How To Ride Your Gaited Horse
Part V
© Beverly Whittington 2003

Seat as it "applies" to the different gaits.

The many different types of gait available in the different gaited breeds (as well as the ability of many gated horses to perform more than one type of gait) requires the rider to be aware of the requests or demands that their seat is making of the horse.
Figure 1
Level Back

Figure 2
Ventroflexed Back
Shape of the back in various gaits.

The above two skeletons illustrate the level and ventroflexed back of a horse. 
The ventroflexed back (Figure 2) is the shape the horse carries his back in the gaits of :
Stepping Pace
Stepped Rack
The level back (Figure 1) is the shape the horse carries his back in the gaits of :


Weight Aids

What are Weight Aids? First you need to remember that the horse reacts to a pressure or aid in a predictable way that is natural or instinctive for a horse. You need to put this into practice when you are applying a weight aid. An often seen mistake is when a rider applies a rein or leg Cue and an inappropriate weight aid. 

For example: 
You are working your horse at the 
shoulder in
To perform the shoulder in correctly, the rider keeps his weight on the outside seat bone. If you shift your weight to the inside seat bone, it forces the horse to move laterally while twisted. The horse will also be likely to drift to the inside instead of maintaining the correct direction of travel. In contrast, when the weight of the body is used correctly, it will increase the horses tendency to step well underneath himself with the inside hind leg as he tries to step under the riders center of gravity.

Centering Your Weight

In order to be effective in the use of weight aids, you need to be aware of WHERE you are caring your weight. One of the best ways to be effective in the use of your weight, and to achieve the best balance it to "center" your weight. As a riding instructor for many years, I have worked with all types of people in helping them become conscious of their weight placement and how to use the weight aids effectively. One of the best means I have found is "Inserting a crystal ball." 

First we have to locate your center. Sit up straight in your chair and place your hand on your belly button. Now close your eyes and visualize that there is a Crystal Ball behind your hand in your abdomen, right behind your hand and centered just in front of your spinal column, between your hips. Really get a visual image of the crystal ball it is clear and shiny. Now begin to "fill the crystal ball". You do this by taking the weight from various parts of your body and "moving" it into the crystal ball. First start with the lower extremities, then the head, shoulders, arms and torso. You should soon have a ball that is "FILLED" it is dark and heavy, filled with your weight. 

You will notice that you have a tendency to tighten your abdominal muscles as you perform this exercise. This is a GOOD thing, but make sure that you do not hollow your back. Your back should be straight, as the crystal ball fills with weight.

Get the feel of this on your chair, right here in front of the computer, and then begin to practice this on a horse. The practical application of this exercise is that it gives you a VERY secure seat. After all you are placing the BULK of your weight about 6 to 8 inches ABOVE THE CENTER OF THE SADDLE! I have demonstrated how secure this can make a rider by having them close their eyes and then SHOVING them from their shoulder without warning. They WILL NOT BECOME dislodged. IF they have their center. BEWARE if you try this, that the person doing the shoving has one hand on the shoulder and the other near the leg of the rider on the same side. The rider that does not have their center will topple, so a firm hand applied on the leg can save them from a fall!

Once you have your crystal ball turned into a "lead ball" and you can maintain it, you are in a position where you can begin to redistribute your weight and apply seat/rein cues to affect the horse. Work to maintain a balanced, center seat with your body in the base position, then you can  make adjustments which will influence the horse's gait. 

Affecting the position of the horse's back.

If you take a good look at the images of the horses spinal column above, you can see that the horse's back, from withers to lumbo-sacral junction is somewhat flexible. The exact position of the rider's weight on a horse's back and the engagement of the seat can make the horse either more or less hollow. I cannot stress enough that you need to understand and be able to apply the balanced, center seat before you begin to try to influence the horses carriage and gait by your position and weight aids. There are no short cuts. Having worked with people for many years with gaited horses, I know many will have the tendency to "cut to the chase". If they are looking to have their horse perform a running walk for example, just skip to the part of this article that addresses that gait. Well, if you do not use and apply the rest of the information already addressed here, the other stuff will not work very well or at all. 

Simple Start Exercises

Put the horse at a walk with light contact. Sit square in the saddle, insert your crystal ball and fill it. Perform the exercises described in WORKING The WALK and Exercises at the Walk until you and your horse become proficient at them then which direction you go with your horse is determined by the gait his conformation, breed and inclination take him!


Other Articles of interest.
The Seat and getting the horse on the bit.

Achieving Response, Gait and Confidence through Relaxation

Rider Affect on the Horses Movement

MAKING CONTACT How to use a bit 


Exercises at the Walk

Conditioning a Horse to Gait

Equitation for Gaited Horses

Exercises for Increased Flexibility in Gaited Horses

The Seat and getting the horse on the bit.

Part I Part II Part III
Part IV Part V Part VI The Flat Walk
Part VII The Fox Trot Part VIII The Rack


To Be Continued...

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