More on seatbones :)
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, February 11, 2016 09:01 PM
The phrases like "loading one seatbone more than another", or "sit deeper on the inside seatbone", or "point your seatbones down" are quite common in riding schools and equestrian literature. However, each rider perceives these ideas differently. For example:
  • Leaning with upper body trying to load the seatbone. This particularly common during turns, circles and shoulder-in. Leaning inward creates a sensation of loading inside seatbone
  • Pushing a seatbone down using too much muscle power which usually creates stiffness and inability to move with a horse
  • Twisting hips which makes one seatbone pushed down while other is pulled up
  • Leaning back - gives a feel of both seatbones loaded and able to drive
  • Actively pushing seatbone/s down and forward or left/right in the rhythm of horse's movement
All these different actions are not necessarily the correct ones when it comes to how seatbones affect horse's balance and movement.
One of the most important discoveries that I made lately is a realization that seat and seatbones in particular must always ride the gait. This means moving according to the dynamics of a particular gait (walk, trot, canter) regardless of the exercises, aids, half-halts, etc. If a rider stiffens up or stops moving with his/her horse while thinking of a half-halt or aids the horse will translate that action as invitation to disengage, stiffen his back, or stop altogether.
Another important thing to remember that seatbones move in harmony with horse's back muscles. What does that mean? It means seatbones always move parallel to horse's spine, never across it! And, as I already talked in the previous blogs (Role of seatbones/pelvis and Role of seatbones/pelvis. Gaits), seatbones move in a circular motion and this motion is a backward circle.
Lets take above rules to the situation of riding a circle. How a rider supposed to sit in order to ask correctly for the bend? Both seatbones must stay on their respective sides of the horse. Lots of times riders lose the centered position and slide either inward or outward. This immediately confuses rider's feel about the seatbones. The seatbone closer to the spine will always feel more loaded compare to the other one which is sliding down off the horse's back. Now, the seatbones continue to move in a backward circular motion parallel to the horse's spine. However, the inside seatbone circle is marginally bigger in diameter and slightly shifted ahead of outside seatbone circle. This makes the inside seatbone deeper which invites the horse to give in a ribcage. It also makes this seatbone more in front of the other which helps rider's balance. However, a rider must never let the seatbone move left or right toward the center of a circle across a horse's back. A rider should think of pointing the seatbones toward the horse's ears rather than shifting laterally.
How is a horse differentiates a seat for a 10 m circle compare to a seat for a shoulder-in with the same bend? A rider must slow down the movement of the inside seatbone for the circle but not for shoulder-in. And in shoulder-in, leg-yield, half-pass the seatbones move on a path that resembles a coil spring which is pointed into the direction of the movement. Upper body will assist the seatbones. I will talk about the role of upper body and how it affects the seatbones in the next blog.
The biggest challenge is to be able to let the seatbones do their job regardless of what other aids are doing. This is what it means to have independent seat!
  • If a rider in order to use lower leg stiffen the hip or core muscles it affects the integrity of the seatbone movement.
  • A half-halt must not stop a rider from riding a gait. Even coming into a halt the horse's feet stop before rider's seatbones are. In a correct halt the seatbones gently come forward and upward as horse's back rounds and hind legs step under in order to halt with engagement. Stopping a seat in order to half-halt will disengage the horse.
  • Pumping shoulders back and forth in order to drive the horse will destabilize seatbones and may completely disengage the horse.
  • Thinking of positioning a seatbone or a hip forward often creates a twist in the hips. This completely changes the movement in the rider's seat and overloads the opposite seatbone
  • Leaning inward also go hand in hand with leaning forward. It drops the horse on the forehand and invites haunches to swing out. Disconnected outside seatbone is in no position to feel or prevent it from happening.
  • Rein aids also may affect the seatbones. A rider half-halts outside rein and ends up shifted outside. Or, a rider draws inside seatbone upward in order to use inside rein
  • Examples are too many to list. Human bodies have so many patterns of movements that linked to each other. Sorting them out is a life long commitment of a rider. It is our duty to our horses.
I would like to summarize the above information in a few short sentences.
- Seatbones never move across the horse's back
- Seatbones always move in a circular motion parallel to the horse's spine even in lateral movements
- Seatbones move with a horse at all times in all gaits
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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