Horse Riding: Three Tips for Dressage

Dressage: It’s one of the hardest and challenging riding styles. Luckily our guest author Natasha Althoff-Kelley knows a lot about it. In this post she’ll be sharing three key points to consider when doing dressage.

Dressage The Three Keys to the Perfect Seat
By Natasha Althoff-Kelley

When you are riding, one vitally important component is your seat. In this article, I would like to look at the seat and how important it is to make sure you are relaxed and confident, to assist in your perfect seat.

Just close your eyes for a moment and I want you to imagine your perfect seat. What does it look like to you? I want you to picture yourself as if you are looking at yourself. So how do you look? Are you still, poised and elegant? What are you ankles doing? Your thighs? Your stomach? Then I want you to step into your body and feel how it feels to have a perfect seat. How it feels to move with your horse in motion and go with the movement. What do you hear, what do you see and what do you feel?

Ok so “how????” I can hear you screaming at me!

Well, good question, but let’s first look at why?

To me seat is the single most important tool when riding a horse. When I am working with a client seat is at the fore front of my mind all the time. Lets say I have a client coming to me saying “my horse doesn’t keep his head still or stay to the contact,” I could talk about driving to the bit and engaging behind and riding the hind leg and I do… but I am also thinking are the hands still enough for the horse to comfortably and easily go into the bridle and stay steady on the contact. Still hands are vital for a horses head to be still. The hands can only be still if the seat is sufficiently developed to keep the balance, and not rely on the hands for balance.

The seat is also the core to effective dressage riding. You know when you watch the top riders and you are staring really hard… and you still can’t see them doing anything!!! And the horse is dancing underneath them. Well that’s riding with seat. Where you can go with the horse and influence the horse with your body. It’s almost like your thoughts become his and your back becomes his back.

So there are three keys to a perfect seat:

  1. Balance – you must have balance first. You must be able to sit in the center of the saddle and not have to rely on anything to grip or get tight to stay in the centre of the movement.
  2. Relaxation – to have a supple back that can swing with the horse you must be relaxed and not tight. The biggest mistakes trainers make is when they say shoulders back, or heels down, the rider if they are very eager will force their heels down or shoulders back using all the muscles they have to achieve this. This results in tight tired muscles and is not the point of a supple seat – the rider will never have the ability to go with the horse. Muscles must always be supple. Now that doesn’t mean soft and not engaged as the muscles do need to work. But with relaxation! I know it’s a paradox! Aren’t most things in riding?!?!?! When I am assisting clients with this I ask them to think of holding a glass of water, now hold it too tight with all the muscle strength you have in your hand and the glass will break, completely relax your hand and the glass will drop and break. There is a muscle tension in the middle ground that is enough to hold the glass. It’s the same for riding. Enough tension to keep you in the movement but not too much that you will become tight, rigid and blocked.
  3. Going with the horse’s movement – you must be able to go with the horse and not be left behind. It’s about being the leader, always knowing what will happen next and being ready for it. This means you must have a braced back and an engaged core.

Once you have developed your perfect seat you can then use your seat to influence the horse, slow and quicken it only with seat and turn and perform lateral movements with your seat in conjunction with your legs and reins.

So remember relaxation is so important. It’s a must. If you are worried about falling, you will be gripping and be tight and your seat can’t go with the horse. If you are not balanced you will grip to stay on and your seat can’t go with the horse.

So work on your balance in the saddle, make sure you stay relaxed and supple with positive muscle tension and then allow your body to go with the horse. This is where riding in your mind can help. You can only do so many hours in the saddle practicing but you can do many more hours in your head. The best thing is in your head you never make a mistake and your unconscious mind can’t tell the difference between real and imagined, so all those neural connections are strengthened even if your not on the horse!

To your success,


Natasha Althoff-Kelley
Visit my website for your free 7 Keys to Your Riding Success – providing you with more advice and videos to assist you in your riding journey

Article Source:—The-Three-Keys-to-the-Perfect-Seat&id=4663212

Thank you Natasha.

So next time your out doing dressage on your favourite horse consider carefully your seat.

November 12, 2010 В· Maddia (Admin) В· Comments Closed
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