It really is a very special feeling to have your horse on your seat, to ride with lightest aids as a harmonious unit. “On the seat” means having a meaningful connection between the rider’s and the horse’s bodies with which we can influence the horse’s movement. It means to melt with the horse; that’s how Benjamin Werndl sums it up.
The Connection Between Horse and Rider
“On the seat also refers to the throughness of the horse and the interplay of the aids,” Benjamin further explains. “When I have my horse on the seat, he’ll respond to the lightest aids. The more I have my horse on my seat, the less I have in my hands. That’s the goal on the path to perfect balance. But let’s not confuse light with nothing – in that case I would have no connection at all. We want our horses to be buttery soft yet still be able to feel them. Then I’ll only need my hands for steering. I sit into the direction I want to go, and the horse will follow my seat.”
When we’ve truly mastered having our horses on the seat, we are able to easily influence every stride: the tempo, length of stride, and frequency. I’ll be able to collect the horse on the seat by sitting a bit deeper. Or I can go more forward by making myself a bit lighter, i.e., shifting my weight a tiny bit forward while staying in balance. I shift my center of gravity a smidge forward, follow the motion and ask the horse to follow my seat.
I can also change ground cover and frequency via the seat. For example, by “slowing down” my seat, I can decelerate the motion sequence of the trot. That would be considered preparatory work toward the passage. The passage, more than almost any other movement, requires us to have our horses honestly on the seat. For the passage, we want to be able to slow the motion sequence of the trot via the seat without having to use the reins as “breaks.” That’s because we want to infuse the passage with energy, hence can’t be riding with the “hand break” on.
Having the Horse On the Seat Requires Proper Rider Fitness
The path to having the horse on the seat includes having to be able to follow the horse’s motion, to be flexible in the hips and at the same time stable in the trunk. But that’s not a one-way-street: “It’s not enough to always follow the horse. The horse also adjusts to me as I shape my horse via the seat. What we need is a combination of mobility on one side and stability on the other. I can only shape my horse when I have stability in my seat; otherwise it’s unstable,” Benjamin emphasizes.
If you want to ride with invisible aids and having your horse on your seat, your horse needs to be able to listen to your seat. The prerequisite for this is that you can build a good connection with your seat to the horse`s back and activate your core muscles without blocking your hips or shoulders at the same time. Check your rider fitness and take your first DressurFit® test for free: Click here to get started!