So many instructors tell us about the seat, what it needs to look like, why we need it for stability and so on.
But - especially in dressage they seldom tell you how the 'classical' seat affects the other seats - in fact they usually don’t mention the other seats at all, but rather make out that there is only one seat. And they don’t tell you how to use the seat other than 'drive' or 'don’t drive' depending on the system they follow.
Fortunately we've found some good mentors who have helped clarify this confusion.
The first person to talk to us about the different seats was Antonio Saldanha from the Portuguese cavalry school in Mafra. He looked at Ru's seat back in 2008 and said: "ah that’s a good cross country seat. I wish I had that. My cross country seat isn’t very good. But for this work I’m going to show you a different seat that allows the horse to move the way it needs to move for dressage.
The nice thing about this approach was that he didn’t make Ru feel bad or tell him he was 'wrong'. Instead he honored what was good, was horseman enough to recognize it, and then kindly - and we stress kindly - offered more information.
Antonio went on to say there were in fact several seats, all correct for different jobs, but asked Ru to think of the classical seat as a kind of 'neutral on the gear box - instead of telling the horse it’s time to jump or rope cows, this tell the horse he’s free to move and that we’d like to bring his center of gravity back under the rider if possible'
This made things much clearer.
Of course it was easier said than done to reeducate the seat after three decades of cross country riding and jumping but at least the objective, the 'why' was clear.
The next person to talk about the seat helpfully was Marta Renilla (www.woodlandsequestrianclub.com) who rides for Spain and is very kind in her teaching style too. She showed us how, rein-less, we could change direction using just the seat and then just use the rains to affect the shoulders, balance or softness. That was the 'directional seat.'
Then Marijke de Jong (www.straightnesstraining.com) showed us something totally new - the 'observational seat'. She showed us how to move right to the front of the saddle, literally sitting on the pommel, then right on the cantle, then to hang to each side Comanche style to find out the extreme limits of the seat. Then she had us drop the leg and just feel how the barrel of the horse swings the riders legs slightly to and fro and to begin to count when the inside hind leg moves the riders inside leg so the rider can start to judge when to ask for transitions from the horse.
This was huge. So many people talk about the importance of 'feel'. So few tell you how to find it, let alone use it.
Thank you mentors. We are forever students