Recognising the influence we have with our seat early in our dressage career is essential. Only then can we begin to appreciate how very generous our horses are for allowing us to ride them at all. We owe it to them to try and be ‘at one’ with them for this honour.
How many riders are able to feel the movement of their horse’s hind leg through their seat and really understand what is happening underneath them?
In the 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?
If you do not you are not alone. Often riders have a tendency to think about the front of the horse to help achieve the correct diagonal. We are told that as the outside shoulder comes back we should sit and if it is incorrect, sit for one beat and rise again.
This method of teaching encourages you to look down at the shoulder to check your diagonal rising is correct and essentially gives you no guidance whatsoever on how to feel it.
It encourages you to a) move your focus to the front of your horse and b) puts you in front of the movement by throwing you off-balance. It is the easy way to do and if you were taught this way you should feel a little cheated. Your trainer has simply robbed you of the ability to feel what is happening underneath you through your seat.
Do you begin rising and then check that you have the right trot diagonal?
How much better would it be for you to feel what is happening underneath you and select the correct time to begin rising?
If you are riding on the right rein, tune into the left (outside) seat bone. As your horse’s back dips on the left, this is the sit phase. When your horse’s back (and therefore, the left seat bone) rises on the left, is the rise phase.
It may take some concentration and coordinated effort but with practice it will become second nature. Feeling the correct trot diagonal instead of looking will raise your horsemanship to a higher level and help you to develop your sense of feel of how your horse moves. Eventually you will know when you are on the wrong diagonal because it will feel out of balance.
Try this ..
- At the walk, feel your hips lifting and say ‘now’ every time your ‘outside’ hip lifts up.
- Then move up to a few strides of sitting trot. In order to feel the correct diagonal, feel when your ‘outside’ hip lifts up.
- Every time your ‘outside’ hip lifts up say ‘UP’. Begin rising on the word ‘UP’. Hey presto, you are rising on the correct diagonal.
Enjoy this new-found skill, you are on your way to gaining that elusive element of your riding they call ‘feel’.