Developing a deeper, driving seat? Also, what should I expect from my horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 02-27-2011, 01:09 AM Thread Starter
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Developing a deeper, driving seat? Also, what should I expect from my horse?

Two threads in one!

I plan on getting into some dressage/eventing training with my horse when Spring rolls around, but in the mean time I'd like to begin to develop some things to get a pretty decent foundation to work from.

Firstly, my seat.
I am very light in the saddle. My seat has no real "drive" to it, aside from my legs. My seat bones are pretty idle. I've done some experimenting with driving with the seat, from which I've learned I need to work on my core strength So, I need some advice about how to really dig deep into my saddle and encourage the horse with my seat. Like I said, I'm pretty good with encouraging the horse "up" and forward with my legs... But it ends there. Oh and I should mention right now I just have a jumping saddle so obviously I'm going to have a more shallow seat, but I could make it happen until I get my new saddle.

Lastly, what should I expect my horse to be able to do before I get into lessons? Basically, what sort of foundation should we be working towards? My horse has been ridden in an outline, but an arab WP outline, which is very different in most ways than a dressage outline. I am assuming I will just have to think "forward" pretty much 100% of the time (but not racey of course) and allow him to strech down and into the contact, instead of up and back into it. I know I have a lot of work as far as suppleness and rythym goes, but what specifically should I start working on? Should I even worry about how hollow he travels right now and just work on suppleness/bend/rythym then work up to a less strung out way of movement?

Thanks for reading! All help is appreciated!

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. ~Harriet Tubman
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post #2 of 7 Old 02-27-2011, 01:31 AM
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HI Eliz,

I am goingto jump in, but I am not as knowledgeable about dressage, and certainly not about eventing, as many ohters.
I have seen you riding Vinnie in some other threads you posted and I know how beautifully and lightly you ride and how lightly he goes.
Never having held his reins in my hands, I am not sure if he is genuine to the bit or if he comes behind it (as many WP horses do) but I think he's pretty genuiine from what I saw.

I don't know what to say about a driving seat. But can I say something about the second part of your "two, two threads in one!" thread;

I would start working with V and work on getting him to accept more constant and steadying contact. To do this I would work on stretching and contracting him longitudinally. I would get him to the bit, then advance your hands and encourage him to follow the bit down and forward, while not losing forward marching walk rythm. YOu follow him down and you try not to lean too far forward, then pause for a few steps and use your seat to really push him "through" the gate that you have from your elbows to his mouth. Almost visualize it as if you are holding a jumprope out in front of him and you want him to step over the rope and through it , with energy and thrust from behind. Your seat will be doing the most work her because if you put your leg on too much, he'll pop his head up and you'll lose the throughness coming up from hind end , through the back, and over the "jumprope".

Get just one or two good steps and then think of keeping that same energy but contracting it. You will raise your hands and bring them back to your core, but you do it in rythm with his stepping, taking each side of his body as he advances that side with the push of the hind leg. You will feel the horse step into the bridle alternately, each side of the body that stretchs out when the horse pushes off on that side causes the horses head to ocilate a bit from side to side. When you feel the horse step into the right rein, you "take" a tiny bit more on that side, asking the horse to shorten his frame and collect. Step into the left, you take a tiny bit more there. By doing this , the horse shortens into a more collected walk, and you must drive forward with your seat to core. Get a couple of good steps and then back down again. After once or twice in each direction, give a total walk on a loose rein reward.

longitudinal stretching is really valuable training excersize.
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post #3 of 7 Old 02-27-2011, 01:44 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks you for your kind words about V as well as myself!

I will definitely work with what you have given me, very well explained, thank you! I plan on getting on him tomorrow... I may try to get a video as well so that everyone can see where we're at.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. ~Harriet Tubman
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post #4 of 7 Old 02-27-2011, 02:27 AM
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Just wanting to jump in and correct your terminology I guess for lack of better words - you say you want to learn to really dig deep into your saddle. This is not a dressage seat ;)
The dressage seat is still light, I know you can read and hear people calling it deep and driving, but this does not mean deep as in pushing down hard into the horse's back. If you are driving your seat deep into the saddle, all you'll do is block the movement through your pelvis and run into all sorts of positional troubles.

Basically your 'seat' is a triangle. We have two seat bones, and a pubic bone. Your seat bones are the pointy bits you can feel when you sit on a hard wooden bench - usually the points of your backside that hurt after a while!
Your pubic bone is obviously between your legs - but not so that you are rolling forward getting chafing 'there'!!

