From Endurance to Dressage
Where Have THOSE Muscles Been?
I had yet another lesson on Austin on Monday afternoon. No, still no cross rails, but we did canter the poles! I think JL only let us do that so I didn't quit this hunter thing all together. She had just finished twisting and torquing on my poor legs for the better part of thirty minutes, and I was starting to hurt.
I am a good student - I listen, and I try to do exactly what she asks. For this lesson however, I found myself getting a bit grumbly as I WAS doing what she asked for, but it still wasn't right. I finally just stopped Austin in his tracks and showed her what I meant.
Within moments, we both laughed because I realized that we were using the same vocabulary but the words had totally different meanings when applied to a dressage seat and a hunter seat.
The issue was my upper body. She kept asking me to sit up, so I did. But then she asked me to press my hands into Austin's mane so that I could get deep in the saddle. If you ride dressage, you know that you can't sit up and press into the mane - your arms aren't long enough. That's what I told JL, my arms don't reach!
I showed her what sit up means to me. Look at the 'Upright Seat' - that's sitting up. JL then understood my problem and searched for a way to explain what she wanted. We discussed pelvic position: I wanted to tuck my pelvis and be on my seat bone, but she said for a hunter seat, I need to tip it forward. WHAT?!?!!?
So I did.
Rather than sit up, which to me means sit back, she asked me to lengthen my spine. Oh .....! Basically, she wanted me to do squats above the saddle. Stand up and try it. You cannot do a balanced squat if you keep your back straight up and down.
By bending your knees slightly, you adopt the posture of the picture on the far right. In fact, with knees slightly bent, you can easily roll your pelvis underneath you and even sit back farther.
To achieve a hunter seat, you have to squat down deep in your knees which means tipping your pelvis forward. Your upper body is pointing at an angle rather than at the ceiling. So when JL asked me to lengthen my spine, she just wanted me to get the roundness out of my back and flatten it.
So really the "Forked Seat" image isn't all that incorrect for a hunter seat; that rider needs more bend in the knees, and the spine needs to stretch forward to take the curve out of the lower back, but I think the pelvic angle is pretty correct. At least, that's how it felt while I was riding: deep squat through my seat and legs with weight on the balls of my feet, looking up with a flat back and opened chest.
I asked JL to take a picture of my leg in the correct hunter position so that I could see it and think about it later. She asked me to put my leg where I thought it should go. She was a bit surprised that I pretty much got it placed correctly without any help, so yah me.
For the photo above she did tweak on it just a little bit, but since my leg was in a pretty good place, she dropped both stirrups one hole. I fell apart.
It's amazing what one inch can do to your balance, but after only two or three weeks of this kind of leg position, I am still not strong enough to hold the position with the longer stirrup length. Since she didn't want me to be ineffective, JL returned the stirrups to where they were.
For the last few minutes of the lesson, she had me canter Austin over a pile of two poles. It was ridiculously fun, and Austin loved it! The whole time that we had worked on my position, we ignored his stiffness and didn't worry about any kind of a frame. I simply kept him pointed in the correct position as I played around with my position. For me, it was quite challenging. For Austin, it was thirty minutes of extreme boredom.
Even when I asked for the canter, he harrumphed about it until he saw the poles. I've never really ridden a jumper before, so it was great fun to see him lock on to the poles and relish the process of popping over them. He gave a few exuberant bucks and head tosses once he was on the other side, but my seat and balance are more than good enough to ride them out. No offense, Austin, but Speedy's got a much bigger buck.
It was a lot of fun to change up the flat work. We'll see how much more I get to do now that Speedy's back in the rotation.
i'm struggling with the exact opposite problem haha. i can NOT for the life of me get my pelvis more level or sit back on my seat bones... or, at *can* do it sorta while we're just going along in circles at the same speed... but ask me to change anything or transition, and boom, pelvis tips forward again regardless of my intention lol. these are hard habits to change!
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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
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: