An Independent Seat

The Holy Grail for Dressage riders.

The best equivalent I can think of for the non-horsey:

remove your earplugs, go to the !@#$! house down the street with the garage band, and ask the drummer if she’ll show you how it works and let you try.  Once everyone has stopped laughing their heads off, find a YouTube video of  Yoshiki Hayashi (X-Japan) and watch him go at it on the drums.

  1. Drum stools swivel: some swivel AND rock. (just like HORSES!)
  2. Each hand keeps a different rhythm and is constantly switching to a different drum head.
  3. Each foot keeps a different rhythm from each other AND the hands.
  4. This all goes on at once, with your torso being the (as T.S. Elliot so eloquently said) the still point of the turning world.

Recap: Drummers have four rhythms, syncopation, and perfect trunk balance going on all at once.  They also have to think ahead of the music and anticipate what’s next while playing correctly NOW.  They are the frame and the music.

That’s comparable to an Independent Seat in Dressage.  With a few minor variations: the uh dressage drum set is speeding forward at about 10mph while rising  and falling vertically about a foot.

Repeat after me: one-one thousand.

You are now 8 feet from where you were and have hurled forward another 24 feet in the time it took me to write this second sentence.  Try doing that five feet up in the air while giving independent directions with your legs, arms , weight shifts and finger movements: without hanging on.  Most dressage drum sets are independent thinkers, (read: argue about it) and out weigh you by a thousand pounds.  They’re genetically engineered to shoot like missiles from predators.  Say, an empty Dorito bag.  Or if it’s an ex-racehorse, (oh the horror of it all) a tree.

We think this is fun.   Really.

Okay, now that all the non-horsey are with me.

Dressage Enthusiasts!

I’ve found a new way to help build an independent seat that you can practice at home!  Without starting a garage band! Without ticking off your spouse!  Your spouse won’t even know you’re doing it!  And you’ll get marriage points! I had no idea it was so simple.

Thank goodness for Christmas (the dog, not the holiday).  Here are the tools you’ll need:

  • A small untrained dog, preferably a bouncy puppy with ADD*.
  • A regular leash and harness to fit above (no stretchy leashes!)
  • An old bike that is difficult to pedal slowly without falling off
  • A helmet
  • Clothing you dug back out of the Goodwill bag
  • Poop bags

That’s it!  All that money and all those classes, and all you had to do was an archeological dig of the garage and take the dog for a walk!

If you don’t have a small dog, you can still get points.  Borrow one.  C’mon, we all live at barns, there’s a zillion fox terriers just bouncing off the walls ready to help you out.  Think of all the goodwill you’ll be engendering when your friends go home with a tired fox terrier. All the barn owners who will be secretly relieved.  No one will believe their eyes.  You’ll get gifts AND points.  A tired fox terrier – you may even get your own talk show.

Here’s the deal:

  1. Put harness and leash on dog.
  2. Take it off, removing dog’s trapped lower jaw where he bit it while you put it on, repeat until dogs jaw isn’t cranked into the harness.
  3. Apply helmet.  No.  You.  The dog doesn’t need one.
  4. Stuff poop bags in pocket.
  5. Wrap the leash tightly around your right hand and hold it in your left.
  6. Get on kids bike.

Now.  Try to ride the bike with the dog next to you.  This is important.  We don’t want you to end up in the ER because he shot in front of the bike to get the squirrel.  Hold your left arm out to the side like a boom, with the leash hanging from it, dog attached.  Hold tightly to the right handle bar.  Pedal.

The object of this exercise it to remain lightly balanced on the bike seat and steer steadily with one hand while gonzo puppy hurls himself at rocks, trees, passersby and cats.  When you can remain graceful and relaxed no matter what the puppy is doing on the other end of the leash, while still pedaling, steering, and going in a straight line, you will get the feel of an independent seat.

It’s free, something you can practice every day, you’re upping your metabolism, getting more leg muscle, AND you’re building goodwill.  Could it get any better?  Win-win.

Nothing replaces learning on a horse, but trust me, this is a really good start.

*It’s important the dog is small, because after the first hour or so of pedalling like a maniac to keep up (if you have a fox terrier) you want to have to pedal painfully slowly so it’s difficult to keep the bike upright and balanced.  THAT’S where the independent seat skill kicks in.

If you really want an immediate hit, here’s Steve Smith (Journey, 1981) in a drum solo.  Hang in there and you’ll see his feet at about 1:17.  Notice the incredible balance he has to maintain through his torso, and the abs that takes.  Riders! We have to use our stomachs!

Copyright © 2009. The Literary Horse. All rights reserved.

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