The Seat in the Academic Art of Riding: Physical Seat, Statical Seat and Half-Halts

Academic Art of Riding

In the academic art of riding, we distinguish between the physical seat and the statical seat.

The physical seat is the area in which the rider and horse connect, where you touch the horse with your thighs, upper legs, bottom. The physical seat moves with the horse. When the horse makes a step with the inside hind leg, the hip on that side moves forward and down. And so should our own hip. When the horse puts weight on that foot and pushes itself forward, the hip moves backwards and up. And of course, our hip should follow this movement, too. It is an eliptic movement that can be best explained with driving bicycle backwards. The more relaxed we are and the less tension in our body, the better we can follow the horse’s movement. Then the horse’s spine and rib cage can swing unhindered and the movements can go through the shoulders, front legs, neck and head. Our goal is that the horse can move just as easily and beautifully with us on its back than when running free on the field. And for that we train our physical seat.

The statical seat has to do with the fact that we are vertical and have an angle over the horse, which means that when we lean slightly to the front, to one side, or back, then leverage forces come into play. You can try it out: Sit on your hands and move your upper body to the front and back, and feel the impact on your hands. Also try how little you have to move and still feel something! It’s rather surprising. Even a slight nod of the head can be felt this way, and that’s also the softest aid with our physical seat. With our physical seat, we influence the common point of weight of horse and rider and in the academic art of riding, we teach the horse to always step in under our common point of weight.

We start using our statical seat more once we work more with half-halts. When we lean a little forward (Bent always says “stomach forward – hands forward”), then we want the horse to stretch the upper line, search towards the hand and bring the hind legs more forward, under the point of weight that we now shifted a bit forward. This is the half-halt according to Steinbrecht and we use it when the hind leg starts stepping a bit short. Bent also calls it the first decente.

When the horse’s hind feet stay forward, we can keep our point of balance in the saddle and just give a bit with our hand. The horse will then search a tiny bit forward-down, enough to take out any tension or compression that might be in the spine. If you can give without ruining the forward step of the hind leg, then we talk about “hand without leg”, meaning we don’t need our leg aid to correct the forward step of the hind leg. This is the giving according to Baucher or second descente.

Then we start giving half-halts with our hand and the statical seat on the horse’s inside or outside hind leg. By taking back our point of weight a little with our statical seat, we bring slightly more weight onto the hind legs and we ask the hind legs to bend more in the haunches in order to carry this weight. Our hand does not pull actively backwards, it just follows the slight backwards leaning with our upper body. If we feel resistance in our hand, that means that the joints of the hind legs are not giving and are pushing against our hand. The hind leg will start to step shorter in that case and push more backwards-out. Because our horse has already learned to bring the hind leg forward again when we lean a little forward and give with the hand, that’s what we do in that case. In this phase we practice to shift the horse’s weight horizontally and to bend the joints of the hind legs more.

When we can give a half-halt on either the inside or the outside hind leg, then we give it in the rhythm of both hind legs. If the horse stays back and doesn’t go against the hand, we give the half-halt only with our stomach and stay back with our upper body. Do we loose one hind leg we start giving the half-halts again on one hind leg. Can we stay back, give with our hand and the horse stays back, under our point of weight, we call this the third decente (or half-halt according to Guérinière). The third descente has both the first and the second one in them. Sometimes we will have to go a little forward with our point of weight to animate a hind leg to step forward again. Sometimes we will give the half-halt more on one hind leg, then on the other, giving with our hand sometimes to let the horse stretch the nose a tiny idea forward. And then we stay back and only use our stomach for the half halts, the horse bringing more weight on his hind legs and bending the haunches.

Eventually, our point of balance and the place where the horse’s hind legs go into the ground should be the same. We lean a little forward – the horse brings the hind feet more forward, we lean a little back – the horse brings more weight on the hind legs and bends the haunches. At the same time, we cannot get stiff in our physical seat and block the swinging of the spine.

So that was a bit about the physical seat, the statical seat and half-halts.

In my next post I will write about the seat in the half-pass.

More about the academic seat:…/the-academic-seat.html

More about half-halts, halt and school halt:


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