Horse-Riding: the development of the seat through lungeing exercises
Riders have traditionally been evaluated, sometimes praised and admired, entirely on the correctness, and therefore the beauty, of their seat and the imperceptible effectiveness of their influences over the horse.
Horses cannot be improved by giving them physical exercises only. The diversification of work awakens the horse’s mind. Movement over open country and acquaintance with varied terrain is indispensable to the development of the horse. Climbing, sliding, moving up and down hills, jumping natural obstacles, stretching over ditches, wading through water, all these and more are the natural tasks for the horse before he is trained in the controlled environment, the manege, the dressage arena. The means toward the desired dressage ends cannot all be found in the small indoor arena.
Analogous to this are the riders who take only “dressage lessons,” ride only with long stirrup leathers, sit all the movements, and remain with their horses in small, fenced-in areas. They will seldom become adequate, never really outstanding, dressage riders. A dressage rider is primarily an athlete who must breathe correctly, be strong, yet supple, balanced and coordinated. The rider should have the strength and skills to remain tranquil and absorb the large movements of the horse without looking disharmonious and out of balance. A rider should have muscle tone and strength, but without tightness, stiffness, or tension. The dressage rider has to be, first of all, a horse person who is acquainted with a diversity of equestrian activities, because only by these means can the nature of the horse be discovered. A dressage rider cannot be “made” by riding dressage only. Knowing the feeling of a self-propelled horse that needs no prompting to keep in his gait can best be learned by riding cross-country. The bold and powerful gaits of an alert horse negotiating a natural environment cannot be experienced in a fenced-in arena. To feel rhythm and to judge distance, one ought to ride over cavalletti and jumps. Well-known international dressage riders of eminence rode cross-country and over fences before specializing in dressage and producing the outstanding results for which they are known. Many riders have become international dressage riders after having been well, trained in riding across open country and jumps.
Riders should begin their training on the lunge line, while the horse is under the control of the trainer. Even after becoming ah outstanding rider, one should be lunged time and time again for the needed athletic adjustments in equitation.