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Important Basics To Use In Equitation

Dec 27, 2007
There are many aspects to equitation, but good hands, a good seat and use of the aids are the first needing to be considered.

GOOD HANDS - This means that the hands are supple, sensitive, sympathetic, flexible and adaptable - maintaining a light, constant contact with the horse's mouth - thus giving a maximum control of the horse while he remains calm - with the least possible exertion on the part of the rider.

A GOOD SEAT - This means that the rider is both firm and balanced in the saddle, his legs in a position to signal and control the horse - a combination of balance, security and control. There are four basic seats (in the United States).

Hunting seat - Generally used in hunting, polo, jumping and cross-country riding, it is characterized by a position balanced over the horse's center of gravity at all gaits (and at speed, balanced on the stirrups). The back is straight, but relaxed, and head up. The thighs are in full contact with the saddle and close to the pommel, the inner portion of the legs in contact with the horse, the knee "covering" the toe, heels down, toes pointed slightly outward, elbows slightly bent and parallel to the side. "Heels down and chin up."

At gaits faster than the walk, the rider bends forward from the hips, the position of the legs remaining unchanged.

This is frequently referred to as the Balanced, or Forward seat.

Saddle horse seat - This seat is characterized by use of longer stirrups. Consequently, there is less bend in the knee and the rider appears to be sitting closer to the cantle. The stirrup irons are under the ball of the feet. The hands are generally held higher above the withers than in the forward or hunting seat, elbows are close to the side and the back is vertical.

Stock or Western seat - This seat is influenced by the heavy stock saddle with the stirrups hung further back than in the flat types of saddle. It is characterized by an almost straight leg and, as with a saddle horse, the hands are held higher above the prominent pommel.

Dressage seat - The rider is balanced vertically. Basically a hunting seat, but the rider never leaves the saddle and thus uses a longer leather for greater control.

Faults - Common faults in all seats are: Slouching in the saddle, legs too far forward ("feet on the dashboard"), stirrups too long, stirrups too short, knees not in contact with the saddle, heels level or up, reins too long and lack of control.

THE AIDS - This refers to the various means by which a rider controls and communicates with the horse: his hands (the reins), his legs, weight (balance) and voice. They are used in conjunction with each other. Artificial aids include the whip, crop and spurs. The martingale, noseband, rigid reins, gag snaffle, etc. are also used to control the horse.

Direct rein refers to the use of the rein in such a way as to exert pressure to the rear in order to displace the horse's weight to the rear; this is also known as the Direct Rein of Opposition.

Indirect rein refers to the use of the rein to exert pressure to the rear toward the opposite side - in front of the withers. The horse turns to the opposite side without advancing.

Leading rein means opening out the rein away from the horse's head to move it to the right or left, by carrying the hand well out to the right or left.

Bearing rein means moving the rein against the horse's neck toward the opposite side without increased pressure to the rear. The right bearing rein is produced when the right rein acts toward the left against the right side of the horse's neck. The left bearing rein would be produced by the left rein acting toward the right against the left side of the horse's neck.

There are more aspects to equitation, but these will get you off on the right foot.
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