A solid and correct base of support is one of the best gifts we can give to students because it’s the foundation of good riding and balance.
A quick Internet search for “base of support” produced the following from Physiopedia : The base of support (BOS) refers to the area beneath an object or person that includes every point of contact that the object or person makes with the supporting surface.
All riders have a base of support no matter what seat they ride. Our job as instructors is to give our students the best possible BOS, so they can succeed.
Base of support is like the foundation of a building.(See my post on building a foundation) and just like stacking the concrete blocks of a foundation correctly, the body parts of BOS must be trained to stay in line.
I show my students body alignment while I’m standing on the ground, then I have them try. If you can’t stand in your riding position while on the ground, you aren’t aligned and in balance. Students get a visual and a good feel for BOS when they see and try without the horse. They will find it impossible to stay balanced with the feet out in front of them (chair seat) or the feet too far behind.
The Manual of Horsemanship and Horsemastership, vol. 1 defines the base of support on page 4. “The base of support is formed by those parts of the rider’s body in contact with the saddle and horse, from the points of the pelvic bones down along the inside of the thighs, to and including the knees, legs, and stirrups.”
BOS applies to all seats, dressage, hunt seat, stock seat and saddle seat.
Heel or Toe?
Do you draw the straight line from the toe to the knee or the heel to the hip? For me, it’s more accurate to do the heel to hip line because of the variance in foot length. I discuss with students the importance of sitting over your feet. I emphasize sitting over your feet during exercises and every time students return to the saddle.
in jumpingCheck-out these photos. The only things in contact with the horse are the rider’s knees and calves. The components of BOS change according to what the rider is doing. BOS narrows to the knee, the calves, and stirrups during jumping. Developing an excellent lower leg position is paramount.
These photos of average riders were taken at a recent Grand Prix competition. And as a matter of record, these Grand Prix jumps were higher than equitation fences, all of these riders finished the course without falling off, and one of these riders is the likely winner of the event.
The lower leg and foot are the foundation to the foundation.
Chair seat occurs when the foot drifts forward, and the rider sits more on his seat bones and less on their crotch, or in more technical terms,the pelvis is rotated back. This messes with the three point contact (the two seat bones and the crotch). It puts the riders weight in his buttocks, behind the horse’s center of gravity, and creates a driving seat, while at the same time weakening rider position because they are no longer in balance.
The chair seat is the coach potato syndrome for the equine world. We need to get our students’ off their tailbones, get their bodies aligned, and teach them to carry their own weight. If we can do this much for our future riders we’ll have given them a foundation worth building on.
Back to the Definition
Returning to our original definition of BOS, we find a conundrum. If, as Physiopedia states—The base of support (BOS) refers to the area beneath an object or person that includes every point of contact that the object or person makes with the supporting surface. And if BOS is as The Manual of Horsemanship describes, “The base of support is formed by those parts of the rider’s body in contact with the saddle and horse, from the points of the pelvic bones down along the inside of the thighs, to and including the knees, legs, and stirrups.” Then what do you have when you add the rider’s hands to two -point in order to support the upper body?
Let me know your definition for a correct base of support. What parts of the body are also part of BOS?
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Here’s to teaching great riding instruction to fantastic students!
Barbara Ellin Fox