Spirit of the
By Kim Peterson
26 / Sport and Trail Magazine
Often, I see riders in what I call an armchair seat, where the rider’s shoulder and hips are in line and their heels are much further forward. In this position, the rider tends to sit much heavier in the saddle, and it takes much longer to apply a leg aid, as the lower legs need to move back to reach the horse’s sides. Horses sometimes react fearfully if the leg is nowhere near their sides and then suddenly “bang” there they are. When riding in the armchair position, the rider is likely to overuse their seat as a forward driving aid: This may result in the horse dropping his back and trailing the hocks out the back. This way of going is the exact opposite of what we are working toward.
It is easy to check the shoulder, hip, heel line by simply dropping your arm by your side and looking down your arm to check if you are correctly aligned.
A rider that grips tightly through the knee and thigh will tend to have a loose lower leg, their heels will ride up, and they will ride in a toe-down manner. We need to ride with our heels softly lower than the toe but not jammed down where the rider’s muscles become taut and they can no longer tone the calf muscles up or soften them when applying barely visible aids. A rider who travels with the toes down tends to go to their spur to apply the leg aids. When applying the aids in this manner, your horse will become flat and unresponsive to the leg aids, resulting in riders heading toward sharper spurs.
This is not true to the spirit of working equitation and is not in the best interest of the horse/human partnership. I like to ride with my legs hanging gently on the horse’s sides where I am able to tone up my muscles to give an almost invisible aid which my horses respond to immediately and calmly.
A rider that is tight around the knee will perch up high above the horse and may lose balance easily. I thought my balance was pretty good until I was given a lesson on the lunge in Germany, I had to perform a group of coordinated exercises up there. Hehe! That sure was an eye opener! Performing exercises whilst being lunged certainly is a great tool, which we could utilize more often.
n the sport of working equitation, as with most equestrian pursuits, less is more.
Barely visible aids are what I aspire to apply when I perform the spicy dance of working equitation. I need to take responsibility for my body language and be listening to my horse. To be a good dance partner, I must prepare for each move. This enables us to glide from each movement or gait to the next with fluidity and harmony.
As riders, we need to carry ourselves in a manner that allows our horse to work underneath us to their full potential. If our body is aligned with a straight line between the shoulder, hip and heel we are in the optimum position to apply the aids and carry ourselves lightly when asking our horse to perform the obstacles or maneuver through the dressage test.
Staying True to the