Q8 – Are You Bouncing In The Saddle?

I guess most of you would say no to self-assessment question # 8 : Are you bouncing in the saddle? but I am specifically thinking about sitting trot.  Now if I ask again, what would your answer be?  For many of you the answer will still be no, but for many more I’m sure it’s a resounding yes.

Whilst you are learning sitting trot, absorbing the shock waves created by the horse’s movement means you get ‘out of phase’ with movement and begin to feel the bounce.  In the trot, here’s what is happening …

  • As your horse begins to trot his back comes up and lifts you in the saddle with him.
  • As his back goes down your seat should follow at the same speed.
  • You come down slower and your horse’s back begins to travel up again with the next phase of the stride.
  • You are still descending and your seat bumps on the saddle.
  • The effect bounces you higher making you even slower to get down into the saddle.
  • Your horse’s back comes up again and you bump the saddle again.

It is at this point that you experience an overwhelming desire to tense your body in order to keep it still, unfortunately as you do this you are opposing the motion of your horse’s back muscles, which are moving.  It follows then that in order for you to stay connected in the saddle you must also move, particularly in the core area encompassing lower back, abdomen and pelvis.

We all know it is so much easier to use the leg’s twelve adducting (gripping) muscles when ‘out of phase’ occurs because they jump in with what they do naturally – adduct.  This gripping action prevents gravity from allowing you down as fast as your horse’s back gets down.  Your heroic attempts to sit still make you rigid and so you bounce out of phase with your horse.  You become caught in a vicious circle; you bounce because you are gripping and you grip because you are bouncing.

SaddleThere is a way you may have figured out to partially lessen the bounce you are experiencing.  It is to open or extend your hip angle and lean back behind the vertical. Like the rider in the picture opposite, this is probably the rider solution you will see most often. It is not a good solution, because it impairs your effectiveness, stretches ligaments around your spine, causes pain, and can set you up for chronic degenerative back problems. It’s bad for your horse because it interferes with his balance and movement. And it’s bad for doing dressage because it diminishes control, communication, and effectiveness and encourages your horse to go on the forehand.

The alternative is much harder to achieve.  When your horse reaches the top of his up phase (which is the moment of suspension) you have to consciously think about going back down with the saddle, waiting for gravity will be too late.  You have to exert this forward motion with each stride in a two-time rhythm.  The trouble starts when you don’t go down with the saddle. You will almost certainly be trying to sit still and this will end with the unavoidable slap up the backside.  You will need to engage the abs and when you can get down at the same time as your horse’s feet hit the ground you’ll be right there, ready to come up again with him from the bottom of his stride.

Staying In Contact With The Saddle

Sitting the trot is all about keeping yourself with the motion of the horse. It’s easier to learn how to do that first at the walk and then the canter. Those two gaits have more forward and back motion than the trot does. You are working towards being able to feel how to stay with the motion in trot with a deep seat, staying in contact with the saddle at all times and this is what you almost certainly can do in walk, and can more easily do in canter.  Notice how in the walk and canter your seat stays in contact with the saddle, then notice how your hips are with the horse’s motion.  If you have mastered this, moving onto sitting trot will be less demanding.

SaddleWe need to engage our abdominal muscles whilst keeping our bottom, thighs and knees relaxed.  Get the feel of your core by growling ‘Grrrr’; feel the muscles firm up in the sides of your waist, and even in your back?  Clear your throat or cough to produce the same result.

Now try to reproduce that feel without growling, just using your muscles.

This post is an extract from my forthcoming e-book, “Sitting Trot – Pic N Mix Solution” which will be available when the new website is launched.  Hopefully very soon!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


Q7 – Are You Blocking With Your Seat?

Hi Guys.  Today’s topic is a great one and one I’ve worked really hard to achieve, it’s a work in progress for me but worth the effort.

