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POINT OF VIEW


In this sequel, JP describes important aspects of the rider’s seat as he incorporates advice from his- torical greats, dressage master Nuno Oliveira and showjumper William Steinkraus.


The Classical Seat Nuno Oliveira gave a very precise description of the classi- cal seat in an early French edition of Reflections on Equestri- an Art. Using excerpts from the book, I have taken the lib- erty to paraphrase and expand on them here, based on my personal observations of his riding and teaching. It is fundamental to advance the buttocks forward to-


ward the pommel without bracing the back (belly button pushed outward, not held in). This gives the rider the abil- ity to push the withers forward. But this action can have widely different results, depending on other parameters of the aids’ actions. If the rider pushes the withers down with- out any restriction of the head by the bit, the horse may invert the base of his neck and drop it down. Unless they have naturally perfect conformation and posture, we see that problem arise with hunters pushed forward on their forehand without a contact, but these horses react by lift- ing themselves against the visual impact of the fence. Rein- ers are also ridden without a contact, but the back, loins and hind-quarters of Quarter Horses are strong enough to keep them in balance, even when their conformation is on the downhill side. When dressage riders are seeking exaggerated gaits


from horses who are not ready (not yet in self-carriage), the horse’s head is pulled back by the hand (rider’s shoul- ders falling back) and the withers are crushed down by an overactive seat (“shoving” with a back-and-forth action), the base of the neck (and the back) will be dropped and the jammed-up horse will have no chance to fix his posi- tion (hence his balance). In the poorly understood book by François Baucher,


Second Manner, riders used to use the elevation of the neck as a constant position in order to balance the horse (but without much push of the seat). This resulted in the position known as the “pigeon throat.” When observing a beautiful horse displaying exceptional gaits, what really matters is the underline of his neck (which must be con- cave rather than convex), not the handsomely rounded topline.


By JP Giacomini


The Classical Seat and its Function: Creating Balance and Impulsion


Alternatively, when a consistent, passive, forward and


downward push on the withers from the front of the seat (the crotch) is associated with a briefly fixed hand on cor- rectly adjusted reins, it entices the horse to react by push- ing back with his withers in an upward and backward di- rection. This is the means by which the rider can get the horse to retract the base of his neck (C6/C7) and arch it to- ward the contact. The withers “coming up” to the rider seat is the greatest feeling one can get: it is the “glue” between horse and rider. The rider should drop the thighs and embrace the


horse’s barrel with the thighs and the back of the calves (knees opened, toes turned slightly out, so the actions of the legs are effective in lifting the lower half of the barrel


Otto Lorke, the great dressage trainer in Germany from the ’30s to the ’60s, showing great impulsion in complete light- ness. He applied some of Baucher’s ideas, but with a great sense of impulsion. His influence reached all the way across Europe and Oliveira’s teacher, Miranda, adopted his ideas. All three pictures demonstrate Lorke already aged, yet his horses are flexed in their haunches, poll at the highest point, soft in the contact and very active. His seat was the practice of the time: legs by the girth like Fillis (Fillis was a famous Anglo- French horse trainer who was the head professor at the Rus- sian Cavalry School in Saint Petersburg), spurs close to the horse, seat a little further back for a powerful position.


Warmbloods Today 57


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