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The Intricate Character of the Spiral Seat Contact* for diagonal and unilateral aids is diagrammed here. This structure is dynamic. The central balance of this technique of riding involves motions of the pelvis BELOW THE CENTER OF MASS, so that they do not disturb the unity of balance with the horse. It emphasizes riding FROM THE RIDER'S BODY CORE TO THE HORSE'S BODY CORE, with hands (in the default diagonal aid mode) receiving the effects of the seat and legs.

A spectator will see little evidence of aids at the surface of the rider's body, because the principal actions are in the deep muscles at or near the bone (especially the spine). This impression is often called "invisible aids."

A rider will feel the deep activity and will, by following the horse softly to learn the patterns, come to make only those moves essential to tell the horse what is desired. This will, in many cases, lead to the aids becoming "indications." Or, as classical riders say, "Getting more with less."

The Third Dimension of the Spiral Seat
Straightness in the Contact With an Independent Seat

The intricate “Chinese finger trap” character of the independent SPIRAL seat is illustrated from behind. Right and left pathways for the diagonal aids are shown in this diagram. Depending on the horse’s bend, the connection through the rider’s hand, wrist, elbow shoulder and back will be transmitted via a slightly offset pelvis. The exception to the offset pelvis that enables the soft following of the horse’s back muscles is the set up for flying changes.

Riders should endeavor to maintain a consistent, relaxed position in balance, regardless of what the horse may do. With young or green horses, consistent rider balance helps them learn right/left and front/back balance. Fiddling with the contact will teach smart horses (that is, most horses) that their riders are easily trained to drop the contact. A rigid contact will generally result in evasion of the connection.

From the configuration of the spiral contact “circle/loop of aids” comes insight into the numerous possibilities for half halts. The importance of maintaining the connection intact consistently permits exact communication of aids via a tactful seat that either follows or enhances the action of the back muscles. An active seat is different from a driving seat. If a horse is “ahead of aids” driving with legs and seat is not necessary. The goal of classical riding, is to “get more with less.” An active seat appears still to an observer. A rider feels numerous carefully learned exact motions the way two dancers blend their steps. Overly busy riders create more noise than signal with their aids.

The Third Dimension of the Spiral Seat
Straightness in the Contact With an Independent Seat

Unilateral aids are given when the horse needs instruction or support on one side of its body. For advanced horse and rider pairs, the degree and type of an aid is a matter of judgement for a specific exercise or movement. For less experienced horses or riders, there are some general initial strategies that help begin the contact relationship that turns aids into indications.

Shown here is a case where the horse is being asked for a transition from right canter to trot (assume the right leg is ahead of the left and its action maintains the canter). Support on the outside aids encourages the horse to use the diagonal pair opposite to that of the canter and supports the limb swap during the actual transition (dressage transitions are a particular set of possible transitions from one gait to another). Combined with a relaxation of the inside hip action that maintains the canter, the horse is supported in its change of the asymmetric canter pattern to the symmetrical one of the trot.

*If this sort of riding were easy, you could buy it in a bottle at the store. And pictures can only indicate the goal, which lies in the kinesthetic union of horse and rider.

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