Sunday, October 11, 2009

Which is the Correct "Seat"?

You can decide--which is the best seat A-H. My son took these pictures for me today when I was out cleaning stalls. I thought it would be fun to saddle up Cowboy real fast and have him snap these photos of my "seat". I'm really trying to figure out what it is I'm doing wrong--or right. So here goes:

A. This is the ate too much at Panda Express, didn't put on my spandex riding jeans, my jeans are too tight seat. I don't recommend this seat for ANYONE! And Cowboy isn't too happy about the extra pounds either, as you can see him giving me the evil eye.

B. This is what I call Western Relaxed--my usual riding seat. I can say this--I've never been bucked off--so something's right about it, but dressage instructors never seem to like it.

C. This is the Kicking Back with a Brew seat--although, I don't drink "brews", but that's what it reminds me of--like I'm getting ready to kick my feet onto a coffee table.

D. Thrown-in-for-good-measure Seat

E. Legs-Down-Heels-Down Seat

F. My best try at a Western/Dressage Seat

G. Yet another try at the Western/Dressage Seat

H. My last try at the Western Dressage Seat

Okay, let me have it! Give me feedback on my "Seat". I know I'm asking for it here, but I really do want to see, learn and really understand the whole idea of a correct seat.

Please tell me your thoughts....


  1. I can't tell you much about "seat" but I think your kitty spent some time watching and is trying to imitate ... sitting up nice and tall, straight back, well, you get the picture :)

    Cowboy seems like a very calm and patient horse, too.

  2. If I were giving you lessons I would have you drop your stirrups down a hole. Your seat does not look all that bad.

  3. I think it's hard to get a proper seat in a lot of western saddles. Your stirrups are hung in a forward position so it might be harder to get your feet back. Lea has a good point about stirrup length. That might be all you need to change to get your leg back a bit.

    I usually feel totally wrong when my legs are in the "correct" position too. But in certain saddles it just comes together and is right and comfortable.

  4. First, that horse is beautiful! I love Paints. :-)

    Agreed that it's going to be hard, if not impossible, to get a dressage seat in a western saddle because of he way it's made. Dressage riders try different dressage saddles to find ones that help them with their seat. I have one that I love because it really does help with the seat. We should work on our seat ourselves, but sometimes a saddle can help or hinder that.

    That being said, you have a lovely seat! In A, Cowboy's expression is priceless! LOL In B, your normal seat, you are nice and relaxed and sitting up straight. Your shoulders and hips are aligned. Your heel is a bit far forward, but I really think that's a hallmark of the saddle. To put it under you more, as you do in later pictures, you're going to have to really pull it back, and I bet when you do, the saddle pulls against you in protest. That tension will cause you to tip your hips forward and your butt will come out of the saddle, even if you don't feel it.

    In C, you do what I see a lot of people do - push out with the feet. Many people think their balance on a horse comes from the stirrups. It actually comes from that center that I mentioned. If you look closely, you'll see that your back is now not straight, but is leaning back. That throws your center off. Having our center out of place does several things. One is that it makes it harder for us to stay in the saddle if our spooks or jumps. It also makes it harder for our horse to carry us. The more balanced, centered and connected we are, the easier it is for our horse to carry us.

    Picture D looks a lot like B, although you seem to be more tense. If you look at E, you'll see that your heels are down but it looks like you're pushing yourself out of the saddle and pushing your legs forward.

    The last pictures of the Western/Dressage seat are good, but show some tension. It's the great paradox of dressage - straightness without tension. The last pic I think has your lower leg in a pretty good position, but it seems the angle is off a bit, so I can't be sure. You want your elbows by your side, but hanging loosely. Make sure you can easily wiggle your shoulders. You should have a direct line from your elbows down your forearm to the horse's mouth.

    Again, I tend to focus on our center as 2 inches below the belly button. A good exercise to work on this is to ride bareback. Actually, doing a bareback lunging ride is really good because then you don't have to focus on direction.

    What a fun journey you're embarking on! :-) I love dressage - I train and ride classical dressage - because there is always something to work on. And I love that feeling of connection with the horse when you're having a conversation and you're really working together. It's wonderful!

  5. B's OK for trails - it's a slightly more "defensive" seat, although you could get behind the motion in the case of a leap forward.

    G and H are good in that your leg is under your seat - I believe that the best seat is one where if the horse vanished, you would be able to stand on the ground without falling over - but you do look tense. For Western or dressage, your stirrup's a bit short. Relax your leg - make sure there isn't a brace there - and gently pull your toe up instead of forcing your heel down. A brace in your leg will inhibit your horse's motion. And in your upper body, gently lift your ribcage up and roll your shoulders back, and keep your chin up and focus forward, and breathe deeply and completely, especially on the exhale.

    But you guys do look good - I love his expression in the first photo!

  6. This is good, this is good--you guys are giving me and 42 a lot to think about. It is HARD to push my legs back in that saddle. It's very heavy--thick leather, but fits my horse perfect and is very comfortable to ride in.

    I'm going to go out and see if dropping them one is feasible. I've been riding in this saddle for about seven years now with it adjusted exactly at that length. It's been so long, I don't know what my thinking was, but it seems like the other hole set them too far down for me to post--maybe a new hole?

    I do like B, but you're right, I am behind the motion when he jumps logs or streams and it thrusts me back--which is very uncomfortable. If I ask him to jump, I set myself slightly forward and then there's not much of a problem.

    My daughter has a balanced ride saddle with much more flexible fenders--maybe I'll borrow it from her for my lessons.

    Jo and Kate both remarked about "tension" and that is something the instructor kept telling me. She'd have me rotate my head and shoulders, etc. trying to get me to relax, but I'm thinking so hard, it's hard for me to relax. :(

    Thanks for all the input--it is helping me to "see" what's happening with my seat--and for me, I can't learn unless I see.

  7. Remember to breathe. Many people focus so hard that they don't breathe, which affects their seat, too. And smile. :-)

  8. I also agree that the western saddle isn't helping you! I like position B the best -- looks the most natural and relaxed, and your back isn't hollowed out and your pelvis pitched forward like in pics F, G, and H.

    Instead of taking dressage lessons in a western saddle, could your trainer maybe shoot for more of a reining-type seat? Reining maneuvers use similar training to dressage, but you wouldn't be fighting to keep an unnatural seat in your saddle.

  9. I think everyone's onto something with the saddle issue.

    I was just looking at the pictures again and noticed Cowboy's eye in the last 3 shots--it's the evil eye he gave me in the first shot. Funny. In position B and C he's ready to go, but probably because he knows that's my normal seat and means come on and get.

  10. I think your leg position is best in H, but your upper body does look a bit tense. The way I have always liked it explained is if your horse were to disappear out from under you, would you land on your feet or on your seat? But all who said above that your saddle isn't helping hit the nail on the head I think, you can see in the last photo how much you have had to pull the stirrup back to get that good leg position. Sadly, a lot of western saddles are made to encourage a chair position, rather than a good, balanced over your feet position. Have you ever read the book Centered Riding by Sally Swift? It's a great book and gives some good visuals for attaining a correct, balanced seat.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.