Admission straight up, I know nothing about saddle seat.
I was amazed to read here that there should be a shoulder hip heel line in SS, I would never have guessed it based on my limited exposure, but a google search of images https://www.google.ca/search?q=saddl...w=1366&bih=628 if that works, I am struggling to see any lined up.
Well, another issue is that photos taken on victory rounds are not the best way to judge. First off, in a lot of those pictures you will notice the rider is often times on the wrong diagonal. In SS the rider will ride on the wrong diagonal in the victory pass so the best picture of the horses outside leg up does not have the rider up in the air. Plus, the rider is trying to get the best photo taken of the horse and not so much themselves. Also, again if the picture is not of Equitation the rider is not worried at all about their form and just the horse. Finally, professional SS pictures are taken with the photographer low and at an angle to highlight the horses vertical movement and head set.
I find it interesting that people felt somehow unbalanced because their hands were higher. If you look at Saddleseat riders, their hands held high are done so in an effort to have the direct line contact with the horses mouth. In Saddleseat the horses head is also held higher. It would be strange to try to hold your hands down at the withers when the horses head is up in the air. Equally strange would be riding a Quarterhorse who has his head down with your hands high.
Hopefully that will bring up the photo I want. I can't upload to photobucket right now for some reason. In Saddleseat, The shoulder, hip and heel should be in a line. Just because some riders do not achieve that doesn't mean it isn't the goal. Show me any class where all the riders are in perfect form. Also, as stated, on a victory lap, you work to make the horse look the best and probably are not as perfect as you would like to be yourself. Some are, some are not.
I believe there is something to be learned in all disciplines. I love Saddleseat as it is exciting, high energy and fun. I also love most of the breeds ridden Saddleseat as their temperaments are such that matches my own. Have fun with your lessons. Hopefully you can get comfortable with it and learn something you keep with you.
Old-style saddleseat before the adjustable stirrup bars came in in the '80s was closer to the classical dressage position. I have old catalogs that show only a 19" cutback saddle with a 4" cutback head for adults, and the park saddle, which was size 17"- 19" for adults.
Today, the adjustable stirrup bars created in a whole new artificial "sit-back" style, and eq riders are usually riding a 22" - 23" long saddle with the stirrup bars set all the way back. That is why you see chair-seat and also why you see 4"-5" of flap out in front of the rider's legs now.
I know I have seen a lot better and smoother equitation riders than that woman in the black suit in the video. Her legs were flapping all over the place, and her toes were out in front of here in a (imo) very unflattering picture. The Shively 2000 and MMX saddles are what the equitation riders use now, and they force the rider into a chair seat.
^ is Wing Commander from the '40s. Decent equitation position.
Also, some trainers and people who don't ride equitation classes have an entirely different style of pushing back as far as they can and sticking their feet out in front. But, they are not trying to be eq riders at all. Not the slightest bit. Many tall people say that sitting on their pockets like that gives them a more secure seat on a rambunctious or green horse. Trainer style:
I uploaded 3 saddle pics. The pinkish saddle on the bottom is a Barnsby Battaglia, the same tree/seat as the Shively 2000 and MMX. It's easy to see why, even with the stirrup bar set back all the way, you will always be in a chair-seat position. (I flipped that photo, so yeah, you're looking at the off side not the near side, for you sticklers, lol. I was in a hurry.)
The flatter seat (top right) is a L&R Louisville. And the deep seat (top left) is a Joseph Sterling Millennium 3000 deep seat and that seat type is also called "equitation seat." It's easy to see that either of those two saddles results in a more natural position. A saddle that has its balance point nearer the center, even if it is a saddleseat cutback, will allow the rider to align in the classical position, head, hips, heels.
The guy in the last pic is also a VERY tall man... Just saying.
One thing about SS, we use our butts a great deal more than our leg. You will see even the best of our riders really roll back and sit really deep with our legs out especially at the rack. A great deal of our horses would know a leg cue from a pat on the rump. I know with my gaited mare, I was having a HECK of a time getting her to stay racking. I really had to use my butt for encouragement. Western lessons teaching me to "sit on my pockets" helped me SOOOO much! Sometimes we are bracing ourselves with a very powerful horse. Some are just up there for the ride. In SS, unless you are riding Equitation, the horse's performance is what matters. If hooking your feet in the reins and laying over his rump is what he needs, by golly you do it. LOL.
This man is like twelve feet tall(VERY much exaggerating, but he is one of the tallest men I have ever met). Holy cow, I don't think there is a Saddlebred alive that is big enough for him. LOL! However, HIS riding does not represent "how it should be done".
And here is a "normal" sized man. Love this man. IMG_3951
Another great "normal" sized man. Again, love this guy too. IMG_8995
I said "tall people" because they are the ones who can lay back like that and then pendulum the upper body forward when they need to, for balance. You'll almost never see a child or a small woman riding like that, because we can't. If a small person tried that, it would be like crack-the-whip because the rider is far too far behind where they need to sit to keep their balance.
Saddleseat saddles descended from the old English hunting saddles of the 19th century: flat seat, straight flaps, rider sat upright in the center of the horse's back and rode a long stirrup. The old painting is pretty close to the shape of an old hunting saddle. The photo is a park saddle, which came after the hunting saddle and before the 4" cutback Lane Fox saddle. Park saddles were the AP saddle for flat riding. It's a shorter tree and it sits your rider closer to the classical dressage position.
The British "show saddle" is also a descendent of that old flat hunting saddle.
Jeffries (brand) Classic Show Saddle. (You can see that saddleseat position in the shape of the seat and placement of the stirrup bars up front with balance point toward the center or rear. NOT like a forward seat saddle at all. It's made for sitting.)