The Ideal Position for Hunter Show Riders - By: Heather Toms

Riders in hunting events ought to have a full range of positions in their repertory to make sure they get their horses successfully and safely thru the course. A hunter rider requires a highly advanced sense of balance, fluidity and rhythm. He should make the ride appear to be totally effortless, and he should cause it to look like he had no role to play in it at all, except sit in the saddle for decoration purposes. The rider blows it if he keeps shifting from 2 to 3 point when a jump's comes up. He should be able to easily nurse his horse through turns, however tight, and over slippery ground.

What the rider wants is mastery of the half seat.

The 3 seating positions are described below.

1. 3 point/full seat: While seated so, the rider's seat and inner thighs make up the 3 point. The upper part of the body should be erect, with an imaginary straight line through the ears, the shoulders, the hips and the heels. This seat is employed for flat work.

2) 2 point/jumping seat: The rider sits with hips lifted, pushing back a bit towards the saddle's cantle. The rider's seat is not in touch with his saddle. He's connected to the saddle thru his inner thighs, and this makes for the 2 points. The rider's weight is centred over his saddle such that he's not supporting his upper body with his hands or losing his leg support. This seat is intended for jumping.

3) Half seat: The rider closes his hip angle a touch and raises his seat slightly, though not to the extent he loses full contact with his saddle. He is at the half way point between a 3 point position and a 2 point one.

Plenty of riders have trouble with staying in a half seat. They become unstable and tend to balance themselves on the hands so that they can support the upper body weight. This is absolutely not recommended, since it does nothing for building up a leg-based support structure.

What have you got to do to set up this structure of support while staying balanced?

When supporting yourself with your hands, you are almost certainly pinching at the knees, which implies you are imitating a wobble skid. You should try the exercise described below if you can get a buddy (preferably your coach) to lunge or lead your pony while you are in the saddle.

Get your horse to stand still (when necessary use your friend or coach to help), drop the reins, lift your hip just a bit and push it toward your saddle's cantle to take up a half seat or forward position. By doing this, you'll find your hip angle closing and the shoulders lowering. Raise your arms till they are level to the shoulders and maintain this position for a count of 10. You can stay balanced only if you keep your leg under and softly wrapped around your horse's barrel. Make sure your knee isn't pinching, because if it does your lower leg will get pushed off the barrel, making you pivot. Ensure you don't draw up your heels, as that would 'goose' your pony into going forward. The whole of your leg must stay supple and soft as it gently hugs your horse's barrel. Let your knees open and the toes turn out naturally to point away at about 45 degrees from the horse's barrel. Your ankles, knees and hips must be relaxed and soft because they function as shock absorbers. Try to release all tension in your legs, right from the joint with the body to the toes.

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