Discussion of Hunt seat and forward seat - Page 4 - The Horse Forum
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post #31 of 52 Old 02-22-2012, 01:53 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Ray MacDonald View Post
I always just figured:

Two Point: Two points of contact- calves and knees, slightly forward upperbody

Forward Seat: Leaned a little forward in the seat, butt comes off of the seat a little more but still has 3 points of contact.
To me two point is getting the butt out of the saddle onto ones knees and thighs. Taking the riders weight off the horse's back.
(When I worked in a jump racing yard, brother, did my legs ache from the faster work, not because of two point but because of two point with stirrups four or five holes shorter than normal!)

Forward seat is the position one takes over a fence.
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post #32 of 52 Old 02-22-2012, 02:30 AM Thread Starter
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I am a passionate advocate for the true American system of forward seat riding. No, that does not mean I advocate jumping ahead, laying on the horse's neck, the floating faux crest release, or the hollow backed, duck butt posture and more than anyone else advocates for the worst characteristics of their chosen discipline.

The above is what I was referring to. (love the 'duck butt!)

I advocate for a freely forward moving, relaxed, obedient horse doing his job with as little interference or influence from his rider as possible, as close to his natural balance and movement as possible.

I do not think anyone could argue with this!

I'm going to stop there and address a point mentioned earlier, the idea of the importance of seat as an aid. Sorry, and I know this is going to upset people from dressage backgrounds, *your seat is not an aid in forward seat riding* period. Agreed - how can it be when the butt sould be out of the saddle?

There is some place for a full following seat, but no place for a driving seat or your seat as an aid.
Here I disagree, look at the videos posted and others of top riders and going into a fence they all resume a 'sitting more upright and seat in the saddle' position.

Your weight may be an aid, but your seat is not. The idea is that you have a horse that moves freely forward NOT held between your leg and hand, and that if you have established, pace, balance and direction correctly, you do absolutely nothing in the last three strides before the fence.
Ideally yes, a horse should be set up correctly but cross country is another matter and a horse can change his mind in the last three strides and the rider has to get those three strides set up which, if it requires a shortening of stride the seat should come into play.

This last bit is a concept I have heard repeated over and over by eventing instructors and clinicians, including some from the UK. Some riders, especially those with a strong dressage background, are just very reluctant to give up that seat to hand connection, but ultimately, I believe dependence on that seat to hand connection robs the horse of his ability to think for itself and jump his rider out of trouble when they inevitably make a mistake.

[COLOR="rgb(139, 0, 0)"]Not so! A mistake made usually results in the horse pecking or falling, a rider who can sit down and back allowing the reins to slip through their fingers, giving a horse its head but still having some contact, is more likely to get out of trouble than the rider who maintains a forward seat adding their weight to the front end which is already in trouble![/COLOR]

In an earlier thread on this forum about making the transition from American hunters to eventing, I summed up the various points by saying "Riders from an eventing background keep themselves in the tack unless circumstances dictate that they come out of it, riders from a hunter/forward seat background stay out of the tack unless circumstances dictate that they stay in it/take a deep seat." I have a pretty firm conviction that that's the better way, and I recently got support from and unexpected source.

Jimmy Wofford wrote an article in the August 2011 Practical Horseman called "The Science of Galloping" in which he referenced a 2008 Royal Veterinary College study which concluded that the workload on a horse was greatly reduced in the rider assumed a balanced, flexible galloping position out of the tack as opposed to seated in the tack.

No argument with this - it stands to reason that if the back end is left free to propel the forward motion, it is going to be easier!
Obviously you want to assume a defensive position jumping down banks, jumping into water, jumping downhill or in a tight, very technical combination where you need a lot of influence over the horse's stride. However, you are saving your horse work if the rest of the time, you are out of the tack, in a poised, balanced flexible two point position.
Here we are in total agreement!

The forward seat is a vital part of riding at speed so it makes it easier on the horse. No argument here at all. My original point was over the 'duck butt, ahead of the movement' position taught in the hunters arena.

The hardest thing to do when a horse makes a mistake, or, more likely, is trying its best to correct a rider error, is to sit still and do nothing!
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Last edited by Foxhunter; 02-22-2012 at 02:35 AM.
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post #33 of 52 Old 02-22-2012, 02:56 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by maura View Post
And finally, for Foxhunter, who is asleep on the other side of the world -

I have a theory that the British version of "hunter seat" and the American version evolved differently because our respective geography and topography are different.