So many riders don’t realise they are actually working against their horses movement by just sitting on the saddle and by not utilising the hips to follow the natural motion of the horse.  So ask yourself …

Self-Assessment Question #7 : Are You Blocking With Your Seat?

Your seat must follow the horse’s motion in a rhythmical way in order to allow the horse to move forward. If you say ‘go’ with your leg aids but your seat does not immediately follow the forward swing of the horse’s hips as he picks up a hind foot, you WILL restrict forward motion – guaranteed!

There are a number of common symptoms of tense hips that would inhibit your ability to correctly follow your horse’s motion and block his movement. You may be …

  • Collapsing at the belly button in an effort to absorb the motion.
  • Pumping with your upper body at the canter.
  • Leaning back and driving with your seat.

Tense hips will cause bouncing, head bobbing, flying elbows and lower leg flapping.  However, do not despair, there’s plenty that can be done about it.

You will need to work on thinking tall and elegant and transferring any rocking/blocking to the pelvis instead of the upper body. Continue reading Q7 – Are You Blocking With Your Seat?

Q6 Can You Influence Your Horse’s Paces

Self Assessment Question #6 in the ’99 Questions’ series of blogs.  A series looking a little more closely at those insightful questions in the report that I give you completely free of charge when you sign up for to get the Crystal System blogs into your inbox.   There is something for everyone; beginners, trainers, novice and Grand Prix riders.Influence

  • Do you fully understand the influence your body is having on your horse’s way of going?
  • Are you able to influence the paces, lengthen and shorten the stride?
  • Are you able to straighten a horse that is going off-line?

Of course, everything we do influences our horse’s way of going.  It is worth taking on board the primary message I have for you –

‘If you get the right response when you ask correctly, it surely follows that if you get the wrong response, you may not be asking correctly”. 

Continue reading Q6 Can You Influence Your Horse’s Paces

Q9 – Are You Pumping With Your Upper Body?

You have seen them haven’t you? Even at the highest level!!!!! Check out some of the Olympic riders!  In an attempt to follow the horse’s movement you see extravagant rocking back and forth of the upper body in the canter.

To a lesser extent at the lower levels you will also see this ‘pumping’ action of the upper body.  The efforts involved are actually putting the rider constantly behind the movement.

  • A tell-tale sign that the seat is not so secure.
  • It disrupts the balance of the canter
  • Makes both horse and rider’s back tense.

Continue reading Q9 – Are You Pumping With Your Upper Body?

Q4 Is Your Horse Responsive?

  • How effective are your aids?
  • Does your horse immediately respond?
  • Are they crisp, clear and true?
  • Or are you having a numbing effect on your horse?

Dressage in its original form was developed as a test of the horse’s obedience.  Today your training should demonstrate that your horse is obedient to your aids.

I am a big believer in putting the leg on and then always immediately off – a squeeze and release.  This assumes that your legs are hanging gently at your horse’s side and only being used when needed and not clamped on for dear life.   In order to get your horse sensitive however, from this starting point you have to work towards the point where your horse actually will go from just a click of the tongue or the slightest pressure with the calf.

Continue reading Q4 Is Your Horse Responsive?

Shoot For The Moon

2017 is in full flow and now that the summer is here most of us will be turning our attention to what it is we want, nay need to do in 2017.

The end of 2016 was a very reflective time for me.  I lost my mum in November which was profoundly life changing.  Not just because she is no longer here and I have a big dark hole in my heart, but because she was so ill for so long that the anxiety I felt whilst looking after her has lifted.  I now seem to have so much time.

I got to thinking about my horsey goals and my competition dream which I  tinkered with in 2016 but couldn’t be pursued in earnest.  I got to thinking.

  • Is this still relevant?
  • Do I REALLY want to do this with my newly found and extremely valuable spare time?
  • Is the effort worth the reward?
  • Do I even have the energy?

Continue reading Shoot For The Moon

Q#3 Do You Employ A Following Seat?

Still with me?  Fantastic.  Third in the ’99 Questions’ series of blogs.

