Got your attention? Good! I’m in a Kick-Ass mood today.
People you are not going to develop your dressage skills without the basics ingrained into your Psyche, right? So how many of you are able to feel the movement of your horse’s hind leg through your seat?
In walk …
- Do you recognise which hind leg is stepping under you?
- Do you ever even think about it when you ride?
- Are you able to give alternate leg aids and activate the correct leg?
- If you were to close your eyes could you call out which leg is stepping under?
As your horse steps through his hip lifts and pushes one side of your seat bone forward and up. In the walk, each seat bone alternately goes forward-up-back-down.
Why not work with a friend and ask them to call out ‘now’ each time the inside hind hoof is on the ground? Feel what is happening with your seat as you do this. Remember that the movement of your hips, pelvis, and ribs should match the movement of your horse in the walk, without any resistance.
In trot …
- Do you need to visually check your diagonal when rising?
- Is it automatic to you and always correct?
- Can you feel when you take the wrong diagonal?
- Do you think about the hind legs as you go into trot so that you are absolutely clear which diagonal you are rising on?
On the right rein, tune into the left seat bone. As the horses back dips on the left – this is the sit phase. When the left seat bone rises is the rise phase.
In canter do you…
- Know which leg is doing what through your seat?
- Time your canter depart aids in conjunction with your horse’s footfalls?
- Time your aid to coincide with the exact moment that the outside hind is about to come to the ground? This is when the hip lowers on that side.
Many horses will understand your canter aid whenever it is given and be willing to depart into canter as soon as they can. But if you’re having trouble, if your horse is sensitive, if you want your horse to progress through the levels or if you’re riding a horse that has been trained to a higher level than you, you will want to give your aids at the right moment.
It is the outside hind leg that begins the canter depart and when in trot, it is when the outside hind leg is coming through that you need to give the aid for canter depart, which, if you have worked on recognising when you are on the correct diagonal, would be during the sit phase of the trot. However, as you will need to be in sitting trot for at least a couple of strides before you ask for canter depart you really must work on being able to feel when the outside hind is coming through in the trot (specifically as its getting ready to push off).
Quick Tip – Eureka moment for me! –
Ask and wait. There will be a very slight delay from the point at which you give the aid to the point at which you feel the horse respond. Give the aid and be patient. Have faith. It will happen. Don’t be tempted to start pushing and shoving and tapping and clicking! Simply give the aid and allow the horse to respond, sit up and enjoy.
It serves us well to recognise the influence we have with our seat as early as we can in our dressage careers, only then can we begin to appreciate how very generous our horses are for allowing us to ride them and how we owe it to them to try to be ‘at one’ with them for this honour.