First I want to thank all you people who made it through my Forward Seat Riding blogs. I found these lists in books I had never seen, or not seen for decades, and I just could not resist sharing them with all of you.
When I compare my seat with the Forward Seat ideal I am overwhelmed by my many faults. It is impossible for me to keep more than ONE thing in mind at a time, much less twelve! I concentrate on my feet and my hands wander about. I try to grip with my upper calf and my feet "lose" their steady position in the stirrups, my feet lose the turning out of the sole, and my knees start wandering off out into space. At a walk I can easily keep my knee down and forward, but at the trot (in two point) it starts drifting back toward the stirrup leather, thus lessening the width of MY base of support (between the knee and the stirrup leather), leaving my upper body desperately trying to regain that wonderful balance I had at the beginning of the trot.
Well, there is only one cure for this--DRILL, while I tell my body that it WILL get forward, that my knees WILL learn how to keep in their proper place, and that I WILL get my body strong enough so I can jump or trail ride safely. Over and over again I get into two point, at a walk and trot, trying to get further than just a quarter of the way around the ring with my seat out of the saddle. Then I collapse (gently) on my horse's back, stretch my sore muscles, reflect on how badly I ride for anything outside the ring. Then back up into two-point, my legs trying to find that magic spot where everything goes right. I have been doing this for a few months, building up gradually, getting sore muscles and getting REAL tired. I am trying to get my body into the habit of riding correctly. Both of my riding teachers have remarked how much steadier my lower leg has become so all this hard work is bearing fruit.
My steadier lower legs bring many rewards. I can keep good contact with the bit while in two-point now. My lower legs no longer drift forward and backwards, and when I give an aid my leg is RIGHT THERE in the correct place. When my horse suddenly decides to go sideways it affects my position a lot less. My body feels A LOT more secure in the saddle. My body IS much more secure in the saddle. It is REALLY nice having a steadier lower leg!!!
Littauer talked in some of his books about how physically hard it is to ride in a good forward position. He emphasised the necessity of spending enough time in the saddle, in correct position, to build up the strength of the riding muscles. He spoke sympathetically of older, not so physically adept riders, and gave us the advice to build our riding muscles up gradually, until we get fit enough to ride forward all the time. He even admitted that there were some riders that will never get strong enough to ride forward all the time on horseback, advising us just to use the forward position while going over heavy, broken ground or over jumps.
So why am I not being easier on myself? I have so many problems with my MS, muscle weakness, lack of balance, and lack of endurance, which are worse than most middle-aged physically unfit people. If I want to feel secure on any horse in any place and at any speed my seat will have to be BETTER than the seat of a normal person. I do not have the balance to keep shifting my body around on the horse's back. I do not have the muscular strength for "panic" gripping with my legs. If I do not DRILL, DRILL, and DRILL I will never feel secure on horseback, my muscles will never get strong enough to ride a horse which acts up, and I will never be able to ride safely outside the arena.
But in the exhaustion and sore muscles, I get these brief golden moments when my body is THERE, united with the horse's motion. At these moments I feel like I'm twenty again, on a good horse, seat secure, and ready to go anywhere at any speed and jump any jump. Glorious seconds... then my knee drifts back from the knee roll and it is back to drill, drill, drill.
Have a nice ride.