The Importance of Seat Work
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the seat in riding. It's the foundation for all our work under saddle and yet it seems that many people do not get a good foundation which creates balance, suppleness and relaxation. After all, our body is the took we use to ask the horse to do something. Riding is a conversation, and the language is touch. If we are poor communicators, we can hardly blame the horse for not understanding. It's our job as the rider to learn to sit and absorb the horse's motion with relaxation so that we do not get in their way when riding.
My first riding instructor was an Irish lady called Pamela Goodwin. She was an amazing horsewoman and as I got older - I really began to appreciate the things she had taught me. We learned to ride in a small arena with school ponies who went around nose to tail. Students had no reins and no stirrups, and we had to learn to walk, trot, canter and jump before we were allowed to hold the reins. By that time you had your balance, and had learned not to pull on the horse's mouth. Those lessons have stayed with me to this day - and they come in mighty handy when my dear horse Bandit decided to buck while out galloping on a trail ride earlier this week. My friend riding behind me said "How the hell did you stay on?" The answer is that I created the muscle memory a long time ago riding with Mrs. Goodwin. To boot, her jumping field was not flat - it was on a hill with a valley in the middle. So we had to learn to jump uphill, down hill and across the hill. She also took us out cross country, where we learned to walk, trot and canter in a group without wild racing. The golden rule was that we were not allowed to overtake her, as she led the pack on board her fiery chestnut Thoroughbred ex - racehorse - Pieces of Eight. He was also a Grand Prix jumper and very talented.
In those early years, we played games like Simon Says, and Red Light, Green Light, and to this day I still do them with my students. We also did jumping lanes, trot poles and bending cones. That foundation gives me the seat I have to this day, and I am so grateful to Pamela for all that she taught me - she was my inspiration.
About 10 years ago I ran into Classical Equitation trainer Craig Stevens. I rode with him for years and became the organizer for his Canadian Clinics. He lives in Snohomish, Washington. I then learned the Seat Work seen in this video, as I was at the time, undergoing Instructor training with Craig. The full range of exercises is also done on the lunge, at the walk, trot and canter, but the baton is added and I will do another video to demonstrate that. These exercises are invaluable, as they create core strength and teach you to sit in the middle of the horse. The rider automatically corrects their posture and balance to avoid falling off, and it happens instantly. You don't have time to overthink everything, you just have to react. This creates muscle memory and quick reactions when your horse bucks, bolts or spooks. It enables you to sit very deep so that you don't become dislodged easily and fall off. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the independent seat, it is our foundation and the basis of all work - be it jumping, dressage, reining - whatever. If you can spend some time riding a good horse without stirrups, you will very soon feel the difference in your connection, and it creates a body awareness. If you are not aware of what your body is doing, then you cannot hope to communicate clearly to the horse. It's all about feel and balance - and this attention to detail will give you a safer experience around horses, and your horse will thank you for not creating a sore back! Happy riding.