I've been often told that British foxhunters hunt *in* the ground, Americans *on* it, meaning that the footing is often *deep* and difficult for our British compatriots and requires a different type of horse. I've also heard (please correct me if I'm wrong) thta hunting in Britain means or meant navigating lots of small cultivated fields that are fenced or paneled, and that there's no equivelent to wide open American pastureland. Then when you add in sunken roads, fencing fields with hedges and ditch and bank combinatiions, etc., as opposed to galloping long distances on flat pastureland between fences, you have a pretty good explanation of why the British hunting seat involves more of a full seat in the tack and the American hunting seat or forward seat is more out of the tack.

Doesn't mean one is wrong and one is right, means that each evolved to appropriately meet the challenges of terrain.
You are correct in the topography is very different!
Riders out hunting (and referring to fox hunting not with a gun) do get out of the saddle however over a fence and these are not all built hunt jumps but often BIG hedges with and without ditches, often not known, out of deep going. The seat is, or should be forward, as the horse takes off but the rider taking the backward seat as the horse reaches the apex and sitting well back when the horse lands, slipping the reins. This is to allow for a sudden decrease in speed if the horse hits deep ground or if there is a drop or stumble allowing the horse a free front end. Then the two point should be resumed.

Some years ago I was hunting a sweet little horse I wanted to sell. The Master's wife was riding a new horse which was proving way to strong for her and she was having an awful time. Seeing an opportunity I offered to swap rides which was gratefully accepted.
Master's wife was having a wonderful time whilst I was being pulled and hauled around the county.
Hounds found and away they went in full cry. Blood was up and although trying to keep to the rear of the field (field referring to the following riders) I was soon upsides the front riders and two fences on, ahead of them all and catching up with the Master.
Not having a lot of choice in the matter I was soon a couple of lengths behind him and he headed towards an enormous hedge. No exaggeration - it hadn't been trimmed so was about 5' high with another 2 feet of years growth and about 8 feet in width. I heard the Master call out "Ditch" and knowing that this was going to take a heck of an effort on behalf of the horse, I allowed her to go that little bit faster to clear it.
She jumped big and wide, I adopted the backward seat as she landed and ht the buckle of the reins, but the extra speed made her buckle on landing an down she went onto her knees and nose then belly before rolling over into her side and my leg. I was then horseless!
Someone caught her and brought her back to me and when hounds checked very soon after the Master was taking the mickey out of me for falling. I retorted "Well it was your fault, you called out "Ditch"
He roared with laughter and said "I never called out 'Ditch' I called out 'Sh1T' when I saw the size of that hedge!"
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post #34 of 52 Old 02-22-2012, 07:28 AM
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I actually really liked the John Strassberger video mildot posted, and it shows a style of riding I heartily approve of and like. First of all, his horse was going *forward* to his fences and his setting him up for the jumping efforts was done by lifting his upper body and using his weight, not seat, and not done primarily with his hands, all too common among event riders. His efforts to balance the horse for the jumping efforts were subtle and didn't interfere were the horse.

I liked the video of the stadium round much less; obviously a less skilled rider, of course, but IMO, she spent far too much time riding backward. You can achieve the same pace and balance on course by establishing pace, balance and rhythm early and then allowing the horse to go to his fences. I can't tell if mildot posted that for contrast to the first one by his comments, but to my eye, it was in sharp contrast to the first. It was also the kind of constant seat to hand riding that creates rider-dependent horses that can't jump their way out of trouble in a pinch.

There's a video on the forum in the critique section of an amateur jumper that I just love, it shows what I'm speaking of - happy horse, going forward in balance and rhythm, rider in harmony, controlled, without taking a deep, driving seat. Big contrast to the second video posted.

If I'm on course and a horse peaks or stalls and looks hard at a fence, of course I'm going to assume a deep, even driving seat and defensive posture and use whatever I've got to push it to the fence. But that's about the only scenario in which I'm going to use my seat as an aid while jumping. Even when I take a truly defensive position to jump downhill, I don't drive from my seat to my hand in the fashion of the rider in the second video. Picking your shoulders up, and touching your seat bones to the saddle and having a following seat in front of a fence as you reestablish balance, like most riders do XC is not using seat as an aid, it's using weight, and is entirely consistent with good forward seat riding. Sitting up and assuming a following seat in a related distance, or between elements in a technical combination to ****** stride and make the distance work is much the same.

The American style of forward seat riding was actually developed as a way of teaching novices and amateurs a system that would allow them to ride, hunt and show safely and acheive a level of competence quickly, without the months on a lunge line necessary to develop an educated full seat, and without abusing the horse. Forward seat riding done correctly, meaning the rider is in balance, is quite safe, which the possible exception of ditch, hedge and bank combinations, the Trout Hatchery at Burghley or the Head of the Lake at Rolex or Becher's Brook at the Grand National. Forward seat riding done badly and out of balance, like any other discipline done badly and out of balance, is dangerous and unfair to the horse.

