The Seat

When I was a kid I rode dressage for a few years (very intensely). Anyway, starting again as an adult has really opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t grasp back then. Like the seat aids. I knew it was vital, I got the concept for the most part, but I completely failed with the subtleties of it. I thought the “seat” was the thighs and seat bones.
To turn -> thighs and one seat bone;
To stop -> thighs;
To collect -> thighs and calves and reins;

I had thighs of steel.

At my last lesson I was struggling with controlling Ava’s forward momentum at the canter. I tried bouncing the reins, and it half-heartedly worked, but I had to really bounce to get a response (which I’m not a fan of doing). So I whined to my trainer, who gave me a “you should know this” look, then set about explaining how to influence Ava’s momentum with my hips, abs, shoulder’s, and calves (I’m sure she’s explained this all before, but I frequently forget EVERYTHING). She then sent me back out on a 20 meter circle to play with it.

So we pop into the canter and while I’m mentally imagining my head being pulled up to the ceiling by a string, I tighten my abdominal muscles and stiffen my core. This causes Ava to drop into a very lovely trot, but I wanted more collection in the canter, not a trot. So Bern sends me back out with the advice to remember to activate the hind end. Off we go. I try it again, and if I tighten my core just enough to inhibit Ava’s motion when all four feet are off the ground, and add in just a touch of calf, she lands on the inner hind more underneath her (while still cantering).

Except, it felt like this –

Actually, it was really fun. I didn’t have to touch Ava’s mouth at all to go from a very forward canter to a much more engaged, slower canter. I was amazed, shocked, and very fascinated by this. I could have  gone around the ring a billion times just playing the “what happens if I tighten THIS” game. What I found is that I my abs and lower back play a huge part in regulating Ava’s forward momentum. That the easiest way to half halt her is using my core, not my thighs/seat and reins like I originally thought it was.

Either way… This is the coolest thing ever. It also works fantastic for the walk pirouette.

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