Several years ago I was lucky enough to work one-on-one with a Pilates trainer. A friend and I met with this woman twice a week. We would first work on the reformer machine and then on floor exercises. Those few months of exercises, which had me focused on my alignment, breathing and balance, did wonders for my body awareness and, consequently, my position in the saddle.
I thought back to those exercises when reading this month’s story on how to improve the rider’s seat. Germany’s Isabelle von Neumann-Cosel—sister of DT’s Technical Consultant Felicitas von Neumann-Cosel and cousin of Susanne von Dietze, our “Clinic” author—works as a journalist, author, dressage rider and trainer with a special interest in seat position. In Part 1 of her two-part series, Isabelle helps us understand our body and talks about the need for a “reality check.” She says that the improvement of the rider’s seat is one of the most difficult goals to achieve. “To most riders, their seat position on the horse feels normal. It is the result of genetic facts, well-trained muscle memory and long-lasting habits. Every rider becomes numb to his or her problems and even his or her own obvious mistakes while sitting on the horse. Therefore, one has to mistrust the feel in his or her own body. But it is also the most rewarding goal: Horses will react immediately to better balance, less negative tension and/or quicker coordination of the rider.” Read “Improve Your Seat” on p. 36.
Body awareness and a balanced seat are certainly prerequisites for the skills featured in this month’s article on the counter canter by George Williams. He offers four exercises that help develop a horse’s straightness and collection. Williams tells us that the counter canter will also improve the true canter. “In true canter, the inside hind leg naturally carries more weight because it steps farther under the horse’s body, toward the center of gravity. In counter canter, the focus is on helping the outside hind leg reach, carry weight and propel the horse. Counter canter is one of the few exercises that allows the rider to activate and engage the outside hind so directly.” You can read his article on p. 28.
In addition to this month’s training features, we bring you Part 2 of our horse-shopping series on p. 56; an introduction to this year’s Special Olympics USA equestrian team as it prepares for the 2015 World Games, held in Los Angeles this July 25–Aug. 2, on p. 50; and a look at how to care for your horse during the sweltering days of summer on p. 62. We hope this issue brings you increased awareness of not only your position but other aspects of our sport as well.
Until next time ...