Would it be safe to say, Foxhunter, that you have no objection to good forward seat riding, but mightily object to it done badly?
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post #35 of 52 Old 02-22-2012, 07:49 AM
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Hunting the Rarebit Way

It is good to see this subject aired and discussed. The fine stylish riders have their say elsewhere. I have never read before nor been taught the techniques employed on riding to hounds in England. In my experience by the time a rider reaches the stage of expertise to cope with a dayís hunting over typical English rural terrain it is assumed they can ride and control the horse between their thighs. The riders should not be judged for elegance, they ought to be judged by whether they can sit and hold back an excited horse. Once the horse has realised that it is hunt day, the animal is so fired up with adrenaline that for the first hour or so, it is all some riders can do to keep it back with the rest of the field.

It was many years ago when last I rode to hounds in central Southern England on a five year old recently backed Irish Draught gelding . He was a big inexperienced animal, out in company for the very first time. The hunt riders were attired in white and black, the horses were manicured as if for the showground, the field composed of the old, the mature, the inexperieinced and the very young. It was a very gentile affair but a good day to introduce my Irish Hunter to his profession. That day my full Irish Draught youngster named Sherman, finally lost his composure and we came home early before he and I got hurt. His, is another story.

Nowadays in Southern Wales, the farmerís hunts are very different affairs. The favoured open ground is made up of upland moorland covered with heather and the ubiquitous weed of bracken. The local farmers will have rights to free graze sheep and ponies. Rabbits abound along with the deer. The dangerous minefields are the bogs down into which the horse can easily sink. With experience the rider can spot them from the green foliage but it is the locally bred horse which knows where they lie. The horses are usually Welsh Cobs or crosses. These are fast agile devils, not valued so much for their elegance rather their sure footedness. When their day job is to round up sheep, then they have to be able to come as fast down a hillside as they can scramble up it.

On this sort of ground, looks goes out of the window and undoubtedly the unwitting visiting rider is in for a surprise. For a start it is not a good idea to bring oneís own horse but if the visitor is to hire a horse then first he must get to know it over the days before the meet. The locals donít school their horses to an English BHS rule book. The horse will be sensitive to the riderís weight, the hands, the calves and thighs. Hardy Welsh cobs donít suffer riding fools gladly. How the rider sits will determine the speed of the horse and even the slightest involuntary twitch will set the horse off into a gallop. The wise rider keeps a very light contact with the mouth but makes no attempt to draw the horseís nose down nor to restrict the movement of the neck. If the unwitting rider thinks they are going to ride collected on shortened reins, then they will find the horse will snatch the rider almost out of the saddle The horse knows what is coming and it demands control of its own head. On this terrain the rider is fully dependent upon the horseís inborn ability to stay upright The challenge is not the hedges to jump rather it is the uneven ground to cross. The only occasional relief is the stoney track created centuries ago by the drovers

One must be aware that suddenly the horses might take off after the master and one might find oneself at the top of a steep escarpment looking down the 45 degree slope which the horse is about to slither, almost on its butt - that is unless the rider has the bottle to adopt Capt Caprilliís forward pose. The rider will have fitted a running martingale and probably a neck strap so that he/she has some leverage to bend or turn the horseís neck when the times come to slow down.

The ride will be wearing a sturdy pair of gloves and perhaps a wide elasticated belt to protect the lower spine. He/she will be dressed for the wind to blow and the rain to come belting down. Finery is not expected. The horse is going to get wet, sweaty and muddy. It can be bay, black, grey or any colour on the chart.

The riderís boots will be rammed home into wide stirrups irons, the leathers of which must be renewed regularly because on this day there will be a lot of standing in the stirrups. And most importantly of all there will be in one pocket a flask of brandy or whisky or whatever your tipple is and in the other pocket some energy biscuits. This nutrition is there to top up the fiery liquor dispensed off a silver tray to all and sundry back at the meet. Body warmth was the excuse for the tipple; courage was the real reason. Children on ponies arenít welcome except by special invitation.

Someone in the local A&E will know its the day for the local hunt and the Master will have the phone numbers in case of need, so long as there is a working signal up in the cwms. Mostly the bracken makes a soft landing for a discarded rider but the hidden rocks can bring about a broken bone or two.

A day with the hunt over the high moors leaves the rider exhausted The satisfaction comes from not having made a fool of oneself. The fox very often gets away, only to be shot by the farmer once the season is over to protect his lambs. It was the chase after the guy in the red jacket that gave the fun.

