?

  • #2
    Originally posted by SpotznStripes View Post
    ...I love the challenge of riding anxious, uptight horses and getting them to relax and carry themselves with as little tension as possible.
    Then here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTIyzybTYP0

    Comment


    • #3
      in short (because I don't have alot of time ATM to answer all those questions) you haven't gone down the rabbit hole yet, you haven't taken the red or blue pill yet.
      you may never really go down that dressage tunnel, but when you do, all your answers will be revealed, and you will have been awakened.
      www.destinationconsensusequus.com
      chaque pas est fait ensemble

      Comment


      • #4
        A dressage seat IS a balanced seat

        Originally posted by SpotznStripes View Post
        <SNIP> And how does digging your seatbones into his back and putting the bulk of your weight towards the center of his back which has less weight-bearing support from his front/hindquarters going to help?

        DON'T DO THAT You should be sitting balanced on your seatbones but NOT trying to drive them into your horse's belly button Your weight should be distributed on your seat knees and thighs

        <SNIP>

        And what's wrong with riding with a shorter stirrup and closing your hip angle which essentially helps absorb the shock of your weight (through your knees) and keeps it off the horse's back- wouldnt this be best for getting a horse to raise it's back and stretch through its topline?

        Many people think that if they lenghten their stirrups as long as possible and stretch their legs down as far as they can go (usually hollowing their back and often tipping onto their crotch) they are "riding dressage" Google some of the tup riders and you can see they have shorter stirrup leather than you might think. Here's one to start with
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgYsghdSARc

        Even though I had an absolutely HORRIBLE experience in MAry Wanless clinics I have found her books are good. Try Ride with your Mind Essentials


        I guess my bigger question is, in upper level dressage you are asking for movements that require an extreme amount of tension on the part of the horse (a horse at play is tense...so is a spooked horse doing a passage of his own free will). But if I don't want my horse to be tense, shouldnt I be riding with a seat that encourages the horse to stretch its head down (RELAXED) and raise its back up? And wouldn't this be the lightest seat possible?
        Ideally in a working gait the long axis of the horse's body is more or less parallel to the ground. In piaffe, passage and canter pirouettes (which I have never ridden, mind you, just observed) the horse flexes the joints of his hind legs more which tilts the axis of the horse's body so the head is raised. The back should be up, certainly not hollow, but it is the lowering of the rear that brings the front up
        I think you are equating nervous tension with athletic tension which is probably better described as tone or resilliance. A totally relaxed muscle or body can't move.
        Last edited by carolprudm; Jan. 24, 2011, 09:20 AM.
        I wasn't always a Smurf
        Penmerryl's Sophie RIDSH
        "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
        The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.

        Comment


        • #5
          If you have never truly devoted yourself to the art of dressage then you will have trouble understanding. There is not enough time in the world to explain all the nuances of dressage to you, plus they really have to be felt anyway. But did want to say, we are certainly not digging our seatbones into the horses back. And we are not lifting their heads. The dressage seat is a following seat that helps to direct the energy from the hind legs.

          You say you like riding in a half seat, but where does the energy from your leg go? In a half seat you must resort to your hands to direct the energy. I can use my back, stomach, and buttock muscles to direct my horse without ever even closing a fist. My horse has muscular tension when we do harder movements, but certainly not mental tension. Yes, some top horses do get tense in a test, but the venues these horses are being ridden in are truly electric. I doubt you have ridden in anything like that so it is pretty tough to judge them.

          And also, the horse's head comes up BECAUSE the croup lowers, the hind legs flex, and the back rounds. You have to look at the horse behind the saddle, not just obsess about headset. I could go on forever but unless you feel these things they won't make much sense to you. But if you do feel them (correctly) then you might just swallow that pill pestorejunkie was talking about, LOL!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by SpotznStripes View Post
            Horses are not designed to carry our weight either way, but wouldn't it better to shift it slightly forward to the shoulder which is designed to carry weight?
            Actually, the goal is to teach the horse to carry more of its weight on the hindquarters and lighten the forehand -- ultimately.

            Leaning onto the horse's shoulders doesn't help with this endeavor.

            Comment


            • #7
              I think a short answer to that is what my instructor constantly tells me:

              "She can't learn to carry herself until you learn to carry yourself."

              And that means that I have to learn to do everything through my core. And the dressage seat is, ideally, balanced over the center of the horse. If you're both in balance, then it's going to be easier to get the back up and the muscles working. But it takes lots and lots of time to develop that.

              So, yeah, a horse with a weaker back and hind end is going to prefer a posting trot at first, but as horse and rider gain strength, it's easier to communicate by sitting everything.

