Light Seat
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, February 11, 2021 03:14 PM
Riding regularly in the field, jumping for cross training, working with jumper riders on their seats I have discovered some very important balance/stability principles. The challenge is these principles are not obvious or intuitive during riding. However, implementing them greatly increases rider's stability, sense of groundness and control while minimizing interference with the horse doing it's job.
To be a well educated rider it is important to know how to ride deep 3-point seat as well as light/two-point seat in canter. These two seats have different rules, balance points and affect a horse differently. It is impossible to blend them into some sort of hybrid, it will be just unstable seat. I wrote a lot about the deep seat. This time I am going to focus on the light seat.
Light Seat - this is a seat assumed in canter when a rider lifts the buttocks slightly out of the saddle and loads the legs and stirrups instead of sitting on seatbones. A rider slightly inclines upper body forward and rather hovers over the saddle surface not touching it and not following horse's back movement with the hips. The canter movement is absorbed by hip, knee and ankle joints. They act as coils. The stirrups should be short enough to allow that. Upper body (including lower back) staying stable and very quiet, hovering over with almost no up and down or any other movement. Watching the rider's head and shoulders only should give an impression of the rider gliding along the surface.
How is that achieved? - one of the most important factors that often not just missing in riders but them actively doing opposite is LANDING at the same moment the horse lands after each flying phase of a canter stride. The light/two-point seat in canter should feel as a series of landing moments followed by effortless flying moments that are initiated by the horse not rider. What I mean by that is very often riders want to push into stirrups to "fly" together with their horse. That is not only unnecessary but actually quite counter productive. It makes the rider unstable and it disturbs the horse because by doing the push the rider "flies" more then a horse, lands later then a horse and as a consequence not with a horse's movement at all. Plus, lower legs are going away from a horse's body during downward push increasing rider's vulnerability.
This mistake is quite easy to observe. Such rider does look like he/she is going up and down with the entire body, heels rise above toes and the seat looks like it is going opposite direction from horse's back - when back drops seat rises and when back rises seat drops. Such rider will never be able to gallop fast and safe. Jumping will be affected by strong desire to push into stirrups when horse lifts over the jump which creates pushing down sensation on a horse during a delicate moment of trying to rise up if the horse decides to take a jump. And makes the rider too ahead in his/her balance if a horse decides to stop/refuse right in front of the jump. Even more, a rider who pushes off the stirrups to jump will not feel if a horse backing off the jumping effort, he/she is too busy "jumping".
Couple more common mistakes in light seat are wiggly lower back which oscillates with each canter stride and "pumpy shoulders" - a rider is appearing of diving up and down with his/her head and shoulders in each stride. These mistakes usually accompany the push into stirrups and/or partly facilitated by it. This extra movement is completely unnecessary and disturbs the horse.
With availability of Internet you can watch very good eventing riders such as Ingrid Klimke take on a cross country course. They are so quiet at a gallop between fences, barely moving as their horse "eats" the ground. There is a video from Ingrid's camera installed on her helmet. The sense of fast gliding and smoothness of everything including jumps is unreal. It is hard to imagine she is doing an advanced course. That is a great example of rider's stability and balance control!
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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