As for the style of riding, well you name it, then youíll spot it On the day, the rider will spend as much time standing in the stirrups as sitting in the saddle. The last minute swerve to avoid a rock calls for a swift transfer of weight. Knowing how to slip a foot back into a flapping stirrup iron at the gallop is a very useful skill. As for sitting bolt upright, toes lightly balanced in the irons, in a rounded outline with the horseís nose in the ramener position, well thatís a style for the arena

The fact is that one is not taught this style of riding, one gains it with experience over the years. A tip here or a tip there helps shorten the learning curve but it is still the wise old horse that does most of the teaching.

The Welsh Boyos from the Valleys are the only group I know who hold rodeos at the small country fairs in the tourist season. Rodeoing is the bareback riding of Welsh ponies without bridles or bits, merely a handful of mane. The duo comes out of the chute to a whoop and a holler only for the rider to fly through the air and hit the dust within seconds, never minutes. A feral Welsh C mare is a tiny horse but one renowned for bucking. Nowadays the rules say you are supposed to take part when sober.

As has been said on this thread, the way one rides across wild open country is determined by the nature of the terrain not the dictats of the showing arena.
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post #36 of 52 Old 02-22-2012, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by maura View Post
his setting him up for the jumping efforts was done by lifting his upper body and using his weight, not seat, and not done primarily with his hands,
Depending on the fence, I see him rebalance the horse a couple of different ways. Some are subtle, some more aggressive.

For instance, at about 1:12 you can see a definite use of reins and a lowering of the weight back to the saddle. A few seconds later at around 1:15 I see a driving seat into hands to the jump. Presumably he felt he needed the horse's haunches to come up more under him. Do you see the same thing or am I misreading what he does?

Originally Posted by maura View Post
I liked the video of the stadium round much less; obviously a less skilled rider, of course, but IMO, she spent far too much time riding backward. You can achieve the same pace and balance on course by establishing pace, balance and rhythm early and then allowing the horse to go to his fences.
Isn't the nature of hunter and jumper courses different enough to warrant a more active rider? From what I know, many jumper courses even at the lower levels seem to ask questions that need more abrubt changes of stride and/or tighter turns. Other than the couple of times when she gets left behind the motion, I see her folding over nicely while still keeping her center of gravity over the saddle and her seat off the horse over the fences. She does take a deeper seat between most fences but that seems to me to not change the horse's pace except where you can see clear half halts.

I'm not trying to criticize or pick nits. Trying to learn here.

Last edited by mildot; 02-22-2012 at 08:09 AM.
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post #37 of 52 Old 02-22-2012, 08:33 AM
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That is a beautiful photo!
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post #38 of 52 Old 02-22-2012, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by hoopla View Post
Two point and huntseat is what a rider does when they hang over the horse because they're not balanced nor have an independent seat.
When I posted the aforementioned it was of course in the context of another thread on cultural differences and was deliberately meant as an example of English sarcasm.

I'm not seeing much at all to take exception to though when it comes to decent descriptions and examples of what is effective riding.

My background is with national hunt steeplechasing and my father was MFH for the oldest hunt in the UK and my mother was Joint Master. My first hunt was aged 6 and over some very challenging 13th century dry stone walls and across heather moorland criss cross with ditches and walls.

Because of the act of enclosure in the 16th century and the geography we have small fields all bounded with walls, hedges or fencing. That means you have to jump well and that means riding defensively and allowing the horse to use itself or else you're a goner!

This looks down on my land to my farm and you'll see how rocky and hilly we are and how it's criss crossed with a patchwork quilt of small fields bounded by walls and hedges:

Originally Posted by Foxhunter View Post
The forward seat is a vital part of riding at speed so it makes it easier on the horse. No argument here at all. My original point was over the 'duck butt, ahead of the movement' position taught in the hunters arena.

The hardest thing to do when a horse makes a mistake, or, more likely, is trying its best to correct a rider error, is to sit still and do nothing!

When I teach pupils they don't even get to pick up reins until they can steer a horse and transition walk to trot and back to walk using only legs and seat One thing I do to help gain understanding of how a horse thinks and behaves is to get a rider to stay motionless when a horse is at walk and in effect to demonstrate that if you do nothing the horse will eventually just stop and graze. Truth be told it's REALLY REALLY hard for many "so called 'experienced'" riders to stop being active in the saddle.
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Last edited by hoopla; 02-22-2012 at 09:10 AM.
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post #39 of 52 Old 02-22-2012, 09:37 AM
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It is difficult to envisage that is your part of Dorset - certainly it is a part I have missed out on finding. You are a lucky man.
Dorset to me has always been a coastline or a tank range.
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post #40 of 52 Old 02-22-2012, 09:40 AM
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Dorset? I'm not in Dorset!!! Nowhere near Dorset!!!!!

I'm in Northumberland and right on the Scottish border.

Last edited by hoopla; 02-22-2012 at 09:44 AM.
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