Charlotte Dujardin, dressage, engaged seat, equicube

My Kingdom for a Good Seat

For an equestrian, a good seat and hands are two of the most difficult and elusive pursuits of the sport. It’s one of the reasons why riding is a lifelong pursuit.

Fantasy hour: me and Charlotte Dujardin (world's best seat) riding in the same universe. Photos by Andrew Martin

Fantasy hour: me and Charlotte Dujardin (world’s best seat) riding in the same universe. Photos by Andrew Martin

Regarding my seat, my trainer had me return to the use of the Evil Dread Equicube this week. This is actually a fantastic and effective product but it does make you feel completely inept as you adjust to using it.
I hadn’t used the Equicube for several months, so picking it up again felt awkward and foreign. I had a heck of a time turning to the left. The Equicube forces you to use your legs and body to turn — as opposed to flailing about with your arms. Rather than squawk at me about my position, my trainer simply handed me the cube. Uh, oh.
Within minutes, I could feel how much I’d been moving my arms and shoulders.The weight of the cube forces you to bring your elbows in to your sides while using your core to stabilize yourself. I was also reminded to sit back on my bum and connect my shoulders together. The benefits are many and prompt.
The cube (and my trainer) helped me to identify my evil dread position errors and move toward correcting them. In my case, canter work to the left is the demon that haunts me. This week I learned that my left leg slides forward in the left lead canter, throwing off my position, my effectiveness, and my horse. I’m trying to balance frustration (aagghhh) and determination.
We did make progress this week and I was cheered by a surprise compliment today, when my friend Nichole uttered these magic words: “You have a really good seat. You look like you’re glued into the saddle.”
These words melt my heart. If I was going to get a tattoo, this would be the phrase I would choose. I keep playing these words over in my mind and letting a warm glow (not unlike the effect of a shot of tequila) encompass me.
If my friend watched my riding more closely, she’d see those fall-apart moments when my riding starts to come undone — since there is still much work to be done. Still, I’m going to cherish this compliment and use it to inspire and encourage myself to do better.
Be sure to look over your own progress and give yourself an atta boy for the good work you’ve done. While you’re at it, give support and encouragement to the people you ride with. Just as horses respond to a kind word, so do we. (And, if you get the chance to try an Equicube, do it!)

Related posts
You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017
My Show Ring Moment
January 12, 2016
The Walk to Poo Transition, An Open Letter to Charlotte Dujardin
October 12, 2015
bodybuilding, dressage, Equicube, riding as exercise

Riding = Bodybuilding

I’ve been wrestling (pun intended) with riding fitness. I ride my horse three days a week and a mountain bike three days a week. I’d like to say that on the 7th day I rest but that’s generally not true — the 7th day is usually for hiking or kayaking. (Skiing or snowshoeing in winter.) In short, I’m not a couch potato yet I find myself gasping for breath throughout my riding lessons.

Look how hard I'm working here!  Who says riding isn't exercise!

Look how hard I’m working here! Who says riding isn’t exercise! Photo by Andrew Martin.

I can ride 20 miles on a mountain bike and, while there are moments when I’m short of breath, there’s always a downhill or flat section of trail when the effort is minimal. (My husband says I’m not pushing myself hard enough, but that’s another story. He’s the guy with fractured ribs and scars on his legs, so his credibility is limited on this topic.)
While the term ‘downhill’ is inviting on a bicycle, it’s a negative when riding dressage. Just ask Micah. When left unattended, Micah will use all 1,000 pounds of handsome horseflesh to drag himself around on his front end. It takes a lot of leg, seat, and core to fully engage his hindend. In reality, there is never a break in dressage, where you (ideally) actively ride each and every stride.
I once had a discussion about riding mountain bikes vs. horses with professional mountain bike racer Lindsey Voreis. Lindsey did show jumping earlier in her career.
“When you’re riding a bike, you’re a heavy object moving a lighter object,” Lindsey said. “When you ride a horse, you’re a light object moving a heavy object.”
This, in part, explains why trying to influence a horse can be so difficult. They have the weight advantage. Those who say riding isn’t exercise should try dressage.
Mari Valceschini, one of the trainers at our barn, put things in perspective for me the other morning, when I was complaining about the lack of fitness carryover from one sport to another. “Riding is more like body building,” Mari said.
Having just used the Equicube (see my earlier blogpost “What Dressage Trainers do When Bored” http://dressagemortals.org/2015/07/21/what-dressage-trainers-do-when-bored/) in my warmup, my abs ached in agreement. I felt as if I’d been doing crunches.
While cycling is an endurance event with cardio moments, riding is more of a concentrated effort: pushing the horse forward and holding with the core … like weight lifting while gasping for air.
I’m ready to add some riding-specific training exercises to my lifestyle, simply in self-defense.
If you have an exercise program that works for you, I’m all ears — the only part of my body that isn’t sore from this morning’s ride. There’s nothing like working out with a 1,000-pound weight to make you feel like a mere mortal.

Related posts
My Kingdom for a Good Seat
January 21, 2016
What Dressage Trainers Do When Bored
July 21, 2015
dressage, dressage humor, dressage trainers, dressage training, equicube

What Dressage Trainers Do When Bored

Can you imagine how mind-numbing it would be, telling your students to shorten their reins all day long? Or to relentlessly remind them to “Use the outside rein!” only to watch them haul on the inside rein. It’s not that we (students) aren’t listening, it’s just oh so difficult to change old habits.

I can’t imagine a more maddening profession.

To survive, dressage trainers seek revenge in quiet, sneaky ways — such as taking away your stirrups or having you ride with one hand behind your back. In the old days, they’d rubber-band your hands together or have you hold a short piece of string to keep you from flapping your arms. While these tried-and-true methods of torture are still in effect, there’s a new kid on the block: the Equicube.


I know quite a lot about the Equicube, having written an article about it for Flying Changes Magazine back in 2014 (See the May 2014 issue for the full report.) At the time, I thought, “What a great idea!” but didn’t have a chance to test ride the product.

That all changed when —without warning — my trainer, Natalie Perry handed me an Equicube and said, “Let’s give this a try!”

To be honest, my first thought was, “Oh, crap.” There’s a learning curve to any new product and I really hate feeling inept. (Whinney if you agree.)

Continue reading…

Related posts
Love in a Time of Colic & Chaos
March 15, 2020
Skipper Gets a Tune Up
March 6, 2020
The Beauty of An Excellent Halt
January 24, 2020