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POINT OF VIEW


when needed, without ever compressing the back with tight thighs). The legs must hang naturally and not be forced back.


The legs are most effective if they are slightly in front of the buttocks, so they can serve as a point of leverage for the seat in case the horse doesn’t want to go forward. By staying close to the girth, they can easily activate the horse’s front legs. Though the hind legs provide the pow- er needed for forward movement, it is important to stress it is the front legs that allow the impulsion to happen be- cause they are the brakes of the horse. Without unlocking the brakes, there is no impulsion. The rider’s hips must always be in front of the shoul- ders (a little or a lot depending on how much impulsion is needed). It is the slight angle of the back that make it pos- sible to push the horse forward. Think about it this way: if one puts a finger on top of a ball sitting on a table, it is only angling the finger that it is possible to move the ball, while a perfectly vertical finger would block the ball in one place by overloading it. The seat must move forward with the horse (or the horse with the seat) in order for the hand to move for- ward in harmony with the horse’s movement. As we can see in Oliveira’s second picture on p. 59, his body is never quite vertical: keeping the body unduly in a neutral posi- tion takes away the rider’s ability to absorb movement, while giving no room for the horse’s back to lift softly at every stride under a forward moving seat. These are the conditions necessary to produce a for-


ward horse with a round topline and a light contact. And most importantly the rider should maintain the legs close enough to act quickly, but always keep them relaxed so they do not provoke a constant contraction of the horse’s sides. In addition, avoid rounding the lower back, which also rounds the shoulders and brings the hands inward toward the rider’s body, shortening the horse’s neck and giving it no place to go. The rider who uses the seat described here will appear


at one with his horse because the place right behind the withers is the “sweet spot” in the movement of the horse’s back.


Ways to Develop the Seat I remember watching the great bull rider Ty Murray (win- ner of multiple World Champion All-Around Cowboy titles) and observing the following: whatever bull he rode, he sat very close to his ropes, his legs way down, his back slightly arched, his shoulders lowered and his chest ex- panded, his head held high. He was one of the most el- egant riders I ever had the pleasure to watch for the lon- gest eight seconds in sport. When he was successful, he


58 September/October 2018


seemed to sit in the “eye of the storm” and stepped off of that bull as if nothing had happened. What I learned later is that his seat came from long


practice riding a unicycle from an early age. Similarly, Nuno Oliveira recommended riders practice various exer- cises in the saddle, which was common 50 years ago. As a youth, I learned from a retired cavalry officer who


made us ride endlessly without stirrups in the arena and cross-country; sit at the walk, trot and canter, balancing exclusively on our tailbone, legs up in the air, without holding the reins (on confirmed lesson horses); swing legs and arms; hold our heels in our hand (one at a time) to drop our thighs, etc. Billy (William) Steinkraus rode on the lunge line with-


out stirrups the very morning he won his gold med- al at 1968 Mexico Olympics on the great showjumper Snowbound.


It Stems from the Back Though both had a clear picture of an ideal seat, Oliveira and Steinkraus looked at the rider’s position as a dynamic range, to be understood as the most helpful way to sit on a horse and influence his balance positively at any given moment. One cannot ride the same way on an unreli- able horse who may take advantage of its rider or on a trusted jumper who can be ridden in the highly permis- sive, extreme forward seat that Bert de Nemethy brought to the United States from his European experience of the Caprilli Method. That said, the rider needs to know which extremes to go to when needed, but only go there when required and for no longer than needed. “I hasten to add [to the notion of multiple seat forms], that hav- ing a whole collec- tion of seats, including some extreme ones, doesn’t mean that you use all of them every day,” Steinkraus wrote in his book Reflections on


Beudant, old and in great pain from accidents sustained in his mil- itary life. He is seen here on the last horse he trained, the very hot Anglo-Arab mare Vallerine. His seat is exemplary: up the front of the saddle, leg falling naturally in “yielding of the aids.” Beudant never fell off of a horse, though a few fell on him racing or in com- bat. He cowboyed in Montana, trained many high school horses to a level never imitated, rode the same horses in steeple-chases and in his military intelligence job. As the best representative of the Second Manner of Baucher, he achieved this beautiful posi- tion of the horse: elevated in the poll and the withers, free and comfortable. This was the result of both an excellent seat and pro- gressive training.


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