The ‘Li­brary-Quiet’ Po­si­tion

Jeremy Steinberg shares his tips to de­velop a po­si­tion that al­lows for in­vis­i­ble aids.

Dressage Today - - Content - By Jeremy Steinberg with Beth Baumert and Re­becca Ash­ton

Rid­ing dres­sage is a bit like danc­ing or mar­tial arts and has a lot to do with your pos­ture and how you con­trol your body. There is a dres­sage stance that should be the back­bone of your po­si­tion: ears, shoul­ders, hips, heels—all in a ver­ti­cal line per­pen­dic­u­lar to the ground—with the toes pointed for­ward and the heels down.

From there, the ba­sis of a po­si­tion that is ef­fec­tive is a seat that works in­de­pen­dently from the rider’s legs, hands and body. The es­tab­lish­ment of this ef­fec­tive seat be­gins with work with­out stir­rups. An in­de­pen­dent seat is what al­lows you to have in­vis­i­ble or, as the FEI says, im­per­cep­ti­ble aids that are ef­fec­tive and quiet.

When you don’t sit still or qui­etly, your aids be­come loud. Imag­ine you are at a rock con­cert with mu­sic blar­ing. Any time you want to talk, you have to yell. Think of your po­si­tion as that rock con­cert; if it is loud and noisy, it is im­pos­si­ble for your horse to hear the nu­ances of your con­ver­sa­tion. The best po­si­tion is one that cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment like a li­brary—quiet, peace­ful and in har­mony with its sur­round­ings. If your po­si­tion is “li­brary quiet,” your horse will al­ways be able to hear what you are say­ing clearly and con­cisely.

Your hands should be car­ried just above the withers of your horse, about the width of his mouth apart. This ideal has some small vari­a­tions, but none that should take you too far off the beaten path. I like to think of this hand po­si­tion as “home base,” so that any­thing I do or any cor­rec­tion I make al­ways re­sults in my hands re­turn­ing quickly and qui­etly back to this rest­ing po­si­tion. The ideal hand po­si­tion is one that cre­ates a straight line from your el­bow to your hand and then to the horse’s mouth, with your el­bow re­main­ing at your side. Your el­bow needs to work like a gi­ant rub­ber dough­nut, much like the one on side reins, in or­der to help cre­ate elas­tic­ity in the con­tact. The el­bow should be able to swing freely for­ward or back like a spring-loaded hinge and al­ways re­turn to the same rest­ing po­si­tion, which is, again, at your side. The rider’s hands stay closed on the rein in or­der for the con­tact to pass to the elas­tic el­bow and, in turn, be easily trans­lated by the horse. Your el­bow can swing far more than your hand can open or close, so by keep­ing the fin­gers closed around the rein, you are of­fer­ing the horse a more for­giv­ing con­tact than one with an open hand.

Your leg po­si­tion in­flu­ences your cen­ter of grav­ity and thus your bal­ance. The longer leg po­si­tion of dres­sage riders helps to lower the cen­ter of grav­ity into

that of the horse. Your leg should hang loose and long, drap­ing down from your hip like a wet towel around the horse’s side, with­out grip­ping or pinch­ing. It feels like it is melt­ing down around the horse’s side like wax off a can­dle. Your heels fall di­rectly be­low your hip, bring­ing your lower leg into what I re­fer to as the “neu­tral po­si­tion.” The stir­rup length should be ad­justed to al­low bend and an­gle in the hip, knee and an­kle joints so they can move up or down more or less. In the end, the abil­ity to keep your shoul­der, hip and heel aligned and your heels down is your best guide to know­ing if the stir­rups are ad­justed cor­rectly.

Re­fer­ring back to the stance when mounted, re­mem­ber you should sit so that if your horse were to in­stantly dis­ap­pear out from un­der you, you would land stand­ing on your feet, up­right and in bal­ance, not fall­ing back­ward or for­ward.

The part of the horse’s body that cre­ates or re­sists soft­ness in the con­tact is the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the poll and jaw. The horse’s poll also works like a spring-loaded hinge, which, in turn, con­nects the rider's body through the bit to the horse’s mouth through our arms and hands. Any bounce, bob­ble or jig­gle that your body might have will travel that path­way right into the horse’s poll and can, in turn, “rust” that hinge. The more soft and con­sis­tently steady, yet elas­tic and for­giv­ing, you can be in the rein, the more the poll can work like a hinge and the more sup­ple the con­tact can be­come. A seat that works in­de­pen­dently from the hand helps fa­cil­i­tate this ideal.

A loose, swing­ing, in­de­pen­dent seat is of­ten re­ferred to as a “deep seat.” It is a must for ev­ery dres­sage rider and some­thing that we should all take the time to de­velop. In the end, you and your horse should look like one unit, as if you’ve plugged your seat into the sad­dle. It is true that the bet­ter you sit, the bet­ter your horse goes. The loose, yet con­trolled rider will al­ways be able to in­flu­ence more easily than a rider who is not.

The dres­sage stance off the horse

The dres­sage stance on the horse Rid­ing with one hand: An­nie Mor­ris rides Liqueur, a Hanove­rian geld­ing owned by Randi Nel­son-Ship­ley.

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