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Learn to ride with your butt IN the saddle first!

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  • Learn to ride with your butt IN the saddle first!

    My title sounds like a command, only because the question I wanted to pose was too long... but here it is:

    Can you really be a good hunt seat rider if you don't learn to ride with your butt IN the saddle first?

    The ongoing hunter/dressage/"hunt seat kids can't do shoulder-in" debate continues. There have been a number of threads just recently on this topic. And it made me start to wonder...

    My dressage training has taught me a number of things, but none so important as these two principles:

    1) Riding a horse correctly is all about riding his BACK (not his face, not him mouth, not his neck).

    2) The best way to influence a horse's back is through your SEAT (because, obviously, it touches the horses back). This is one of the primary reasons dressage riders sit the trot.

    Now, I recognize, and appreciate, that hunt seat riding (when done properly) is a specific thing of beauty designed to get a specific job done (i.e., simulate "hunting" at a faster pace, out of the tack, and jumping around fences). I appreciate it as a sport when I see it done well. I am not advocating that hunters (or eventers or jockeys for that matter) should sit their butt in the saddle around course.

    But based on the number of threads I've seen here, and a lot of the poor riding I've seen over the years, it leaves me wondering: It seems that true and good hunt seat riding is a refinement of plain old good riding. Much like any other sport... but it doesn't seem as thought we're teaching our kids (and adult students for that matter) enough about basic proper riding. Hunt seat students SHOULD be able to do a decent sitting trot without slowing to a jog. They should KNOW about riding from the leg, to the SEAT, to the hand... and not just leg to hand.

    Is it that we're skipping a necessary and important step? It seems that I see way too many beginners put straight into two-point, and they never leave. Perhaps this is what is missing from the "dressage" training of all hunt seat riders (I shouldn't say "all"... but "most" anyway). Its as if sitting vertically in the saddle is a sin... and it shouldn't be. It seems that the dressage position gives the rider the utmost ability to control and finesse the horse... shouldn't ALL riders know how to adopt that position (even if momentarily) when that control and finesse is needed?

  • #2
    Uh, maybe this is because I learned privately from someone who grew up showing back when "hunters were hunters" ((or whatever)) and they hadn't seen the hunter ring, or its changes, since then... Or maybe its because from there I went to a Hunter/Jumper barn where the guy's husband was an FEI dressage rider -- BUT - I learned to ride sitting first? Even watching beginners now I see them learning to sit first. I see the very beginners in two point for their first canters, and that is how I start people cantering if I am ever giving beginner lessons (rare - I'm not good enough. ) but that is a balance/horse's mouth issue until they can feel the rhythm better. I can't imagine someone developing a very good feel and balance if they are always out of the saddle...


    • #3

      Ive been watching a hunt seat kid at our barn closely to see how he does on the horses that are ridden with a deeper seat. He does sit forward but always has his leg on. With the lighter breed horses they get hotter and hotter but with the horses that need pushing he looks fabulous. He definately rides with his legs but that forward seat encourages the TBs a bit much IMO. My seat goes well on the hot ones and I can make them look like a push ride but I naturally sit deeper. It depends on the horse is all Im saying.
      ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


      • #4
        I audited last week's GM clinic, and that was one of the things he kept having to say while they were warming up on the flat.....sit down in your saddle.


        • #5
          I ride out of the tack on my hunter but even when I was younger I was not taught to sit very much. I've found that some trainers teach that postions while others, particularly those from Europe or that did a lot of higher level jumpers, like their riders to sit down a little more. I flat alot of horses from higher level jumpers to baby green hunters and almost always ride out of the tack. Hotter horses tend to go better with a lighter seat in my experience and bigger heavier horses go better when packaged which requires more leg. My horse goes best when I'm out of the tack because he requires a more forward step to jump nicely but alot of time on the flat I'll sit if I'm having trouble getting him to pay attention. If it makes any difference I do the junior hunters with one of the bigger show barns in the area and spent my morning having a flat lesson focused on getting my horse to bend and balance himself.


