In good dressage, all corrections start with the rider. Here are some basic but essential ways you can start to find the right position to connect with your horse in a way that promotes engagement.
Seat Connection Dressage Training Tips:
- Walking your horse on a loose rein, focus on your seat’s interaction with the movement, breaking it down in your mind: can you feel your lower back stretch with every stride, being pulled into the movement, or is there more emphasis on a moment of compression (hollowing) in your lower back.
- If you don’t feel your lower back stretch, roll back on your seatbones, dropping your tailbone until you can feel the movement pulling your seat under and stretching your lumbar back every stride. Now you are connecting with the forwards phase of the hind-leg thrust, where true transmission happens.
- See if you can support your seat into the tuck phase each stride (which is also when your horse is tucking his/her pelvis) by engaging your abdominals as if you were doing a sit-up. Imagine you are trying to make your horse linger a bit longer in this moment.
- The other phase of the stride, in-between each tuck moment, is when the horse is stretching out each hind-leg and is more likely to hollow. This is when your lower back is also likely to hollow, at the same time as your abdomen pushes forwards. Use your engaged abdominals to resist this rocking forwards of your pelvis – feel the tug of each hind-leg pulling against your toned stomach muscles.
- If you can get this connection with your seat, you should start to notice that your horse slows down and wants to stretch his head and neck down, raising his back (make sure you are not blocking him in front with the rein contact!)