You should be able to feel your seat bones and pubic bone while in the saddle, and be aware of how they feel when you are evenly distributing your weight over all 3.
The 'driving seat' is something that really comes through practical experience, you need to be on a horse to really get a feel of exactly what it is. I find it quite difficult to explain this over the internet, though I'm sure someone like Spyder or Anebel will be able to do so.
I like my horses to work in front of the leg, more so than the seat as a driving aid. As Steffen Peters says, you want the horse to respond immediately to the leg as a forward aid more so than the seat, as the seat makes it look like hard work.
With this in mind, I have my horses so that they will immediately move off from my leg, and my seat then turns into a support. The leg says 'go' and the seat says 'this much'. The seat I also use, for lengthening the stride. Rather than applying leg for speed of direction, I will lengthen my hip to ask the horse to lengthen the stride, and if I lose the activity, THEN I will put some leg on and hold with the core.
For coming back to me and for downward transitions, I use the seat to hold and slow the pace, with a little leg to maintain the activity and engagement of the hind quarters.
If you just pull on the reins, sure the horse might stop but the hind legs will be long gone. So the driving aid must be used in conjunction with the holding aids to maintain active, engaged hind legs through any downward transitions whether within or between gaits.

I could talk about the seat and aids forever so I'll stop now!

As for what to work towards, well lessons will steer you in the right path ;) Don't stress about having your horse going 'correctly' before your first lesson - that's what you're having lessons for!
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post #5 of 7 Old 02-27-2011, 07:52 AM
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Please don't try to develop a 'driving' seat and don't think about seatbones making the horse go forward or any of that.

I'm not sure who told you about dressage or described it to you in that way.

But when you start out at the lower levels, the main thing to work on is developing a supple seat that follows the horse's motions. Even at the top levels it is not at all good to try to have a 'driving' seat where the seat bones are pushed into the saddle.

Instead the seat should be supple, so that you sit in the lowest part of the saddle and follow the motions of the horse in a soft, relaxed way.

Instead, before your lessons, my suggestion is to just get yourself and your horse fit, preferably riding 4-6 times a week, each ride including a good amount of trot and canter. Of course working up to that gradually, if the horse has been off for the winter or isn't usually ridden that much.

Focus on having a steady contact with the horse's mouth, where the horse is pretty much allowed to decide where his head and neck are most comfortable. Think about following his head and neck with the contact with the reins rather than placing his 'outline' somewhere.

In dressage that 'outline' really is not what anyone legit is seeking. It is not a look so much as a feeling that you work on.

The feeling is a steady, constant contact with the bit through the reins. When you pick up the trot, or canter, or stop, or turn, whether the horse puts his head and neck down a little or not, that that contact is always there, just light and comfortable.

You follow the horse's head and neck rather than placing it in an outline.

If the horse's head and neck are very stiff or restricted, or held in a fixed, unchanging posture, and trying to ride with a soft following contact doesn't help that, the instructor can help you with that when your lessons start.

But the most important thing at the start is to have a steady contact on both reins.

It's a really good idea, before lessons start to not get too worked up and try to do a whole lot of things different. Just get in shape, try to follow the horse's head and neck.
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post #6 of 7 Old 02-27-2011, 01:06 PM Thread Starter
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Lol thank you all, I do tend to get ahead of myself sometimes!

Kayty, thanks that makes sense! And yes, I used some teminology for lack of better words, because I'm not familiar with all the ins and outs of the sport. So what I'm gathering is that I'll need to be more on my seat bones. I ride hunter right now, and although there is a definite triangle and I can feel my seat bones, the pubic bone has quite a bit more weight on it ;)

Slc, thanks for the suggestion. I will just work on our basic walk/trot/canter and get in shape before we start our actual training. And just to clear things up, most of what I've learned about dressage is through reading and researching, so I am not at all offended if you correct me! :)

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. ~Harriet Tubman
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post #7 of 7 Old 02-27-2011, 01:38 PM
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Well that's kind of the trouble - there's a lot of wrong stuff written about dressage. And at the start it's very very hard to know who knows and who doesn't. If it sounds a little too much like pooping rainbows and sunbeams, it's probably not right - if it sounds like the horse learns by being smacked over the head with a stick, it's wrong...the truth is somewhere in between, not either extreme.

But you sound like a lovely rider and it sounds like you have a very nice horse. You should have a lot of fun.
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