Riding and Jumping: Winning Techniques for Serious Rid- ers. “Quite the contrary! In fact, if we arbitrarily say that the median seat is situated at 5.0 on a scale from 0 to 10, most of your riding will be in the area from 4.8 to 5.2 and only rarely make an excursion into something more ex- treme.” The median seat is the most effective in a general sense because it is the most comfortable for the educat- ed rider to sustain for a long time, as well as the most ef- fective to affect positively a horse organized in collection and self-carriage. Oliveira always insisted on using the rider’s back as the

first aid: “Adjust the position of the back [to rebalance the horse], before using the hands,” he often repeated during lessons (see The Wisdom of Master Oliveira, translated by the author for Xenophon Press). Steinkraus had the same opinion and wrote: “The back is the most difficult and even controversial aid to try to pin down, yet it is also the most critical one, and can exert a decisive influence on the other natural aids in both positive and negative ways. The key to the correct action of the back is variable elas- ticity [make it stiffer to resist and softer to allow move- ment], and the horse will tell you when the action is cor- rect and when it is wrong. When it is correct, you are able to use less and less hand and leg until the horse seems to read your thoughts and respond to your back alone. When it is wrong, neither hand nor leg seem to have any real influence, and it takes a big effort to produce any re- sponse at all.” Conversely, if the horse “gives his back” as the main

transmission between back end and front end, the hind legs produce power, the front legs can provide balance and the neck can arch itself toward the contact of a soft hand that only has to deal with details of control. Steinkraus has more to say about the rider’s back:

“First I stretch up slightly, tightening my abdominal mus- cles as well as those that support the lower spine; then I push everything below the waist a bit forward, while drawing the shoulders and everything above the waist slightly back. It helps if the rider takes a deep breath be- fore starting to use the back, for this by itself tends to make you sit taller and expands your chest while sup- porting the small of the back.” The only difference here between the classical dres-

sage master and the classical showjumper is that the for- mer sits in the saddle and insists on relaxing the abdomi- nals, while the latter, having less direct influence with the seat (because the three-point half-seat offers less direct contact with the saddle), compensates by tightening the abdominals. “Once a rider discovers that he can influence the horse with his back he often becomes so intoxicated with the

Left: An example of Nuno Oliveira’s excessive Baucherist work in his youth. His seat lacked influence (leaning forward), so he is relying on his elevated hand and legs back to balance and animate the horse. He soon figured out that he needed to change both his training and his equitation radically, to the form that made him so successful for the next 40 years. Right: Years later, Oliveira had developed his seat to be incredibly effective. Here he is riding piaffe on Soante.

effect that he insists of continually ‘coming through’ with it, and forgets ever to reward the horse,” Steinkraus con- tinues. “This eventually teaches horses to defend them- selves, and some learn this lesson all too well. Trying to reform a horse that has learned to stiffen its back as a defense against the rider’s rigid seat and back can be a daunting task. And sad to say, many fine riders have end- ed their years with serious back problems that originated, I suspect, in trying to make too much of a good thing. Once you learn to use the back, try to refine your use of this wonderful aid by seeing how little of it you can get by with instead of how much, and encourage the horse to release its back by letting yours swing with it as often as you can.” These comments remind me of the emphasis on “brac- ing the back” in Wilhelm Müseler’s book Riding Logic that was so popular in the second half of the last century. Due to this idea, generations of dressage riders (and jump- ers too) have overused their backs, leading to horses that are either too heavy and “need” endless half-halts to cor- rect problems created by the seat, or too backwards and “need” squeezing legs and prodding spurs (apparently with no great effect).

Independent Aids or Connected Aids? The development of independent aids is part of early rid- ing education: when the rider learns to sit a horse s/he must be able to move each body part without affecting other parts, bumping with the right leg without moving the left, not moving the legs to bump the horse uncon- trollably when trotting, separating actions from the legs from actions of the spurs, retracting the shoulders with- out lifting the hands or pulling on the rein, not using legs

Warmbloods Today 59

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