Purpose: This exercise will help you gain control over the “floor” of your seat. Your horse will feel for your seat and start to listen to it. You might be surprised at how effective your very small aids will become.
Directions: Pick up a relaxed but active walk in a comfortably connected frame, and look onto your line of travel.
Step 1: Feel for the “floor” of your seat—the triangular area within the two seat bones and the pubic bone. Follow the saddle very specifically as the horse moves. Be passive, not moving more than the horse’s back moves. Be sure the floor of your seat doesn’t jostle around or move more than the saddle. It might take a while before you feel you’re successful, but be persistent. If your horse hesitates or stops, don’t punish him, but quietly close the legs to encourage him onward. His misunderstanding is to be expected. Soon, your horse will give you a very clear rhythm.
Step 2: Look down. Notice that it isn’t physically possible to follow with the floor of your seat when your head is down. Now, look up. When your head is correctly balanced on top of the spine, the pelvis is, once again, able to follow the motion of your horse’s back. A well-carried head puts the trajectory of your eyes on the horizontal line of travel.
Step 3: When your horse is giving you a consistent walk, ask for bigger strides by closing your legs and following with your hips. Your horse’s back will carry your seat forward in a motion similar to a wave coming to shore. As you follow with your hips into larger strides, they will move in a slightly larger wave. Then, ask for smaller strides by half-halting and following with a smaller wave. (For specific directions on the half-halt, visit the “Do you want to better understand half-halts?” question.) Your lower legs might need to remind your horse to keep the energy and the tempo going so he doesn’t misinterpret the smaller movement of your seat as wishing for inactivity.
Step 4: Ask for canter. With your seat, feel all three beats of the canter, and follow smoothly.
Step 5: Make a transition to trot: interrupt the canter rhythm with your seat and thighs, then follow the movement of the trot with the floor of your seat. This takes very little rider movement.
Step 6: Follow passively with the floor of your seat then ask for smaller strides with your seat. Your horse will probably think he should walk, but that should be your decision. Ask him to wait and take smaller trot strides until you specifically half-halt and make walk strides with your seat.
Step 7: Follow passively with the floor of your seat in walk. When you want to halt, half-halt and immobilize your seat.