Want to develop a balanced seat? Here are eight ways of how to do it:
Not iron knees but a good balance keeps the rider on the horse. (François Robichon de la Guérinière (1688-1751))
It is more difficult to feel the three dimensional swinging of the horse’s spine in a saddle. There is so much inflexible material between you and your horse! Saddles with a wooden or plastic tree are the worst. Moreover, many saddles, especially the ones with big knee blocks, force the rider into a certain position. Ride without a saddle until you have developed a good seat, provided that horse horse is safe and calm. If you don’t dare to ditch your saddle yet, ride without stirrups.
2. Relax all the muscles in your body
Mount your horse and just sit comfortably. Let go of the reins. Take your legs away from the horse, shake them, and gently put them back without applying any pressure. Make a mental journey through your whole body, from head to toes. Relax the neck, shoulders, back, hips, bottom, upper legs, knees, lower legs, ankles, toes. You can imagine to be 120 years old, without any power in your muscles.
3. Breath in your centre
Now take long, even, deep breaths. Aim for the area at your navel. Now through your breath, feel your hips, your bottom, the horse under you, the ground beneath you, let your thoughts wander further through the rocks of the earth, the hot lava, the core. Open your eyes again and keep this feeling of calmness and being grounded.
4. Drive backwards bicycle
Now take your horse on the circle in a relaxed walk. Give him all the rein he wants. Check if all your muscles are still relaxed and then focus on your seat bones. How do they move?
Your seat bones move forward/backward and up/down. Let’s analyse this movement some more.
When the horse pushes back with a hind leg, the rider’s seat bone on the same side makes a backward-upward movement. When the hind leg has left the ground and swings forward, the rider’s seat bone also swings forward-down. Imagine to drive backwards on a bike! When your right hip goes forward-down, your left hip comes backward-up and so on.
Now feel when the inside seat bone is going forward down, and exaggerate the down movement a bit. Tel yourself: “down, down, down, down…”. You will feel how your horse will start swinging in his spine even more and how he will relax and take bigger steps.
Feel the chest of your horse coming towards your leg each time it makes the ‘down’ movement. This is the right moment to give a leg aid.
Now also allow the outer seat bone to swing backwards-up and don’t grip with your outer upper leg.
This movement of the hip can be felt in all the gaits and should be felt at all times. If at some point you cannot feel it anymore, or it is incomplete (your hips just move forward and backward), then you stopped your horse’s spine from swinging with either your seat, leg, or hand aids.
5. Shoulder parallel to shoulder, hip parallel to hip
At all times, your head, shoulders, and hip should be parallel to the horse’s head, shoulders, and hip. With this simple rule you can explain to yourself the position of your shoulders in all the exercises. If you want to ride on a circle, you have to turn your shoulders on the circle line (imagine to be a spirelli-shaped noodle and twist the noodle on the circle 😉 ).
6. Don’t care about a correct body posture
There are many books filled with explanations of the right placement of the different body parts. If you relax your spine, it will take the shape that it is naturally given. If you force it in any other, unnatural position, you unnecessarily tense some muscles which will also affect the rest of your body. Feeling for the horse’s movements is much more important than correct body posture. The seat is the information that the horse receives!
Many riders look pretty while they are ineffective and without feeling, while sometimes a seat that on the first glance does not look so pretty can have the qualities a good rider needs. (Bent Branderup)
7. Do less, feel more
Sit relaxed and follow the movement of your horse, also allow for the natural nodding movement of the neck. Many riders try to produce something with their seat. Instead, try to feel where the horse is not straight and only correct the body parts that fall out. This will help your horse much more than trotting endless rounds on a circle in raising trot.
8. Imagine you are riding the king’s horse
Be proud of yourself and your horse! And don’t care about what others might say about you or your riding skills. In your little kingdom, you are the royal!
This is only the beginning, of course. I good seat is the result of a life-long practice. But I hope I could help you a little with these tips! Have a great weekend with your horses!