From Endurance to Dressage
Riding With Your Seat
What a misnomer that has turned out to be! Dressage is filled with so many terms and expressions that only make sense once you can actually feel them. It took me forever to understand what an elastic connection is. And steady contact. And just recently, I can finally feel rhythm, but I can only feel it when the horse I am riding takes a few quicker steps. That's how I can tell that we don't have a good rhythm.
Imagine my relief to finally feel what riding with your seat means, or doesn't mean actually. I took it to be such a literal thing: I envisioned it to be sort of like using a hula hoop. Stop laughing. I am serious. I really thought that if you were using your seat correctly, it meant your two seat bones, hips, and belly button alone were doing all the work. That's it. Although, I suppose that a highly skilled horse and rider team might only be using those body parts ... But I doubt it.
During the last few lessons with JL, I've been a bit embarrassed at how sore I was during, and just after, each ride. I ride all the time. I am easily on a horse seven times during the week. How could I be sore? During Tuesday's lesson, the answer finally came to me. I have started to use my seat. That AHA! was quickly followed with another AHA! Riding with my seat is NOT hula hooping. I mentioned my new found AHA! to JL as I noticed that my inner thighs were on fire. Yes, she confirmed. You are no longer riding with your hands. Your horse is nicely between your legs and you are using your seat to move him. Oh ...
And with that, I got it. Riding with your seat means from your feet all the way up your torso to your shoulder blades. Before ... that would be in the time before meeting JL ... I basically rode with my hands and heels. Hands were for whoa!, and heels were for go! I am not saying there's anything wrong with that. But it's certainly not how to ride an upper level dressage test. Or even a lower level dressage test. It won't get you a soft and round horse. And it won't give you balance and beauty.
Believe me when I say that sharing these little epiphanies with all of you is the height of humiliation and only serves to reveal my many, many (riding) inadequecies. But I know that somewhere out there in the world, another rider is nodding her head and thinking the same thing ... Oh, now I get it! That's why I share.
1/2/2012 05:31:30 am
Dressage is so humbling. Endurance was empowering. Every ride/race you finish makes you feel like a super hero. And each completion serves to reveal your horse's brilliance. Dressage does the opposite. It makes you feel like a complete failure and shows your horse to be just as hopeless. I jest of course, but you know what I mean! Maybe Speedy and I need to crank out a 50 miler to get some good mojo going. :0)
1/2/2012 03:32:33 am
Love reading your blogs Karen! They are really helping me with my own riding. Very descriptive. I bet you are an awesome teacher too!
1/2/2012 05:35:36 am
Sandy - I take no credit for your improvement! I only write about my own foibles and how they affect my incredibly slow learning curve. How there's education in that, I'll never know! :0)
1/2/2012 05:50:31 am
Exactly, Val. But as someone new to this sport and to English riding, it's a misnomer that can cause a lot of confusion. It might be better stated like this: a correct seat means that the rider is influencing the horse's movements with her own body!
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
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CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
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