              Comment


              • #8
                Seems to me you may have been looking at the wrong example of what a dressage horse should look like while being influenced by the riders seat and aids in general. Hopefully the few examples of Steffan Peters provided by the previous posters will enlighten you. If not watch a few of the late Dr. Reiner Klemke"s videos and you will be inspired! Unfortunately, as in any discipline, there are good examples and bad examples. Your own journey will determine which one you will become If you adhere to the training scale and you and your horse have the talent you will see just how one principle builds on the other and that if you DON'T proceed on BEFORE your horse has confirmed ALL the requirements of the previous level, the soft, supple and relaxed horse that masters like Dr. Klemke and S Peters are obtainable! It's is a journey not too appealing to the hasty!
                "Success comes in cans, not in cannots!"

                Comment


                • #9
                  You seem to not be understanding the mechanics of how a dressage horse and rider move together. It's an amazing feeling and not forced or heavy as it seems to appear to you.

                  I hope that you will continue your dressage journey with an open mind. I think if/when you are so fortunate to feel everything click together between you and the horse, you will understand what everyone has posted here. I hope you have to opportunity to ride a well trained forgiving mount at least once so you can start to get an idea of what everyone is talking about.

                  I started out as a hunter rider, and I will never go back. I remember that first "AHA!" moment - I was doing shoulder-in and suddenly the horse started to move so effortlessly, like a ship's sail that caught a strong breeze. I was hooked. The amazing feeling you get when everything comes together is almost impossible to put into words, it just suddenly feels so easy and natural and suddenly you're dancing together.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'm not an expert but theoretically, you should have a strong core and very flexible hips that allow your pelvis to MOVE with the motion of the horse, so the pressure you apply to the back is more like a light massage than a jackhammer into the back. And if you have a good seat, you can use that light massage as an additional way to communicate with your horse. If it works properly, from what I can tell in the few milliseconds where I don't screw it up, then you feel like you and the horse are melted into one, moving entirely in sync and responding to each other in harmony. It really does feel amazing.

                    I think the stirrup length preference is related to hip mobility as well. We don't want or need to absorb all of it through the knees if our hips are working properly with the horse.

                    I'm a former hunter and spent a lot of time on the lunge learning the balanced seat. It really does work for the kind of motion you're trying to get in dressage and for the collection you're attempting to achieve over time.

                    That said, in my experience, it is WAY harder to acheve a correct balanced seat with open and fluid hips that move correctly with the horse than it is to achieve a correct forward seat. Although that may be in part when I learned the forward seat (in my youth) or due to my body type.

                    eta: and this is a process that takes time to get to...starting with posting at training level/on young horses, etc.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                      ... you haven't gone down the rabbit hole yet, you haven't taken the red or blue pill yet.
                      you may never really go down that dressage tunnel, but when you do, all your answers will be revealed, and you will have been awakened.
                      This is so true!

                      Here are some short answers that still will be confusingn to the OP until they decide which pill to swallow.


                      In classical dressage you use a balanced seat to ideally get the horse to thrust his hindquarters under him and elevate the forehand. But if the horse's head is raised, how can he raise his back/ribcage?

                      The horse has been taught at this point to not thrust his hindquarters under him to elevate the forehand, but to carry more weight on his hindlegs. Think about how a horse looks coming to a fence. He doesn't stay on his forehand and hurle himself at the jump. Instead, he comes to the fence and lifts his forehand, sending the weight back on his haunches. This automatically elevates the front end of the horse, including his head and neck. Same thing, different scale and different approach to teaching it (meaning there are no jumps involved and you shift a lot less weight to the back end than for a jump).


                      And how does digging your seatbones into his back and putting the bulk of your weight towards the center of his back which has less weight-bearing support from his front/hindquarters going to help?

                      Oh, honey, you need a real dressage instructor if you think that part of dressage is digging your seat bones into a horses back. You do not sit hard on your seat bones. In fact, part of all the discussions on activating your core out here are to help people have a following seat. In the H/J world you do not follow, you ride up over everything. In dressage, you sit on the horse with a soft, following seat that allows for the back muscles to come up, and also uses slight weight changes to complete a more subtle chain of communication between horse and rider.

                      Horses are not designed to carry our weight either way, but wouldn't it better to shift it slightly forward to the shoulder which is designed to carry weight?

                      As for sitting hard and leaning back, etc., you are not doing this. Once again, think about jumping. What happens if you get out ahead of your horse at the base of a fence? You've thrown your weight over it's forehand. True, you have a more forward upper body postion, but your weight remains over your seat, which also remained centered over the horses's center of gravity. Since we have shifted the horse's center of gravity back in that more "crouched" feeling position, we need to stay upright and back over that center to help maintain the horse's balance.


                      And what's wrong with riding with a shorter stirrup and closing your hip angle which essentially helps absorb the shock of your weight (through your knees) and keeps it off the horse's back- wouldnt this be best for getting a horse to raise it's back and stretch through its topline?

