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This is a continuation of a series of Articles. 

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven
Part Twelve

Horse Training - Communication 101
Part  Nine
By Beverly Whittington

Riding Form VS Training Form

There are various opinions of what is the correct riding form for the gaited horse. Suffice to say any horse, in order to maintain balance in any gait, needs a rider that does not interfere. This requires a balanced independent seat. Now you get to riding form VS training form. Training form is different; the trainer NEEDS to interfere at times, to cause the horse to achieve the shape they are requesting. The rider weighs anywhere from 10% to 25% of the weight of the horse. Using this weight to cause the horse to change frame or to correct movement is a very effective tool. 

A balanced seat in riding form aligns the rider's center of gravity with that of the horse, allowing the horse to more easily carry the rider maintain gait and use his back correctly. For the horse that is NOT maintaining gait or using his back correctly, you can shift your weight to help influence his carriage, and thus his gait and back position.

As a GENERAL statement, you want to position your seat as close as possible behind the withers that will allow the horse to maintain gait. It is important that you sit straight, helping to maintain your weight balanced just above the horse's own center of gravity. This position allows the horse to carry you with the least effort. You should be able to feel your weight balanced evenly on your “butt bones”. 

You can find these “butt bones” by sitting on a hard surfaced chair. Sit with both knees straight out in front of you, even with your hips. Sit up straight, do not slouch, and place your left hand in the small of your back.  You should notice that your back “dips” forward. Keeping your hand there, tighten the muscles of your stomach and align your spine to fill that dip in your back. Maintaining this position with your back, place your right hand under your buttocks where you can almost cover the entire right side of the part of your seat that makes contact with the chair. Now “tuck your butt” you should be able to feel the bones in your seat move forward.

Before you begin to try to influence your horse carriage by using your seat, make certain that you CAN maintain a balanced seat. Often it is the rider’s misuse of the seat or poor balance that creates gait issues in what otherwise would be a smooth, well-gaited horse!  It is one of my personal pet peeves that people will pay good money to buy, outfit and maintain a horse, but will not put the time or money into seeking instruction to be able to ride it correctly!

If your horse gaited when you got him and does not gait now, in my experience there is an 80% probability that it is due to rider influence. Rider influence covers a lot of area, but one of the top issues between horse and riders in a gait problem is lack of balance in the rider. The horse will try to compensate for the rider's position on his back. The rider's position and balance of weight influences the horse's balance and frame from the moment they get on the horse until dismounting. The question is; are you interfering with the horse or using position to improve the horse’s carriage? 

As a rider, you need to try to prevent any unintentional changes or shifting of your weight. Weight can affect the position of the haunches, the ”straightness” of the horse, the position of the horse’s back and on and on….

One constant in riding in balance is that you should never be behind or in front of the horse's movement. Leaning back will not help you stop and tipping forward will not move the horse faster; in fact these are likely to have the opposite effect. Now take a look at how you ride. MANY riders tend to lean forward when the horse is in motion. Lets think about the effect this has on the horse.

First lets apply the Undersaddle zones that were discussed in the first article of this series. By leaning forward, when you ride you are putting your weight, and thus pressure forward too. This physical stimulus is telling the horse instinctually and physically to “MOVE AWAY” from the pressure. The horse has no collarbone; joints do not attach the front legs.  A sling of muscles and ligaments supports the weight of the horse and rider. When you ride tipped forward, you put undue stress on this system. This frequently causes the horse to have a concave curve in his neck, just in front of his withers. This results in the horse travel with his nose in the air and dropping his back, resulting in the often seen “upside down horse”. 

Almost all easy gaits require that the horse engage his hindquarters, lightening the forehand. Riding tipped forward makes it very hard for the horse to achieve this. 
Another common fault seen in gaited riders is the rider leaning BACK. Often this is simply sloppy riding, but in some instances it is intentional too. Some gaits require that the horse travel with a slight amount of ventroflexion to be able to perform their gait properly.  You can maintain a balanced seat and by slightly tipping your pelvis while bracing the lower back, encourage a degree of ventroflexion in the horses back while staying in balance with the horse. 


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