Center of Gravity, Notes From A Lesson

Adventures in Saddle Seat

Enjoy the ride.


Putting my lesson down on paper so that I have some hope of remembering what went right the next time I get out to the barn. Whenever that is. [Changing of the Guard, Horse Edition]

Part of the reason I get nervous before a saddle seat lesson is that I find it a precarious way of riding. The more I ride the way God – or at least Federico Caprilli – intended, the more precarious saddle seat feels. On the theory that knowledge improves my ability to deal with the world, I had a theory sit-down with Coach Courtney before I rode. These thoughts are the result. Errors mine.

‘It’s all about the center of gravity.” This was the first thing she said. This helped immensely. I concentrated on staying in the center both laterally and longitudinally. I made this my idée fixe. I did that first and then added in the rest. Seemed to work.

I’ve noticed this is true with Rodney as well. He is sensitive to what I do with my shoulders. If he thunders down a hill, or motorcycles around a turn, I usually find that I have tipped forward or to the inside. I have been trying to keep Sally Swift‘s barber pole in mind.

Of course, it’s always easier to ride when I’m thinking about how the horse is going rather than about myself.

High Hands
When I first got on an ASB, the hand position felt ridiculously high.

“Hands up, way up, even higher.”
[Switching Gears]

[Putting The Show In Showmanship]

I was taught that the rider’s hands should be a straight line from elbow to bit. When I ride Sam this is not the case. Not even close.


However, as I looked around the office at photographs of Reagan riding fancy horses in snazzy venues, I realized that when the horse is up in front and firing on all cylinders, the line from elbow to bit is straight.

Dig in with your knees. Really? That feels even weirder than raising my hands. For years I was told DON’T grab with your knees [2 Talking Steeds]. The point of saying ‘Dig in with the knees’ is as a shorthand to get the rider to use their upper thigh.

In the lesson, I found that pushing against my knees helped in keeping my upper body back.

One of the opportunities of riding Optimus is the chance to practice with a show bridle.

In the lesson, I got to hold the two reins but I didn’t really get to use them. I kept my center of gravity organized. I found that keeping the energy up and keeping him together every stride came off my upper body more than anything. My hands felt like decorative afterthoughts.

Know Your Place
Of course, all of this worked because, as I keep saying, Optimus is such a good dude [Going In Cold]. I would use an aid, such as bringing my shoulders back, and he would respond correctly by staying up and together.

Someday. Again. At some point.

Stay safe. Stay sane.
Katherine Walcott

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