Developing a better seat
The base for all good riding is a stable basic seat and a good balance. A stable basic seat is not something that just appears one day, you have to train and train again to get it in place. When you do a lot of riding with an instructor it usually appears by itself, but since Nemah has been injured a lot we haven’t really gotten to that part. Lately I’ve been feeling the need to develop a better seat to be able to disturb Nemah less when I sit on her. I also want to give her the best opportunities there are to work in balance and rebuild herself into a more healthy and stronger horse.
I have had this in the back of my head for a while but it wasn’t until I found a really interesting article about seat training on the lunge that I decided to actually do something about it. Said and done, I searched the Internet for a place where I could go to train my seat and luckily I found one just a couple of kilometres from where I live. I booked a lesson in lunged seat training with the instructor Lena Danius at Ekipage-1 and expected to get a good workout and a lot of sore muscles from it.
When the day and time arrived I took my bike to the stable where the lesson were to take place and once there I got to say a quick hello to the horse that was to be my guide throughout this ordeal. His name is Pargon and he is a 20-year-old arabian gelding. We went to the indoor arena and I climbed up. A knot was put on the reins and the stirrups were crossed in front of the saddle. There I was - on a strange horse, in a strange place and with nothing more than a saddle to hold on to. As far as I knew Pargon could have been a ferocious monster that would send me straight to the ground again. Luckily he was not, he was a real gentleman, or maybe a gentlehorse, and he took really good care of me.
Now all the fun started. The first exercise was to move myself as far back as I could in the saddle and draw myself forward with my hands on the pommel, until I couldn’t get any further. This made me find the correct place and balance in the saddle. It made me find my sit bones and put them under me which straightens the lower part of the back, something that is needed to get a flexible back. It also hurt. I was told to do this everytime I lost my balance as it pressed me closer to the saddle. After this simple exercise followed 45 minutes of torture, supposed to make my hips relax and me to find stability and the natural movements of the horse.
We quickly realised my unflexible hips was the biggest issue, it almost always is in riders as it is far too easy to keep your balance by keeping your hips tense and by doing so hinder the horse from moving correctly. We started with exercises meant to loosen the hips. For example lift one or both legs upwards and then kick downwards, kick a straight leg towards a hand in front of me three times and lastly lift both knees outwards and up and only balance on my sit bones for three seconds. All of this without my upper body falling forward, which is something it easily does.
To find Pargon's movements and not block them I did small cycling motions with my knees, up and down, in the same step as him. I also got to put my left hand on his right point of hip, this of course made my hips less flexible, but after som practice I got it working.
All these exercises was first done in walk but later also in trot. Pargon had a really nice, comfortable trot and was also trained to stop when the rider pressed the knees or locked the hips, so it was really easy to use my body correctly and follow his movements. He gave me instant feedback when I lost my relaxation.
After this we focused a bit on the position of the leg. You should sit with a slightly bent knee and an imagined straight line going through the shoulders, hips and heels. To know where the skank should be you pull it backwards until you can feel the horse's stomach. The legs should stay in this position, with the toes up and a slight oscillation backwards/downwards in the feet. I felt really strange in this position, the feet felt far behind me, but then Lena showed me how it looked in a mirror and I sat in a perfect basic seat.
As a last exercise I kicked one leg downwards and the other leg should only move a small bit backwards while the knee should leave the saddle.
As I had expected I was really rigid in my hips, it hurt really badly the whole lesson, but I didn’t want to stop anyway. I got praise for my nicely filled lower back and for my balance. I also got another perspective on how unflexible I am, or rather not am, as I was more flexible than many of her other students. Even though I have a good balance, when I lose it I have a tendency to fall forward. This is something I definitely need to work on more. All in all it was a great experience and I learned a lot about myself, my body and how much pain I can take when I am having fun. I did however regret my decision to go there by bike, my hips complained all the way home.