Dressage vs Hunt Seat
So I would love to get everyone's help on an issue I've been having. I am currently working towards getting an instructor's certification in English riding- I am not quite ready yet to write and do the practical exams, and I'm having a bit of trouble switching between positions.
I currently ride both jumping courses- under 2'9- and basic dressage lessons, and I am having difficulty switching from a hunt seat to a dressage seat- so I will do a jump lesson one week, work on my light seat etc etc. The next week I will work on flat work, and what happens is I have a hard time adjusting to a dressage seat- I keep wanting to use a seat that is just a tad too light- then when I try to fix it I start to almost "push" with the seat, which is NOT what I'm trying to do.
I ride with a jump-saddle all around- the thing is I don't so much have this problem in a dressage saddle, but I thought I should be able to achieve a good, solid dressage seat in a hunt saddle regardless- even if it is a bit harder.
Any advice/opinions would be appreciated.
I would think it'd be a struggle to get a good dressage seat in a hunt seat saddle. The whole positioning of the stirrup bar is so differnt. The hunt seat has the stirrup bar quite a bit more forward, doesn't it,? which means that you have to lean forward a little bit, and have perhaps a more forward pushing trot, to be able to post.
I find it very hard to adjust to a hunt seat saddle, since I spend most of my time in a dressage saddle.
So to my understanding yes, it is harder to get a dressage-like seat in a hunt saddle, it makes it easier to tip slightly forward and can put you in a bit of a chair position if you aren't careful. However I am told it can be done- here you are allowed to compete in a hunt or close contact saddle at the first few levels of dressage without a problem,, and I know people that have done so. So when I sit in a dressage saddle it is infinitely easier for me to stay in a decent position, whereas I am struggling in the hunt seat. I was wondering if that is maybe because one of my muscle groups isn't strong enough to keep it, I am not sure? I thought maybe the dressage saddle for me was more of a crutch, like I said I was hoping to be able to do both.
Like I said, I realized I was tipping just slightly more forward than I wanted to, and then it's like I overcompensated and started "pushing" or "pumping" if you will to fix it, instead of just sitting still and shock absorbing. Really noticed it too because I was riding an off-the track thoroughbred at the time and she just took off haha. Made for a fun ride but definitely realized I was doing it wrong...
I started learning dressage in a flat jumping saddle. There just weren't any dressage saddles around, that I could afford.
What I finally did was ignore the forward flaps, and concentrate on lowering the upper thigh. The upper body doesn't change too much -- that is, it stays balanced, depending on your speed etc. (or tries to!)
It was actually painful at first. It will also require more flexibility of your back. I think it's more about stretching muscle groups, than actually using them, if that makes sense.
I ride all the time in my event saddle at the moment. YES the stirrup bars are further forward, but it is possible to ride in a semi-decent dressage seat, you just have to engage your core muscles and keep using your hamstrings whilst opening your hips to keep your leg underneath you. I can't afford to go and buy a dressage saddle right now, but that will be on the cards - and then my position will be easier to maintain. But it is possible in a forward-cut, if you concentrate and get it into your muscle memory.
Here is a great article of saddle design for different types of riding...
How Saddle Design Affects Your Riding Form
I personally think it'd be hard to have two different focuses when you're only lessoning once a week. So much about riding is muscle memory. IMO I think it'd be much easier to really focus and solidify your seat in one and then do another seat periodically while understanding the theory for your written exam until you get very solid in the other. I do hunters/jumpers so that is my focus. But dressage is extremely important for my horses' training and fitness so I do a lot of dressage with them in my jumping saddle. I drop my stirrups down a few holes for flatwork and I think I do a decent job at it. I think i could be better if I was in a dressage saddle in a true dressage seat but... I don't want to change my leg and seat that drastically. For me dressage is more of an ends to a means....
If you are "horse poor" like me, and cannot afford to just go out and buy a good Dressage saddle, I suggest that you spend mucho hours--and I mean HOURS at a time--riding without stirrups to lengthen your legs. This will also give you an awesome tight Jumping seat.
I do not own a Dressage saddle, but I tend NOW to ride with more of a Dressage seat and my stirrups area ALWAYS one hole longer than everybody else my height and build bc of it.
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