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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.

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