Learn Correct Rider Position for Executing lateral movements

Lateral work will only be successful if the rider applies the appropriate aids while 1) in the proper balance, and 2) in the proper position.

1) Proper balance in lateral work requires the rider to move with the horse in the lateral direction of movement. This is necessary so the rider will not interfere with the ability of the horse to laterally displace his weight sideways. While the rider needs to stay straight, anchored, and not lean in either direction, he must allow his body to travel in the direction of movement (so as to not impede the horse). Your intent should be to “laterally shift your entire body”, without compromising your position. This will enable you to move with the horse, and not be left behind.

It is a common fault for the rider to raise his inside seat bone and lean his shoulders toward the inside in an effort to “push” the horse sideways. Wrong!!! This has the effect of both shortening the rider’s muscles on the inside and decreases the effect of the inside seat bone. For example, when performing a RIGHT LEG YIELD the horse is positioned with a slight bend left, and will move off the left leg toward the right. The rider should ‘feel’ his inside (left) seat bone. The rider’s outside (right) seat bone ‘moves away’ from the saddle to leave room for the horse to fill this void and move to the right. It is sometimes helpful to think of stepping the leading leg sideways and forward down a curb without leaning. The short explanation: the horse moves away from the left seat and leg, into the space created by the rider’s right seat and leg, and follows the riders lateral body shifting toward the right.

When performing a RIGHT HALF-PASS RIGHT, the horse is positioned with a slight bend (right) in the direction of movement (to the right), the inside (right) seat bone acts as an anchor to bend the horse, while the inside (right) leg helps encourage forward motion; however, this time there is the added complication of keeping the horse bent around the inside (right) seat while not blocking the horse’s desire to move into that same direction.

2) Proper position. Because there is an even and continuous slight lateral bend along the entire length of the horse’s spine, the outside musculature of the horse will elongate and the inside musculature will contract slightly. The associated longitudinal spinal rotation (bend) will result in a slight lowering of the horse’s ribs on the inside, which is the cumulative effect of the action of the spinal segments and associated musculature. Therefore, the rider’s inside seat bone will drop slightly to follow the lowering of the horse’s ribs and slight rotation of the ribcage, and will be displaced slightly forward because the rider’s outside leg and seat bone remain back.

**This position is effective in both leg yield and half-pass because the rider’s inside leg and seat bone can influence the bend of the horse, while the rider’s outside leg and seat bone can act as an aid to properly position the haunches and not interfere with the slight lateral displacement of the horse’s ribs.

The proper position and balance, and therefore weight shift associated with performing lateral movements might seem difficult to grasp at first, but once you find the feeling, it will become easy, fluid, and fun!

Dr. Bev Gordon, Pres.
The Horse in Motion, Inc.
Founder/Creator Equi-Tape® and Developer of The Equi-Taping® Method