For this next part, Conrad had several riders demonstrate the importance of the proper seat. He started with a rider being lunged and went over several beneficial exercises. I apologize that I didn't write any of these down. Instead I bought Conrad's new DVD which covers this part. Mostly what I wrote down are quotes, so here goes.
The Rider’s Education
In dressage everything depends on the rider. The best horse in the world means nothing if the rider can’t ride.
The rider needs to understand what it means to sit on the horse in harmony. She must be connected to the horse. The rider's hips must move with the horse. The legs should not grip, but be there on the horse's sides.
The rider's body is like a shock absorber. The body takes the motion and gives it back to the horse (recycles it).
Body awareness is essential. You must be trained to feel each body part as you’re riding, such as your big toe, your little finger. (Conrad does believe feel can be trained, while many instructors don't.)
You must have the right lunge horse. You cannot sit on a piece of wood. The horse must go like a dressage horse.
Mental fitness is very important. Being able to sit quietly and handle your body is a prerequisite for mental fitness.
There was a question about why many riders in symposium rode with wide hands. Riders need to have an open body position. The hands together position came about because of the military and the need for the horses to be ridden eventually with one hand. This is not necessary now. The hands together position fosters stiffness in the shoulders. (I can vouch for this. I'm very stiff in my shoulders. I found that keeping my hands a little wider really improved my ability to ride with a soft, following hand.)
A good riders has a natural springing down of ankle. The body is flexible. The rider maintains the same seat now matter how big the gaits. World class riders must do it by feel and mental fitness. Feel comes out of the seat.
There is no such thing as an ideal seat. It all depends on the person’s body type and abilities. Some riders have a good seat but don’t look so good on a horse. Others look good on the horse but really don’t have a good, effective seat.
Feel must be trained and can be trained. Timing and how we do it is what’s important.
Principle of giving aids:
- Prepare (flex neck to inside)
- Reward—such as stretching which opens the back
For a halt, flex neck to inside (prepare), close legs (do), and reward (release pressure).
Horses anticipate, so control anticipation by warning them that something is coming.
The weakest rider in the world is stronger than the strongest horse if you can bend the horse.
Conrad used a support rein for one rider: Use only one rein, fasten to girth between front legs, run through flash. Do not use to pull down the neck. Put it on the horse’s hollow side.
The biggest problem riders have is if it doesn’t work, do it harder.
A good excercise to increase mental fitness and body awareness:
Volte in walk, canter at wall, go large, volte at end of long side and walk.
This is really fun. To develop a reined cowhorse we ideally ride in a ring or egg butt snaffle, then a hackamore (bosal) until the horse is 6. We ride with the wide hands you are discussing. The hackamore phase is instrumental in teaching our horses to neck rein, or ride single handed.
The snaffle, hackamore transition eliminates the tight shoulders you are talking about and helps promote self carriage. I love seeing the similarities between our disciplines! Cool post.
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