This is the story of my quest to train my three Dales Ponies for classical dressage, primarily by using Alexandra Kurland's clicker training methods, with a touch of others such as Philippe Karl and Anja Beran thrown in. I turned to clicker training because I had come up against some issues that I didn't know how to fix and because I wanted to inspire them to become enthusiatic partners. Bella and Jack are all my own work and have never been ridden by anyone else.

Bella, Grace and Jack

Bella aged 6

Bella aged 6

Treat Delivery

Jack aged 7


Friday, 20 February 2009

Paul Belasik - The Seat and Hara.

I've managed to get hold of a set of 'An Interview with Paul Belasik - an overview of the classical principles behind the training of horse and rider' audio tapes. I've been listening to them while mucking out and I've been riveted and captivated. I keep having to rewind and press 'pause' while I absorb things.

I'm on the 2nd tape 'The Rider's Seat and Position'. Paul Belasik says that the PRIMARY method of giving and receiving information to and from the horse is through the rider's seat - from the horse's back to the rider's back. He says that is why the novice should be taught on the lunge, without reins or stirrups, because if the rider is taught first to influence the horse with their extremities (hands and from the knee down) they will always revert to these habits.

He says that when you put a two legged on top of a four legged they very quickly discover that they can get away with murder in terms of balance, compared with standing on their own two feet, but "unfortunately, while they're getting away with murder, it's the horse they are murdering, because he's the one who has to compensate for their lack of balance."

He says that in the East the centre of gravity and of balance is referred to as the 'hara', but hara means much more than that. It's not just a physical thing but has a strong mental element too; it is a centering and balancing of the individual, with psychological and spiritual elements.

He says that there is far too much emphasis (generally) on the rider's calf and lower leg, and that really excellent riders can generate impulsion and produce exemplary work from the horse without ever using their lower leg at all. They do so by projecting their centre of gravity forward, towards the pommel of the saddle. He says:

"One of the magical things about seeing the really good riders is that they can generate impulsion from the back, from the seat; they don't GO to the lower leg.

The seat is where the emphasis should be - not in the calf, not in the spur. Learn about generating impulsion by first mastering your centre of gravity, your centre of balance - the hara - and THEN you will be able to make the horse impulsive by projecting it, or restraining it, or holding it steady, and so on. Too much talk of the lower leg is just chatter as opposed to the importance of the upper leg and how it connects with the seat.

There is a quote by Karlfried Graf Durckheim, from his book 'Hara, The Vital Center of Man' read out on the tape:

"One rides with hara. Only with hara does that flexible and yet firm and relaxed posture, which keeps the rider balanced and which gives him that unforced control over his horse, release that action and non action to which the horse willingly submits.

The good rider sits erect but without tension. In form but without rigidity. Rider and horse form a unity - a unity of symbolic significance. The horse adapt itself to the rider because the rider has adapted himself to the horse. They feel each other, as it were, from centre to centre, and whatever the rider demands is achieved; not by his conscious will but by the force of hara, which produces it, as it were, involuntarily"


  1. Too much talk of the lower leg is just chatter as opposed to the importance of the upper leg and how it connects with the seat

    I like this quote ^-^

    But again he only speaks about the rider! If you lack of balance, the horse can get away with murder too! And actually your horse can kill you! More than a novice rider bouncing out of sync!

    But I like the quote of about upper leg, I am becoming very aware of it and of my seat bones.

    Sorry Helen, it is good informations but it also makes me realise why I won't go back to English riding, they say it is ALL down the rider. It is not true, a horse will put you where he feels more conffy, hence in rising trot, his favourite diagonals, the same at the sitting trot or canter.

    To learn balance you need a balanced horse. So yes education of the rider on balanced schoolmaster, who are regurlarly checked by expert rider for them to keep their training ...

    But an unbalanced rider with an unbalanced horse hmmm who teaches who?

  2. I agree with you in many ways, Muriel. I think that you need to teach the horse what the bit is for, and to establish a connection from the rider's hand to the horses hips, before the horse can and will let you access and communicate with him via his spine, centre to centre. That's where I think that lateral flexions and AK's single rein riding are invaluable.

    Paul Belasik does say something similar on the next tape - as I found out this morning.

    However, once you have established that connection and won that amount of trust from the horse ......

  3. LOVE that quote Helen - it so rings with the discoveries I've been making with Loly lately. I know if I lose impulsion, 9 times out of 10 its because my seat has gone awry. Of course there is always the 10th time when Loly just needs to pay attention :-)

    However, I also agree about balance. When Hylo was reeeeeallly out of balance, especially in canter, I couldn't sit to him to save my life; we were BOTH totally out of balance. So I was in exactly that situation you talk about Muriel and I didn't have access to a school master to help me. BUT I did get access to the simulator and that, together with Beckys teaching, has helped me with MY core no end.

    When you then add AKs groundwork and riding on a triangle into this mix, the horseworks on their balance, too. One party working on balance without the other is only part of a picture.

    Where DO you find all these gems Helen???

    Hope David is okay XX



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I am a clicker training addict and there is no cure - thank goodness!!!