          • #6
            I Do not disagree.... but rather see this from another perspective.

            I started riding in the more seated dressage type seat, some call it the balanced seat, and evented at the low levels for some time. I had little to no exposure to real hunters and could not figure out why people "posted" the canter, lol.

            It was not until I went to a college that had a strong hunter based program, as well as a dressage program, that i realized I was not just sitting.... but pushing, and even getting behind the motion. I had to learn to get up in 2 point and just let things happen (the hardest thing I have ever learned). Now, I feel like an effective rider. I can ride a solid 2nd or 3rd level test one weekend, or ride someones hunter/jumper/eventer the next...

            This makes me think that just sitting (which I'm sure was not anyones point) is not the full answer.... but rather giving riders a complete education in all seats and how to use them appropriately to be the most effective


            • #7
              Agree with the above. At our schooling shows, I see a lot of faux dressage seat and people riding off the cantle, rather than a true full seat. They slam, slam, slam on the poor horse's back all day long. I'd rather see an ineffective rider out of the tack and sparing the horse than one actively doing damage.

              I don't recall ever being taught one or the other first. I learned both simultaneously, I think, although it was admittedly many, many moons ago!
              Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.


              • #8
                I've experienced this. When I was first getting started, it was butt out of the saddle almost always at the trot and ALWAYS at the canter. Sitting trot for maybe a lap around the ring once a week to feel your diagonals. Switching to the BO, slightly more sitting the canter, but that was only because I (a once a week lessoner) was in with a bunch of girls that wanted to show eq. Still, it wasn't until this year that I went to college and started up with a new trainer that I've really felt my seat and leg start to come together and work correctly. It's funny, I had a lesson yesterday with my old trainer since I'm on break right now and she told me "This horse is really bouncy so just kind of perch and fake a sitting trot." But once we started I thought, What am I doing? It is perfectly possible to really sit this.
                "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden

                Phoenix Animal Rescue


                • #9
                  I was taught how to sit a trot but I perched when I did it, and I was taught to almost never sit the canter. When I bought my first horse(bad choice!) he was a veryy hot TB/Connermara cross who had only evented. I was a hunter/Eq. rider and I had just come of a pretty perfect horse who had taught me all the basics I needed to know. Granted, I did school the little jerk ponies who decided to dumb their little children, but all I had to do was wrap my long legs around and I was pretty safe! Good choice huh? When I first started taking lessons on him it was then introduced to me to sit and push him into my hands to control him. Very different approach compared to anything I had ever heard before. It took me a long time to do that, but once he became quieter and had more training it was better when I got up in two point.

                  I still perched sometimes though. Then I moved to my next trainer, (I still had my horse) he was sold and I moved on to a really fancy Eq. horse. When I flated I would sit but jumping? Definitely a perch. But over the summer he taught me real fast to be low and in my saddle, after getting dumped on my head a couple times. I know really understand why you need to sit in the saddle. When I jump though I don`t completely sit, unless I`m doing a roll back or other tight turn. But if a horse where to stop I wouldn`t go flying over their head (as a horse proved to me the other day.) Still now though, if a horse has an uncomfortable canter it is harder for me to sit. Like the horse I am working with now unless I keep reminding myself I slowly begin to creep up into 2-point. I think if I were taught in the being to sit the canter this wouldn`t be such a huge problem.

                  Though 2-point may not be the most secure seat I find that if you are still down around the horse with your leg and have a tight calf it can be pretty secure and you can with stand a couple big bucks.

                  When I go to shows today I look at the little kids who have been taught to 2-point and perch on top of their horses and not be down around them with their legs and if their pony were to stop or play, off they would go. I think it really does need to be encouraged for trainers to teach their kids how to sit on and around their horses. I understand that the first time you canter you should be in 2-point to get used to it but after that, they should introduce the right way so that you don`t face plant.


                  • #10
                    All riders should know how to sit at the trot and the canter when needed.
                    But, it all depends on the horse.

