What is the right seat?
I have been riding on and off for 10 years. Just bought my first horse and working with in original owner. He told me that I should be griping the saddle with my thigh to get a better seat. I always been taught that you should sit relaxed. I am very confused. Any one with a good way to explaine how to sit right please help. Thanks
your seat is not just your buttocks or seatbones. it incorporates your thigh, too. your thigh, if in contact with the saddle , can carry some of your weight, too. If your thigh is so relaxed that it is flacid, it will roll and flop about as the horse moves. Imagine if you put some kind of jelly up there, like, welll . . . .have you ever seen the dummy that they used in Myth Busters; "Buster"? he was made of some jelly that was supposed to mimic human flesh density.
But, since Buster cannot create any tension or tone in his body, when he was moved by something, he wobbled. His movement was a reaction to what moved him, and thus was a milisecond behind the movement of the thing moving him.
Your thigh , flacid , would be like Buster's jelly; the saddle would move and your thigh moves behind the motion. But, if you use muscle tone to hold your thing against the saddle (not rigid, but tones, not rock hard, but connected) your thigh will move AS ONE with the saddle.
Since, in order to have a good following seat, your lower body must follow the motion of the hrose, while your upper body remains stable and quiet (again, not so relaxed that it is whipped about ) .there is a point where the two parts will move seperately, the "break". the break from the upper body to lower body is NOT the waist, it's the hips. That is where the bone joint will have an openning and closing angle as the hrose rises and falls.
SO, . . . . if your thigh is firm against the saddle , (again, not rigid or clamped, but toned) it can make the hip open and close as it is moved. naturally. it is at the hip that you must be super loose.
You do not want to grip with your knee or thigh. As soon as you start to grip, you stop your pelvis from going with the horse. Your lower back will take the impact and you'll end up laying in bed with heat packs - trust me, I've been there!
Your core muscles are what keep you balanced in the saddle, they keep you upright and allow you to follow the movement without 'flopping' or gripping.
You do need a certain amount of muscle tension to keep you steady, but 90% of that is in your core.
Someone should be able to lift your knee and thigh away from the saddle without feeling much resistance.
Edit to add: The reason you don't want to grip with the knee and upper leg, is that it will immediately bring your seat slightly out of the saddle, and you will be blocking the horse's shoulders from moving freely.
There are several styles of riding. I don't know which you prefer.
Most western riders do it Kayty's way, which I believe is also taught in dressage: weight in the seat, legs draping the horse, and your hips moving in synch with the horse. My favorite video example is this:
That isn't exactly dressage, but it shows how a western rider with weight in the seat moves with the horse so that his weight won't interfere with the horse.
Another approach is a forward seat. It uses more weight on the thighs and less in the rump. The rider's center of gravity is typically over the stirrup bars, and the rider's upper body is tilted somewhat forward. At an extreme, it looks like Gen Patton:
But more often like this picture (blurred, taken from a book by George Morris):
Sometimes how you ride is driven by the saddle. I dislike my Circle Y saddle (although my youngest daughter refuses to ride in anything else), because the shape of the saddle forces my thighs to be almost parallel to the horse's back. I feel like it puts my weight all above the horse's back, and I feel very insecure in it. It does the same to my daughter, but she loves it and rides well in it. Although we were stopped in this picture, you can see a big difference in how we sit in a saddle - but if I use the Circle Y, I am forced to sit like my daughter does:
So, what is right?
If you don't compete, then it is up to you and your horse. I feel most comfortable with a *******ized version of a forward seat. That may be due in part to a back injury 4 years ago. My daughter NEVER uses anything like a forward seat. Our horses don't seem to care.
There ARE faults with any style: gripping with the knee is bad, and bracing between the stirrups and cantle is almost always bad too. My lower back doesn't flex well, so I tend to prefer more weight on my thighs and less motion with my back.
And BTW - I'm not an instructor, trainer, pro rider, competitor or anything else in the horse world. Just reporting on what I've seen & tried over the last 4 1/2 years, and how it has worked out differently for my daughter and I.
If you have any pictures, it would help folks to see what YOU are doing, and give tips on how it might be affecting you & your horse.
It would also really help to know what discipline you ride and what saddle you currently use. What's correct or functional in one discipline may not be correct or functional in another.
However, in hunters, jumpers and the jumping phases of eventing, anything that requires you riding in two point, you better frickin' have some grip in your calves - it's what holds you on the horse. It's why riders in those discipline spend so much time working without stirrups, posting and two point, to develop that active grip in their calves. "Independent seat" in these disciplines has more to do with not balancing on your hands, not being able to follow and influence with your seatbones as in western and dressage.
That's why it's important to know what discipline the OP is riding before giving advice.
Maura is right, there are a few different styles of correct seat. Personally, I find the most secure seat for all occasions is the eventing type seat, but I disagree that there is any amount of gripping. Gripping and tension are what get you off of a horse in a big spook. Instead, it is a method of weight distribution that puts an equal amount of weight lightly against the saddle and the horse from two inches below your crotch to the bottom of your foot.
Your leg is lightly on your horse (except for where it naturally curves away between the bottom of your calf and your foot) but not gripping or cueing. You are not standing heavily in the stirrups, but there is enough weight in there that if your horse were to suddenly lurch to one side, your stirrups would not come off your feet. To a casual observer, it looks like you are sitting on the horse, but your weight is only lightly in your seat and not pressing down like a sack of potatoes.
From this position it is easy to either stand up off the horse's back if you run into some rough ground or use your seat more strongly in the saddle for forward encouragement. I call it the "ski position" because you are bending your joints to keep your legs balanced under you whether you are standing straighter above the saddle or sitting down on top of it. It is good for riding strong horses on open country.
However, if you are showing in any discipline you need to learn what seat is required, whether the chair seat of saddleseat, the draping seat of dressage or the full butt seat of Western.
Thanks for the input. I hope to take a video and post... But I do ride western in no pacific discipline. Just trying to ride correctly and I am pretty much trying to self learn. My horse is supper brook.... I've seen the previous owner work with her. But now that I am asking for more from her she is not responding to me as good as she did with the other owner. I am positive I am not giving her the right cues... :( so back to basics... Again! There seems like there is always something to work on!
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