Self-Assessment Question #3 : Do you employ a following seat?

Do you move with the horse in walk or rely on the horse’s motion to move you?  Do you allow with your hips in the trot?  Do you do the circular backward hip rotation in canter?   If not, you need to understand that a little help from you goes a long way to helping your horse forward.

Is it me or is it my horse?

Your seat must follow the horse’s motion in a rhythmical way in order to allow the horse to move forward. If you say ‘go’ with your leg aids but your seat does not immediately follow the forward swing of the horse’s hips as he picks up a hind foot, you WILL restrict forward motion – guaranteed!

Continue reading Q#3 Do You Employ A Following Seat?

Q#2 Are You In Balance?

In BalanceHey horsey friends – Second post of the ’99 Questions’ series of blogs.  We have a long way to go to get all 99 in but stick with it, I’ve written 8 of them! lol

I’m trying to keep them quick fire and succinct with links to other blogs that might help you and to give you a quick nudge and provoke a thought before you ride.  I really think there will be something for everyone.

Self-Assessment Question #2 : Are you in balance?

Can you let go of the reins and ride without reliance on your hand? If you can’t you may need to go back to basics which means checking your riding position.

Find Your Centre of Gravity

To find if you are truly over the centre of gravity whilst the horse is moving, means verifying that your legs are in the correct position.  To do this lift your bottom out of the saddle and go into ‘half seat’ (at least).

However, iWarm upn order to check absolute alignment (and slightly more difficult to do) is the ability to stand up straight, with an upright back.  Do this from your seated position without gripping with your legs or using the reins to keep your balance.

If you find that you tip forwards or fall backwards, or if you find that you need to move your legs in order to stand up independently, then your legs were not in the correct position when you started.

Continue reading Q#2 Are You In Balance?

Q5 Are You Consistent With Your Aids?

Horses thrive on routine, doing the same thing repeatedly is how we train effectively, how they learn easily.  It is doing the SAME thing time and time again that gets us there.  So, if you try something different every time you train your horse will become confused.

  • How many of you have had the comment “needs a more consistent contact” from the judges?
  • Are you clear and do you fully understand and give consistent aids or
  • Could you, unwittingly, be creating creating confusion?

Developing a clear, non-verbal language with your horse means making a connection and is where your dressage journey begins.

consistentUnfortunately, expecting something to be difficult to achieve can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  So, in order for you to begin the process of achieving a ‘usable contact’ with your horse you must decide for yourself that it can be done.  That is decide that yes, you may face obstacles that will be challenging for you; you may have to sort out a few issues; most likely with your riding but sometimes with the horse (teeth, back), sometimes tack issues (saddle, bit), but get your mindset right and choose to believe that you and your horse are not only willing, but more than capable (once all issues have been investigated and dealt with) of working in an outline; with a contact; on the aids; on the bit, on the vertical, call it what you will.



Patricia – The Dressage Tipster



Q#1 Are You Relaxed?

When you sign up to The Crystal System Blog you get 3 valuable reports

  1. 5 Dressage Tips that could Revolutionise your Riding
  2. 10 MUST DO Dressage Test Tips that will Take your scores to GOOD or better
  3. 99 Questions to help you self-assess your Training Progress – (catchy title – does what it says on the tin!)

Report No. 3 is the ultimate, ridiculously long, ‘quick check’ guide and is essentially a whole heap of quick fire questions designed to help you self-assess your training progression.  Most riders print the report and put them it in their tack room, so that after riding they can pick it up and use it as a reference guide.

I thought it might be useful to delve a little deeper into each question so I am starting a new series of blogs to give you a little more information about each question and how it might help your riding goals.

Self-Assessment Question #1 : Are you relaxed?

Are there any muscle groups subconsciously tense? – gripping thigh, tension through shoulders, tense fingers, rigid jaw-line, rock hard arms, solid back? All of the above? Continue reading Q#1 Are You Relaxed?

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