Correct use of the seat and back of the rider to influence the gait of the horse are always important, but they are seldom more evident than in piaffe and passage work.
And, because so very many riders sit so very badly–or in a completely unsophisticated way–it is hard to defend their “influence” on the horse.
In our school, the seat and use of the weight aids are a focus. Some people emphasize different things with good results, but this is the way I like to see it done, so here are some examples for you from this morning’s school: a rider Melynnda Thiessen, learning how to initiate and ride the passage of this very nice thoroughbred cross, bred here in Spokane.
In this first tape, the attention gathering “please sit a little” at the first step is a little overdone–but better this response than none at all! Notice how influential bringing the frame of the horse up is after the passage has been established.
In the tapes below you will see Melynnda make adjustments in her back and seat to influence the timing, and how the horse is landing and rising in the passage, also some changes in tempo and frame. Like most things in riding this is an interplay between back, weight, hip, leg and hand. There is none without the other.
Also note, how “from the inside out” the carriage of the rider is. As Melynnda commented after the school, it took a great deal of core strength to lead that dance. The rider’s internal strength is not used against the horse, but instead to stabilize the rider through the upward shift of the balance. Her seat, back and weight are not the ONLY aids she is using, but what other way would make a more clear “template” for this very nice and responsive horse?