what my horse is capable of. For example, until my horse can sit and carry himself, I don’t make him carry me sitting heavy on him. There are plenty of horses that I find difficult to sit before they are balanced and have learned to carry their backs up under my weight. I would rather do an excellent posting trot, or ‘half seat’ than struggle through a difficult attempt at a classical sitting dressage seat in this moment. I do make sure I am balanced, athletic and moving with them, no matter what. The ultimate seat for dressage has a supple lower back, engaged abdominal muscles, open hips, a long leg that hangs under the center of the rider, allowing the hips to swing with the horse, an upper body that has the ability to balance dynamically over the pelvis, and a shoulder joint that allows the body to move, while keeping the hands floating still relative to the horse’s mouth. As far as how much weight in the seat vs legs - I think about what I want from my horse. I have heard lots of different ratios for percentage of weight, but that doesn’t usually help me when I am actually riding (my brain just doesn’t work like that). But, in a finished dressage seat in an ideal circumstance, I would say that the amount of weight in my stirrups is about the same amount of weight that my leg itself weighs. I want my leg to hang down from an open relaxed hip. If I push more weight into my legs, my seat will pop up. If I grip or squeeze with my legs, my legs will float up and by seat will squish
down on the horse’s back. When I am in the best moment it feels like gravity is taking care of the weight in my legs. If you aren’t getting that sensation, there is something missing in how your horse is moving, your balance, or you have tension somewhere. The best dressage seat is the one where the horse has the best possibility to engage, round their back, and to feel like the human stays balanced in the middle, so he can move freely to lengthen, shorten, move sideways, etc. within his gaits. The key is to have the athletic dynamic, and not the static picture of it. The ‘photo’ doesn’t matter if the ‘video’ doesn’t look good! In other words: ‘pretty is as pretty does’! Balance is the key. When you are riding, ask yourself: ‘If my horse disappeared right now, would I land on my butt, nose or feet?” You want to always be able to land on your feet. Balance will always look, feel and function beautifully!
Karen Rohlf is committed to empowering students to learn and make progress on their own. Her online programs are designed to give you the information you need and teach you how to use it to problem-solve with your horse. For more information on Dressage Naturally and online virtual courses, please visit dressage.equestrianontario.com DEC ‘17 EQUESTRIAN ONTARIO | 49