Susanne von Dietze critiques rider photos
This photo shows Barbra Reis on her Prix St. Georges horse, Legal Majority, during a test. From this angle, it is difficult to guess what movement she is showing, but I believe they are trotting with a right flexion or bend.
Barbra appears to sit in the saddle keeping good contact with her pelvis and a naturally relaxed position in her shoulders. Legal Majority is very elegant and light looking, with long legs that move well under Barbra’s center of gravity.
I get the impression that his shoulders are a bit lower than his croup, and the highest point of his neck is not his poll. This influences the angle of his nose, which is clearly behind the vertical here, giving a downhill impression. He needs to become lighter in the forehand to show the level of collection needed in Prix St. Georges.
Barbra appears to be riding him in a right flexion or bend and, in doing so, she is also bending her body slightly to the right. She shows a tendency to look down to the right, and her right knee and heel are coming up in such a way that the right side of her body appears shorter. This easily can happen when trying to bend the horse too much.
Try this: Sitting on a chair (and later in the saddle), shift your weight to the right seat bone and observe what happens to the rest of your body. Often when shifting your weight to the right side, you drop your right shoulder and shorten the right side of your body. That knee then has a tendency to move upward.
For correct balance with weight on the inside seat bone, you need to shift the weight onto that seat bone while lengthening that side of your body. This will make your leg push downward into the floor (or stirrup). Lengthening your inside will allow you to keep that leg long during turns and lateral movements.
Shifting the weight correctly to the side will cause a slight forward shift of weight. Collapsing inside at your waist, on the other hand, will almost always result in the weight staying back or behind the movement.
This is not a big movement, but it does have a big influence on the horse. Shifting the weight forward, toward the inside seat bone, will
make it easier for Barbra to keep her inside leg supple and long. She can look straight ahead and lighten her contact with her inside hand to help her horse lift his shoulders and open his throat angle to perform in better self-carriage, with his nose farther in front.
It can be a vicious circle to use more and more pressure and strength from your inside leg to bend your horse, as this will always lead to a shortening of your inside leg while creating tension in your hip and, ultimately, holding your horse back. After a quick reminder to your horse with your inside leg, make sure to relax and lengthen the inside of your body again to avoid unnecessary strain.
Barbra’s basic seat appears supple and mobile, and I am sure that she has the ability to let her leg relax and appear longer. Then she can ride her horse more easily in front of her leg with a more uphill tendency.
Remembering that all aids finish by returning to the balanced position with the least amount of effort necessary is important. Using the aids in a more rhythmic pattern also can help Barbra learn how to apply and relax the aids and ride her horse with more freedom inside the frame.
Rider 2—Elasticity in the Wrist
This photo shows Carletto, a 4-year-old Murgese (pure Italian baroque horse) showing at First Level under his rider, Jolanda Adellaar Rossi. She is also from Italy, and their entire outfit is beautifully put together, down to the tiniest detail of the colors of Italy.
I must admit that I had not heard of the Murgese and, looking it up, learned that it is a very old breed that was nearly extinct. At the end of the 20th century there was a big effort to revive them, and the special qualities of these horses have made them popular again.
Looking at the photo, I am glad this breed is back. This horse fits into the typical baroque style with a nice and harmonious conformation. For a 4-year-old, his canter looks nicely balanced. The high lift of his inside hind leg shows the potential of good collection in the future. His shoulders appear uphill and his frame is correct.
Jolanda is sitting with a nice and natural upright position and shows a correct leg position. Her whole seat appears supple and light and this enables this horse to look light in his movement as well, even though he belongs to a heavier breed.
To be very picky, I will point out a small detail in her left wrist: I notice a slight tension in the bottom, which shows as a slight angle, and her thumb is lying flat on the reins. In the old masters’ rule books it is written that the thumb should be placed like a “roof onto the reins.” This means that only the tip of the thumb makes contact with the rein to hold it to the base of the index finger.
When writing my book Balance in Movement, I often questioned these details, asking Why does it have to be this way? Often the human anatomy gave me astonishingly simple answers to the knowledge of the old masters. The position of the thumb on top of the reins was one of those questions.
Try this: Make a fist and put your thumb on top, either like a roof with the tip of the thumb or flat with the
base of the thumb. When holding your thumb flat, you use the muscles on the inside of your palm that bend your wrist. As a result, all movements of your wrist become tense and tight.
When changing the position of your thumb and shaping the roof we discussed earlier by holding the tip of your thumb on your index finger, you use a different muscle that runs along the outside of the thumb and wrist. This enables elasticity and refined movement in your wrist. Enabling elasticity along the bottom line of your wrist is very important for a soft and elastic contact.
Jolanda looks like such a supple and feeling rider, and her contact appears light. Changing this little detail may improve this lightness further and help her to refine her soft connection with her young horse.
This photo is a true advertisement for this breed, and I hope to see more of these lovely horses in the future.
Barbra Reis and her Prix St. Georges horse, Legal Majority
Jolanda Adellaar Rossi and Carletto, a 4-year-old Murgese (pure Italian baroque horse) show at First Level.