                    In "today's" hunter show ring it is all about showing off the horse and the rider being as invisible as possible. If it's a big ring, get up out of the saddle and open up the horse's stride (simulating the days of actually hunting). More experienced horses should not need a rider to sit deep and push push push all the way around the ring. Sitting generally creates a heavier seat and more driving ride - sometimes a faster ride and not necessarily a light and open stride.
                    Dressage riders sit because they are driving the horse through the movements. The movements are very complex requiring the rider to feel all the parts of the horse to achieve very specific, precise movements.

                    Sorry, show hunters are not that complicated. You want a nice open stride and find distances that look effortless - the rider does not need to be driving the horse with their seat to every distance. The rider wants to create a step that encourages the "hunter gap" type jump and balance with leg, hand and some seat but doesn't need to be sitting so deep that the horse looks quick and hurried.

                    I DO think riders need to be able sit when need be but it really isn't as necessary in the hunter ring as it is in dressage. Both styles of riding are unique to each discipline but just because one doesn't emulate the other does not make the riders inferior.
                    My Pictures! http://community.webshots.com/user/estieg12
                    *Harbour Town* 2002 Hanoverian gelding "Otto"
                    *Sahalee* 2002 mare "Flower" but who knows what breed she is!


                    • #11
                      It depends on the trainer, the horse you have available to learn on, and the system you are learning.

                      Good riding is good riding--an effective, accomplished, advanced rider will master both forward riding and collection properly.

                      But there is more than one way to get from point A to point B; it doesn't matter which is learned first, as long as both are learned well.
                      Inner Bay Equestrian


                      • #12
                        A lot of hunter riders get out of the tack to make the horse look easy and smooth. But if you watch the right riders (meaning: the ones that actually ride properly) you will see a lot of schooling while remaining in the tack. Even on course, the rider will sit to make adjustments. I agree that keeping a lighter seat makes a horse look easier.

                        My trainer once made a comment that a good rider will sit the few strides before the jump, even if they are out of the tack for the majority of the round.


                        • #13
                          I started lessons as a 9 year old with a local Dressage trainer. At the time I had no idea what Dressage was, I just wanted to ride horses and she was available to me.

                          As I grew up and got more into H/J as a teen, I rode in half seat on course but otherwise tended to switch back to a more balanced seat on the flat. Now as an adult, on mainly greenies, young horses, and whatever is available, I ride in some intuitive hybrid of both. At times lighter and at times more balanced and deep. I don't really look like a dressage rider, but don't ride in half seat either. My stirrups are too short for dressage, but too long for the hunter ring. I sit more often than not, and get up out of the tack when its appropriate.

                          What is unfortunate to me, is the amount of kids and teens I see locally who have been taught to ride in half seat but who really have NO seat at all, and are instead balancing on their horse's mouth. It makes me cringe.

                          I think there is a time and a place for both and as M. O'Connor said, the trick is learning to do both well.
                          We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by M. O'Connor View Post
                            Good riding is good riding--an effective, accomplished, advanced rider will master both forward riding and collection properly.
                            Exactly. You should be well rounded. You should be able to ride in two point, collect your horse, extend, etc. You should also be able to sit without driving. Sitting doesn't mean deep or pushing or behind the motion. It means your seat bones are in the saddle. What you do with your seat once it's there is up to you and how you want your horse to perform.

                            I work in 2 and 3 point during every ride. I sit the trot (although not as much as I should). I get into my 2-point at all three gaits. I ask for collection, extension, leg yielding, etc in two point. I also do those things in 3 point as well.

                            While I do believe everyone should be able to sit, I think there is too much emphasis placed on the seat these days. I watched GM have a group of students sit on their horses at a standstill. He asked them to pull their legs, from hip to toe, away from their horse's sides. He then asked them to make their horse's go using their seat. Not one horse moved.

                            Your seat is a useful aid, but it is not the most important. In fact, I would rate it third...after legs (#1) and hands (#2). Seat influences what is created by the legs and directed by the hands. It isnt' the end all be all.

