September 2, 2011

Please Pull Out My Chair...

The position of the rider in the saddle (including leg position and seat position) greatly affects the movement of the horse. As riders, we need to make sure our legs are to be used in a way so that our horses can move and breathe appropriately in the movements and the gates. We tend to use them in more of a restricting way. Horses also need to be used to encourage their bellies to swing and freeing up the shoulders. As we have spoken before, the belly usually swings more one direction then another so we need to help the belly to swing equally both directions. The shoulders are also more braced in one direction then the other and we need to use our thighs/knees to free them up. 

A student prior to coming
ride with me.
The term ‘chair seat' refers to a rider looking as though they are sitting in a chair, with thighs parallel to the ground. If you were to pull the horse out from under them, the rider would lose their balance and they would land on their bottom. Their knees are pointing towards the horse’s ears, eyes or face instead of pointing towards the ground. I have also seen riders with their legs too far forward. Our toes should NEVER move in front of the knees as this is also creates a 'chair seat.'

When a rider sits in a ‘chair seat’ they are unable to affect the horse’s shoulders. This also does not allow the rider to affect the movement of the girth area.  Have you ever had a horse with girth sores? This would be why (along with poor saddle fitting).

Instead of sitting in a chair, we should always be looking as though if someone were to have the horse pulled out from underneath us we would remain in a standing position. This places us more in balance and in the center of the horse.

The correct position of our leg is VERY IMPORTANT because this is where we first determine
Me at the rising trot.
Note the straightness of my knee.
how we will be able to affect the horse either as an effective or passive rider. When a rider is sitting with their knees in more of a straight position from the front, and with knees point to the ground, they are in a better position to affect and increase the movement of the shoulders (encouraging them to move up and down)…which also helps movement of the girth area…which then leads to the belly swing. A rider should have their leg position with their knee facing as straight to the ground as possible. This will be especially apparent when the rider is at the rising trot.

Now I know what you’re thinking. ‘It is not possible to have it straight to the ground’ - but if you are aiming for that you will be right on track.

When we are kids we learn to propel the horse by kicking or squeezing the sides of the horse. However, when you kick and or squeeze you stop the movement of the belly which prevents the back to front movement. Simply kicking and squeezing is riding front to back…which hollows the back…and stops all the movement over the back…and then you have no throughness.

The same student as above,
now riding with more
correct leg position after
several months with me.
Another aspect of rider position is the seat. When you apply your seat bones improperly you will hollow your horses back. Just imagine when you rub a cat’s back what does he do? He will lift up. This is what will happen when we use our seat bones in a more massaging way. When we use them in a way that is pushing into the horses back it becomes VERY PAINFUL so the horse will hollow their backs. For instance, if you were to push your finger down on that cat’s back he will hollow his back. This is what we do to our horses when we are just pushing down and not massaging with.

Instead, our seat bones need to go in a forward and back movement along and with the muscles in their backs to get the horse to LIFT their backs. Massaging the back can help to create throughness, movement, belly swing and balance.

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