Seat, Sore, Sun and Shade – Developing my classical dressage seat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst time I sat on a horse I was 10 years old and the horse was the old Mr. Brown (in Norwegian “Brunen”) who had ploughed the fields for a decade.

It was magical and I thought I could not get closer to heaven so high up was I sitting while Mr. Brown was grazing. My next experience was riding the Icelandic horses and trotting horses, but my riding was most of the time “travelling” with the horse rather than actually riding and communicating with the horse from my seat.

Later on, I took riding lessons in dressage and western, but there was always something missing, the horses were not very happy to carry me. It was heartbreaking to see lesson horses living in small paddocks isolated from other horses or confined to small stalls for many hours a day. In the lessons I was instructed to use force on the reins for control. All I had read about in books on riding in a centaur connection did not happen.

In some of the instructional riding books and videos, for example, by Reinhard Klimke, I could see how the reins were used for communication and aids and I could see some of the riders were not just sitting in the saddle but had their seat “wrapped” around the horse and the communication was light and connected.

There was no force on the reins, there was an intelligent communication going on and the horse even carrying a bit, was happy, focused and energetic in the movements. I could see and read about this partnership, but not find anywhere to learn it.

Academic Dressage lessons from the Ground with Christina Holmbaeck in Denmark who had studied with Bent Branderup was the closest I got to a way of training the dressage horse that resonated with me. I was, however, still not having any progress with actually riding.

Most places I lived during the past years I could not get to have lessons with a trainer from the old classical school of dressage like Klimke, Oliveira or a teacher from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

darling5After rescuing the herd of wild horses here in the Caribbean, I focused for years on perfecting my liberty training skills and learning the language of wild horses. My horses got healthy, happy, gained trust and today most of my horses are used to the saddle and comfortable and happy with a person on their back.

The step from being comfortable carrying a person on the back to actually becoming a riding horse is something else.

I never gave up the idea of finding a quality riding teacher who could over a year take me through the thorough education of improving my seat for riding my horses. I searched for a year starting last summer and used various equestrian job sites, talked to more than 40 people and finally selected Gabriel from Hungary. Gabriel has worked with horses for the past 45 years and also trained a few Olympic riders.

Gabriel has arrived. We first of all started a test to find which of the horses had the best natural balance to be a good riding horse. This is important to recognize, as it will be of great benefit for the rider. The next step was to identify the current condition of the horses to make a training plan how to improve the condition over the next weeks.

To develop my riding musculature I will do a special set of exercises every morning and afternoon for the next two months and this will be a foundation for my future riding. When I started the horses under saddle in 2011, I also started various yoga exercises and can really feel that has been useful to improve my balance and focus for the exercises I do now.

I am going to film how my seat improves from now and in the next months, to study how I can really develop a good seat. To be a “green” rider to teach “green” horses is not easy. Some people can probably do it, but I think most of us can’t. I really need a good instructor on the ground who can tell me which steps to take.

In this writing moment I am very sore and I have discovered a set of muscles on my body I did not know existed…. Gabriel walks Darling in circles on the lawn in the sun, in the shade while giving me encouragement to do various exercises from the saddle… I am finally learning to develop my seat together with my beautiful lead mare.

You see…now I think I have it…my steps to dressage…

– natural horse management
– understanding the language of the horse herd
– liberty skills
– fun and heart skills
– developing of the rider’s seat and mind
– correctly fitted equipment for horse and rider
– developing the dressage horse from the ground
– riding.. tada!

Thank you for reading and look forward to share more and hear from you.

Kind regards Stina

Beginning Dressage with Klimke.  I like the expression and energy on most of these horses, do you?

Various clips starting Darling under Saddle

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