                            And I was always taught to ride the horse's hind end...not their back or their head. :shrug:
                            Keith: "Now...let's do something normal fathers and daughters do."
                            Veronica: "Buy me a pony?"


                            • #15
                              FREE back vs. CONTROLLED back

                              I didn't read the whole thing, But my take on why hunters learn to be off the back is to FREE the horse's back for the most natural movement of the horse both on the ground and over fences. The horse's natural headset, not a full frame is what's expected, just like a free back, not a controlled movement is what is expected and prized.

                              Today's hunters are about the way the horse goes, so the judge wants to see how the horse moves with the least adjustment and correction (or messing with/up) done by the rider.
                              friend of bar.ka


                              • #16
                                My sentiments are probably thoroughly known....but what the heck.

                                I've said it before (and I'll probably say it again) but the seat is a continuum. If people were educated, there really wouldn't be an issue here. It shouldn't be about the two point or about the full seat, it should be about correctly riding each situation with a correct seat for what is needed at that time.

                                The seat is probably the most important aid, but it requires education, finesse and correct practical application. Few truly know how to use the seat; still fewer understand the necessity of the seat to achieve a truly balanced and correctly-moving horse. Many understand at least the basic requirements for leg and hand, but few truly master the art of the seat.

                                The full seat is the seat which, as indicated by its name, has the most influence over the horse. The seat is the bridge between the hind and front ends. With the seat completely out of the saddle, as in two point, the rider cannot effectively influence the horse's hind end. This is a matter of sheer physics and biomechanics. To be out of the saddle relinquishes effective control of the hindquarters; to correctly sit allows the rider to master control of the hind end.

                                The hind end is what produces a good back as the back, just as the rider's seat, is the bridge from the hind to the front end. If the horse is flat and stiff behind, so will the back follow in its footsteps. Hence the catchphrase "ride back-to-front." It is incorrect to oversimplify by indicating that one seat or another produces a good or bad back; rather, the issue is effectively riding the hind end to produce a soft and round back. At this point it is individualized to the horse and to the time in the schooling ride as to what seat is necessary to create and maintain the back.

                                The seat is a precious aid. It is sad that few recognize it and utilize it as such.

                                It is important to note that popular dogma states that two-pointing creates a free, flowing, naturally balanced horse. However, logically and practically, the ends cannot also be the means. To achieve correct hunter carriage, one must first get the horse sitting and compressing his hind end, which is very difficult (if not completely impossible) from a two point. Then, and only then, can the frame correctly be lengthened in a correct, balanced manner wherein the showcasing of a correct but hunteresque canter can commense, but this is only truly possible from a half seat as the rider still maintains limited control of the hind end.

                                As one who aligns myself strongly with Steinkraus and deNemethy, I tend to ride in a full or half seat, unless I am galloping cross country. Both Steinkraus and deNemethy were very strongly against two point because of the above stated reasons. Had I the books in front of me I would list the quotes.
                                It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by RugBug View Post
                                  While I do believe everyone should be able to sit, I think there is too much emphasis placed on the seat these days. I watched GM have a group of students sit on their horses at a standstill. He asked them to pull their legs, from hip to toe, away from their horse's sides. He then asked them to make their horse's go using their seat. Not one horse moved.

                                  Makes sense since the seat isn't a driving aid; it is a collecting/connecting aid (despite what may be seen when watching some of today's dressage riders)
                                  a well trained horse shouldn't move forward from the seat alone. I think when some observe a dressage rider with a following seat at the sitting trot they misinterpret that to be a DRIVING seat.
                                  I've been scolded by dressage, event and h/j trainers alike whenever I've subconciously attempted to use my seat as a driving aid. I don't think any educated rider regardless of discipline would feel that is correct. The seat should follow softly as the legs drive foward into a giving hand. This can be done in a full seat or half seat. However, the seat is integral for collection/rate as well as lateral movements in countless disciplines.