                      [i] Once again, this is where a following seat comes into play. You have a seat that is currently perched over the horse. While you are not interferring, you are not helping, nor do you have the subtle communication that can be accomplished with a soft, following seat that is in perfect balance over the horse's center of gravity.

                      Hurry up...swallow the pill.
                      "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        You say you like riding in a half seat, but where does the energy from your leg go? In a half seat you must resort to your hands to direct the energy. I can use my back, stomach, and buttock muscles to direct my horse without ever even closing a fist.
                        .

                        I absolutely agree, its tough to do lateral work with a forward seat. I think what I am getting out of all of this is that your seat should depend on what you are trying to accomplish. I still find that green horses go better for me with a forward seat (it may just be because that is what I am better at so I ride better this way). But then again, I'm just focusing on the basics with a green horse, and prefer a light seat where I am above the horse and interfering with them as little as possible. However, I wonder if novice riders should ride with a forward seat too...I saw a clinic at the md horse expo where a very bouncy balanced seat rider was asked to demonstrate the forward seat to show how badly it would affect the horse, not surprisingly when she got off the horse's back, he moved much better, even the clinician admitted to it. But I guess everyone has to learn.

                        And also, the horse's head comes up BECAUSE the croup lowers, the hind legs flex, and the back rounds....
                        Only thing I don't get: But when a horse jumps (and rounds his back) his head is lowered?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think we're feeding a jumper troll....

                          "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Velvet View Post
                            I think we're feeding a jumper troll....

                            Ditto this!

                            Hunter rules, I do dressage and hunter with the same horse, but for someone who claim having more than 20yrs of riding behind the belt, I don't believe you don't understand nothing about dressage...Even while training for the hunter ring, my BN hunter trainer have me sit in my cc saddle, collect my horse, go thru its back...

                            Are you trying to say that from the beginning of the dressages ages, riders have been wrong? And all the old and now modern
                            masters are wrong?

                            Or I don't understand what you are looking for as an answer...
                            ~ 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


                            • #15
                              Don't feed the troll

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                To the OP, yes, in a correct bascule over a fence a horse does indeed lower and stretch his head and neck. He lifts it at the base of the fence, but watch a great jumper in the air. They do indeed round the back and the head and neck should stretch forward, down, and out as long as the rider is not restricting the head with the hand.

                                Young or green horses can sometimes prefer a half seat to sitting because they have not been TAUGHT how to relax their back muscles and freely stretch forward, down, and out. Yes, they must be taught how to do this. Once they have relaxed their back muscles they will be ready for a rider with a GOOD SEAT. This means totally following, educated in weight distribution, and NOT bouncing. Yes, some dressage riders bounce, and no, they are not riding dressage correctly. They do not yet have the pelvic, spine, and hip flexibility to sit correctly. They are also lacking in core stability. Only hours and hours of lunge line lessons with a gifted teacher can give them the gift of a following seat. Once that gift is attained, the art of dressage is opened to us.

                                *I don't think the OP is rude enough to be a troll, LOL!!!*

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Haha, no, I have a tendency to play devil's advocate, believe it or not I've been thinking of taking up dressage for years as even tho I haven't taken many lessons with dressage trainers, I've been riding long enough that I keep getting a sense that that "uphill feel" where the horse is lightly in your hand but engaged beneath you is possible. I think I'm just obsessed with how to be both light in your hand and your seat and what makes your horse happiest (again, I like the challenge of working with the anxious ones...TB lover here). I'm just going to have to figure this out the old fashioned way and delve into the overwhelming number of books on the topic so I understand the dynamics! Thanks for the suggestions that have been made thus far!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by dwblover View Post
                                    *I don't think the OP is rude enough to be a troll, LOL!!!*
                                    Well, she could be a really good troll.

                                    If not:

                                    OP, keep an open mind. I ride hunters currently and have never ever had real dressage training, but...I still use a lot of the principles on the hunters. I don't ride around in half seat all the time and neither should you. I do lots of bending, collection/extension, etc. Driving energy through the bridle. Sometimes I even drop my stirrups (gasp) and sit deep and rhythmically drive with the inside leg. You would be surprised how much lighter and more balanced even the hunters get

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      It is a true "brain sport". I love that aspect about it. Out of every part of my body, my mind works the hardest when I ride dressage. I think you have potential to get hooked, LOL! And I am a fellow TB lover, I'm taking my OTTB out to his first recognized show at first level next month. So don't worry, even the TBs can learn to absolutely love a sitting, following seat.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        For a visual of the balanced seat and its purpose, these links on the biomechanics of dressage helped me out.
                                        Aids/on the bit

                                        Balanced seat

                                        You can click on the pictures in the links for a closer look. Others have summarized the whys and wherefores pretty succinctly.

                                        Comment

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