“Jumping courses today in different disciplines requires different seats at different moments in time on course. Sometimes we are up out of the saddle, sometimes up more, sometimes sinking into the saddle, sometimes sitting deeper in the saddle,” says USET veteran founder Bernie Traurig.
“In the gallop transition, you sit a little more forward, the hip angle is closed. Meeting a jump a little short, you want to be a little more open in your hip angle and sinking down. Meeting a jump on stride, you’re with the horse and don’t change your hip angle,” he explains.
In this exercise, Traurig focuses on hip angle to perfect the half seat.
Step 1: Master the hip angle
“In the three point, the hip angle is open. You sink into your heels and open the hip angle as you get closer to the saddle—staying just slightly in front of the vertical,” says the EquestrianCoach.com founder.
“In the half seat, the angle is more closed. You rise a little higher, weight always in your heels, and are little more forward with your upper body. As you go faster, the angle closes a little more.”
To practice transitioning smoothly between these positions, pick up the canter in the three point and transition to the gallop. “As the horse becomes more forward, close your hip angle, rise up into the two point with the motion. Be patient. Make sure the horse is going forward before you rise up,” he says.
Hold the position for six to 10 strides, then transition back to the three point. “Sink down into your heels and open your hip angle to adjust to the three point.”
Step 2: Lengthen your calf
“We are much stronger with a long calf than with a short calf. If the weight is out of your heels and you squeeze your horse, it will feel weak. You have very little strength in that position,” says Traurig.
“Compare that to rising up in deep in your heels—press down, lengthen your calf, then hold that heel depth as you sink into the saddle and wrap your leg around the horse’s rib cage. Now as you compress his rib cage you feel like you have 10 times the strength in your leg.”
Step 3: Land deep in your heel
Set a single cavaletti and canter the jump in your half seat. “The jump is an outcome of stability in your half seat—it becomes a fold and some form of release, following the horse’s neck gesture in the air,” says Traurig.
If your half seat is correct, you will naturally stay with the motion over the fence and land in your heel.
“Land deep in your heel,” he emphasizes. “You want to be light in the tack on the landing, seat out of the saddle—horses appreciate you being kind on their backs.”
Step 4: Trouble shooting
“Take care you don’t develop this habit of ‘water skiing’ on the landing—where the leg shoots forward,” continues Traurig. “Or landing with your leg too far back, over the knee. Balancing on your hand is another common problem.”
If you find you are toppling forward and relying on the neck for support on landing, or falling behind the motion on landing, practice your two-point position on the flat to build strength and stability.
“It’s imperative that you practice the correct two point a lot, being balanced in the stirrups without reliance on the neck or the body. Without a solid foundation in the half seat, jumping is a lot more difficult.”
For more on this and other riding exercises with Bernie Traurig, go to EquestrianCoach.com.