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"Proper" Way to Ride in a Western Saddle

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  • THE PROPER WAY TO MOUNT A HORSE WITH A SADDLE
  • Proper way to unsaddle a western horse

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    04-25-2013, 01:29 PM
  #11
Trained
You don't need lessons to ride a horse but if you want to improve your riding and ride to the best of your ability and get the most out of your horse, hands on instruction from someone who knows how to teach you is the way to go. I live by these words "We can get very good at doing the wrong thing". My instructor has a male student in his 60's that was a former working cowboy & bronc rider, he says he wishes he had taken formal instruction many years ago as it would've made his life more enjoyable on horseback.
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    04-25-2013, 02:16 PM
  #12
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by deserthorsewoman    
Now why would somebody make a bunch of mistakes all over again and learn the hard way if qualified instruction is available...
Define qualified instruction. Most of those who claim your heels need to be under your hip have never tried riding any other way. They look at a static picture, assume things that are not true, and then proudly reject what they have no experience with or understanding of.

I've had very experienced horse owners/riders 'teach' me that Appys have terrible hooves, because light colored hooves are weak. I've had them 'teach' me that my toes need to point straight ahead. I've been 'taught' that Arabian mares are psychotic monsters, and I need to sell mine to anyone stupid enough to buy her.

Most analysis I've seen of riding positions is simplistic to an embarrassing extreme. The page below comes from a well respected, well reviewed book I own and have read, arguing that a forward seat is unbalanced.



That analysis is so full of horse poop, it could fertilize a dozen orchards. From an engineering viewpoint, or a common sense viewpoint, it is pathetic.

OTOH, if you pay attention to your body and your horse, you may find out a lot of things. Things that actually work when applied.

Buck Brannaman on a horse:





The leg position is pretty close to what seems to get a good response from Mia while trail riding at a relaxed pace - heel in front of belt buckle. If I want her to go fast, then bringing my heel back some and leaning forward gives a position more like this guy's:



I'm not opposed to someone taking lessons. But finding someone who knows what they are doing and saying is pretty tough. Folks are free to blow off anything I write here, and that is OK. No one is paying for my advice. But if you do take lessons - and I have - just be aware that a lot of what is taught is taught as regurgitation, rather than thoughtful advice based on you, your horse, and your goals.

IMHO, one of the biggest sins in riding is worrying about 'position' instead of 'balance'. I've got several shelves of books that talk about position. And maybe that is because it is really tough to write about balance...

For balance, you have to mount up, and experiment and learn over time.
     
    04-25-2013, 02:48 PM
  #13
Green Broke
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    04-25-2013, 03:15 PM
  #14
Trained
Bsms, get on an English saddle and ride out in the desert, 5 mile lap, in a forward sear ONLY. No cheatin .....you'll understand the balance-unbalance " debate". If brain still doesn't get it, have it ask thigh muscles.
Then try the forward seat without stirrups( which a good instructor will have you do), 10, even 5 laps in the roundpen. Trot and canter. Then sit down, do the same seated.

As for heels slightly in front of beltbuckle....works only with slim folks

Btw, Brannaman has a very natural balanced seat in a western saddle.

Oh, and saddles can have a lot to do with how good or bad a seat one has.
     
    04-25-2013, 03:21 PM
  #15
Weanling
The way I see it, there's 2 parts to riding: you and the horse.

You don't need lessons to learn to stay on a horse. But most instruction, these days anyway, also take into consideration the comfort of the horse, and his way of going, for strength as well as soundness. As de Kunffy said, there's two kinds of work: the field worker wears himself out, the gymnist builds himself up.

The cowboy isn't in a terribly backwards position. He's quite tall in the saddle, the weight is only a little in back of the movement (hard to say in a still), the horse looks like he's ambling along, somewhat on his forehand in a natural manner. If he were to suddenly stop, or spin, or shy, I believe that rider is in a good position to move with it.

Nevertheless, if his legs were a little more under him, I believe his horse might be more comfortable over his long work day.
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    04-25-2013, 04:28 PM
  #16
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by deserthorsewoman    
Now why would somebody make a bunch of mistakes all over again and learn the hard way if qualified instruction is available?
First, there's the right way, the wrong way, the army way, and my way....yada yada yada

Well, lets count the ways........

They don't have the money.

They don't have the time.

They have the money but don't want to spend it on riding lessons.

They have the time but don't want to spend it on lessons.

Instructors are in the business to make money. You'll never be good enough and always require more lessons.

They're happy with the way they ride and know taking lessons makes things real serious stealing the joy from riding.

They don't like the instructor.

They don't like the instructors wife, husband, girl friend, boy friend, significant other, etc.

They don't like the facility.

Okay guys and gals.....help me out here.....
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    04-25-2013, 04:34 PM
  #17
Started
^^
There are NO instructors within a reasonable trailering distance.