                                  I have to kindly disagree about seat being third to hands

                                  IMO there are many, many horses that would yank a rider right out of the tack or at the very least drag them all over timbucktoo (uh especially non-hunters) if you approached riding them with the philosophy of hand BEFORE seat. I think one would have a hard time riding a dressage, reiner, WP,cutter or saddleseat trained horse if you didn't use your seat prior to your hands when asking for any form of a halt, half halt, collection and even some lateral movements.

                                  Good riding is good riding only if it can be carried across the disciplines and implemented successfully on a variety of horses.
                                  Last edited by LookinSouth; Dec. 22, 2007, 02:07 PM.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by M. O'Connor View Post
                                    But there is more than one way to get from point A to point B; it doesn't matter which is learned first, as long as both are learned well.

                                    This IS the bottom line. I think the what the OP was trying to get at is in many cases this is not what is happening.

                                    That said, I've worked with several h/j trainers. More than one has focused way too much on the 1/2 and light seat as well as the leg/hand. The seat used as an aid was rarely if EVER touched upon.

                                    Another is/was a far more accomplished hunter/eq rider than the previous and well known on the AA hunter circuit( and came from the GM old school type of training.) Granted many things were lost in translation with my given horse due to his background BUT she didn't EVER advocate riding in the 1/2 seat at the canter or over a course of fences until her students were very effective riding with their seat IN THE SADDLE first. I firmly believe this is why I got farther along in my learning/riding while riding with her than any of the others.
                                    She would gripe regularly that the half/light seat was over used by many riders today in the hunter ring was completely incorrect and INEFFECTIVE and that is NOT what I should be attempting to emulate (because when I first came to her that's how I rode.)
                                    I observed her riding/training a variety of horses. The only time I saw her in a 1/2 seat was at shows in the hunter ring. Jumpers she rode full seat.


                                    • #19
                                      A mantra to remember:

                                      The legs ENERGIZE
                                      The seat MODIFIES
                                      The hands VERIFY

                                      So the job of the seat (and the horse's back) is to modify all the energy that is created by the hindquarters so that as it travels over the horses's back it reaches the rider's hand softly and can be recycled and returned to the horse. That's an enormous job. It irks me to no end when people say the seat is overrated, or #3 on the list behind the leg and hand. You know why the seat is so darn important? BECAUSE IT'S WHERE EVERYTHING GOES WRONG. It overrides the other aids. In other words, if you ask your horse to turn with the correct leg and rein aids and your seat/weight aids are incorrect (most often inadvertently) he will do EXACTLY what your seat and weight aids tell him to do, and you will have great difficulty getting the result you want. The seat is the most powerful aid because it is the most effective, whether it be used consciously and knowledgeably or unconsciously and ignorantly. People who discount the effect of the seat simply have not learned or been taught the very fine points of using it, nor do they understand how much a rider, simply by sitting on top of the horse, can influence its balance for better or worse. It is where communication with the horse becomes so fine that the horse becomes an extension of your own body, and riding becomes like magic. And it takes a lifetime to master.


                                      • #20
                                        Disagree, the seat IS a driving aid. Depends on how you use it.

                                        Alot of riders-and trainers (shame on them)-lack the sophistication to practice or teach PROPER use of the seat. Think it's very true way too many use a two point as a crutch to avoid actually making your back, hip, seat and leg work with the horse. It's hard, it hurts to learn and it can be boring...but nobody should go to the fences until they master at least the fundamentals of full seat, two point and something in the middle my trainers call a half seat.

                                        How many do you see being dragged round the corners after a line because they can't sit down and take hold? How many do you see with that ducking shoulder jumping ahead because they can't sit there and wait? Too many.

                                        The mantra of many clinicians lately has been Hunter riders are lacking in sophistication and using way too much two point at the expense of control.

                                        Then again, you can get wayyyyy to far back or end up with a chair seat/riding dressage over fences if you go to much the other way.

                                        To answer the OP, I think it's pretty tough to learn just hanging above the tack perched on the neck because you can't sit into the horse. See that soooo often now too. Weak position. Need to learn to sit first.
                                        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.