Clinic with Su­sanne von Di­etze

Practical Horseman - - CONTENTS -

En­gage your core to find a deeper seat

This photo shows Lau­rie Ryan in a First Level Freestyle on her 19-yearold Trakehner gelding Manchet Mon­tana. In her let­ter, Lau­rie ex­plained that her goal is to deepen her seat and to ride so that her horse does not pull her off bal­ance.

The im­age shows a very nice mo­ment, and you can see how well Lau­rie is rid­ing here. She is clearly at­tempt­ing to give her hands for­ward so that Manchet doesn’t pull on her. As I study the pic­ture closely, it seems to me that Manchet is push­ing with more en­ergy from the hind leg that is strik­ing off. This push-off can make horses be­come a bit heav­ier in the con­tact if they are not car­ry­ing their fore­hand well enough.

Lau­rie’s seat looks very cor­rect and only when look­ing care­fully do I no­tice some un­wanted ten­sion around her shoul­ders. It looks like ev­ery­thing is in the proper out­line, but she ap­pears to brace her shoul­ders to be ready for when the horse pulls. This is the trap that Lau­rie may fall into: Brac­ing the shoul­ders will make her rigid in her whole body and a tiny pull from the horse will up­set her up­per-body bal­ance, bring­ing her off her seat.

To pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing, I would like to help Lau­rie ride with a more sta­ble core. The fol­low­ing un­mounted ex­er­cise should be very ben­e­fi­cial. Try this: Stand in front of a friend as though you are sit­ting in the sad­dle. Let this friend pull softly on your hands. If you sim­ply brace around your shoul­ders and try pulling against your friend even a lit­tle, your friend will eas­ily shift your weight to the front of your feet. But if in­stead of brac­ing your shoul­ders, you think of low­er­ing your el­bows, bring­ing your shoul­ders down and en­gag­ing your ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles, you will feel that even though your friend is pulling you for­ward, your weight will shift to the back of your feet.

Now ap­ply this con­cept to when you are rid­ing. When­ever the horse at­tempts to pull, think­ing of this sen­sa­tion will help you deepen your seat and sit more to the back of your seat bones. Then the horse will pull your seat into the sad­dle in­stead of pulling you off bal­ance.

An­other im­por­tant feel­ing to keep in mind is that when you at­tempt to yield with the rein, that giv­ing mo­ment needs an an­chor. Keep­ing your shoul­ders an­chored while giv­ing the hand slightly for­ward makes the giv­ing more se­cure. Imag­in­ing that you can give your hand for­ward only while main­tain­ing sta­bil­ity down your shoul­ders and back will help you deepen your seat while rid­ing with a lighter con­tact.

Re­mem­ber: Giv­ing is not giv­ing up ten­sion. On the con­trary, giv­ing is a stretch­ing move­ment and it re­quires in­creased pos­i­tive ten­sion of the core mus­cles. If Lau­rie rides with these ideas in mind, Manchet will feel more sup­port of his body and he will need less sup­port from the rein. I hope that these ex­er­cises will help Lau­rie achieve her goals.

Lau­rie Ryan rides her 19-year-old Trakehner, Manchet Mon­tana, at First Level.

Su­sanne von Di­etze is a leader in eques­trian biome­chan­ics. A phys­io­ther­a­pist, li­censed Trainer A in­struc­tor and judge for dres­sage and show jump­ing, she gives lec­tures and sem­i­nars through­out the world, in­clud­ing at the pres­ti­gious Ger­man Rid­ing Academy in Waren­dorf. She is a na­tive of Ger­many and now lives with her hus­band and three chil­dren in Is­rael, where she com­petes at the international level. She is the au­thor of two books on the biome­chan­ics of rid­ing: Bal­ance in Move­ment and Rider and Horse, Back to Back. Find her books at EquineNet­workS­tore.com.

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