Also, there really is no PROPER way to ride at all. There are desireables for every discipline. But, what works for you and what works for what you are doing should be good enough.
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    04-25-2013, 04:55 PM
  #18
Showing
Generally speaking, unless you are planning to compete in classes where your position will be judged, like western horsemanship, then the most proper position is where you are most balanced and comfortable and you the ability to remain light and fluid in your seat...that is best for both you and the horse.

However, many self-taught folks don't know they are doing something to compromise their seat/ability unless they have someone to tell them "you know, you'd have a better seat if you did <this> or if you stopped doing <that>".

Take me for example. For most of my childhood, I rode with the majority of my weight on my feet and never knew that it was wrong until my Dad pointed it out to me one day when I ate dirt after falling from a fractious colt. He just waited for me to dust myself off and get back on, then said "you know, if you'd keep your weight on your butt like you should instead of your feet, I believe you could have rode that out". Now, I've spent the better part of the last 15 years trying to break that habit and I've noticed a marked difference in my fluidity and ability between the 2 ways of riding. I'm more able to move with the horse and my seat is more independent and more fluid when I've got my weight in my seat instead of on my feet.

If you don't have access to proper instruction, then watch as many videos as you can of good riders (reiners, cutters, trainers, etc) and try to emulate them. Watch where they keep their feet, what they do with their legs, where their hands are at, what they do with their body, etc.

Another thing you have to consider is your saddle. Some saddles, especially if they don't fit you correctly, will force you into a poor position. Many western saddles encourage a horrible chair seat because their fenders are hung too far forward from the balanced center of the seat. Trying to keep anything resembling a balanced position in a saddle like that is like trying to dig your way out of quicksand.
     
    04-25-2013, 04:59 PM
  #19
Trained
I personally don't give a rat's hind end about how a person sits on a horse, or another thinks he's the best thing since sliced bread and lessons are for wimps....as long as it doesn't affect the horse negatively.
If a certain style of riding requires a certain way of sitting it usually makes sense. For that style/discipline. So why not taking advantage of knowledge instead of pre- inventing the wheel?
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    04-25-2013, 05:03 PM
  #20
Trained
As far as I'm concerned, a balanced position IS in a proper position. Sure I can "balance" on a horse in the literal sense with my feet sticking out like an old cowboy...But I ride a reiner, if I did that, she'd had her butt in the ground sliding and I'd wonder why I can't get her to move.

Keeping your leg under you is important. It allows your weight to be where you need to be. Your weight when riding needs to be distributed between your two seat bones and just a tiny bit of your crotch. Even, elbows tucked in nicely and not flailing about, back straight yet flexible (This and your heels absorb the impact), shoulders back and squared nicely, head and neck straight while looking where you want to go without tilting one way or the other.

Sure it's all fine and dandy to get on and just go on a horse, I will do that sometimes and I know the way to ride performance horses ad show horses. If all you wanna do is go out and have fun that's fine, but if you want to show you better have a good balanced position and someone to tell you where to be. I've seen a lot of old cowboys be able to stay on a horse, doesn't mean they'd win a western horsemanship class.

Exhibit A


This girl has a wonderful equitation position. She rides very balanced and loose yet tight (If you know what I mean), and has a very good seat on that horse.

Of course so does this girl, but that's a lot different than what you'd see in a pattern class. She does ride that horse very well, as does the rider above, but they both ride very different. Quiet riding isn't always effective, and neither is very aggressive riding. It really is relevant to what kind of western riding you want to do.


You can tell this girl is a good hand because watch her lose her stirrups. It takes a LOT of ability to stay on a horse hauling that fast, whether you have a horn to hold onto or not. Really good pole horses like that are not easy to ride. You can see where she was saying she almost fell off, watch how she picks herself back up instantly and it's still a smokin' run. That's another definition of someone who rides well. Someone who can pick themselves up and not be frazzled when something happens.

If you're leaning too far forward or too far back, your horse will either pull you right over or you'll go off the back door at some point. Your seat effects your horses movement. It effects whether they go fast, slow, collected, strung out, sideways, backwards, whether they dive in or bow out, stay balanced, or not. Sure you train some stuff in, but I don't care how much you try if you aren't sitting right on a horse you aren't ever going to achieve the full potential of collection or perfect balance on your horse. You'll never get the weight on the hind end if you are constantly leaning forward. You won't get a fluid spin if you're leaning and causing them to fall to one side. You'll never get a tight turn on the barrel pattern if you don't sit back. At the same time, you won't ever reach full speed if you're sitting back with your feet kicked forward trying to get to the timers.

And obviously you'll never achieve anything if you're too busy being unbalanced and hanging off one side of the horse because you don't know how to sit on your butt up there.
     

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