What type of western saddle puts you in a decent "classical" position? - Page 7

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What type of western saddle puts you in a decent "classical" position?

This is a discussion on What type of western saddle puts you in a decent "classical" position? within the Western Riding forums, part of the Riding Horses category

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    05-15-2013, 09:54 PM
How do you define "behind the motion"? I define it as having your center of gravity behind the horse's center of gravity. Is that a wrong definition?
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    05-15-2013, 10:04 PM
Originally Posted by bsms    
How do you define "behind the motion"? I define it as having your center of gravity behind the horse's center of gravity. Is that a wrong definition?
Well there's 'behind the movement' in riding and then there is having the horse 'in front of your leg' the latter is more preferable to me. In an ideal setting you'd want to have your seat well centred over the horse and have more horse in front of your leg - this relates to forward movement and impulsion, if you are behind the movement or motion it means you are not 'riding' the horse and there is probably a lack of impulsion or a jammed up horse. JMO.
    05-15-2013, 10:28 PM
The closest I have come to dressage is a single lesson and a Sally Swift book, so if I am wrong please someone correct me!
I believe that riding behind the motion of the horse is incorrect although we are told to ride back to front. I think folks get that confused. Riding back to front means being centered, teaching the horse to use his hindquarters for impulsion, capturing the energy in the bridle and recycling it back rather than setting the head and hoping the rest follows which usually comes from riding behind. It is like trying to steer a runaway train from the caboose.
    05-15-2013, 10:28 PM

This is the type of saddle the gentleman I posted the video of recommends for a classical seat as the OP is talking about
    05-15-2013, 10:31 PM

This is a Spanish working/dressage saddle
    05-15-2013, 10:34 PM

This one also, as close to perfect as possible, IMO
    05-15-2013, 10:39 PM

Also this one, lesser known here, a saddle from southern France, used on Carmargue horses for cattle work.
    05-15-2013, 10:53 PM
Interesting pics DHW!
Some of those saddles I have never seen before. I agree that the third saddle would be pretty ideal. I have to admit those cantles on the Spanish and French saddles make me cringe. I do not like a lot of "dish" to the cantle as it causes to bite my outside thigh or hips. On my saddles if you were to stick a ruler across the seat from corner to corner on the cantle where it ties into the skirt than measured the distance from the ruler to the deepest part of the cantle, it would maybe measure one inch. And if you are not riding correctly and your butt hits the cantle you hear it because of how flat they are, sounds like you got smacked with a paddle! LOL!)
Perhaps the way those styles are built it is not an issue?
    05-15-2013, 11:15 PM
They are made to measure. And are super comfy, put you in the perfect position. If you watch the video, the Spanish saddle is what he rides the grey with.
The Carmargue in France is all flat, Swampland, so this saddle keeps you seated. They also don't rope, just drive cattle.

The third one is actually a Charro saddle. I've been seriously looking at those
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    05-15-2013, 11:16 PM
Here are some comments by VS Littauer:

Sorry about the picture quality.

He distinguishes between the forward balance of a horse (meant for going fast, or jumping) and a central balance used in collected gaits. Balance is never static in a moving horse. A horse trying to cover ground efficiently will have a more forward balance, and a horse moving in a collected gait will, by definition, shift his balance toward the rear and be lighter on the front end. Neither is wrong, unless used for the wrong purpose - you don't use collected gaits to cover a lot of ground, but they are fun and comfortable and useful for certain functions.

A dressage seat - a "classical seat" - is meant for a central balanced horse moving with a collected gait. If you use the same seat with a forward moving horse, your center of gravity will be behind the horse's center of gravity. And that isn't all bad, because a horse putting on the brakes shifts his weight to the rear (if he is good) and being FORWARD of the horse's motion is a good way to do a face plant!

A forward seat is optimized for a forward balanced horse - one moving efficiently over the ground. If you want to remain in balance with your horse's balance, you need to be prepared to shift YOUR balance while the horse shifts his balance. In a tight turn around a pylon, the horse needs to be balanced to the rear, and you need to help him by doing it with him. If you need to haul butt to the far end of a field, then a forward seat will help.

Thus I disagree with TL's statement: "If the saddle is designed and balanced correctly to the horse, and the rider sits up correctly, they should never be behind the motion, whether it is collected or extended." If you maintain a straight vertical line from heel to hip to shoulder to ear, you cannot have your weight forward enough to have your center of gravity match a fast moving horse. And that is why I agree with Littauer that "position" isn't important when compared to "fluid balance and rhythm" - and that should constantly change.

That is part of why I like forward hung stirrups. I can shift my balance forward just by leaning forward and carrying my weight more on my thighs. That puts me in balance with my horse, and gets my butt almost out of the saddle so the saddle can pivot and not interfere with the horse's back. But I can also move my shoulders back, tuck my heels under me, and shift my balance to the rear (usually just before the horse does, if I do it right) to set the horse up for a more collected turn.

Of course, I also like Australian and English saddles with 1" stirrup leathers, and a design that doesn't force you on the cantle...

If the saddle puts you in the "classical seat", then you will need to fight it to get balanced with a fast moving, forward balanced horse.

Or, if you are really good, you can compromise by moving your hips and lower back enough to free up his back, in which case he will probably forgive your aft balance and move pretty good even though your weight is behind his balance. And if you aren't really good, you can adopt a position like the old cowboys, carry some weight on your thighs, move at the waist, and also end up with a reasonably content horse - although still behind the horse's center of gravity.

BTW - while I admire dedicated dressage riders, I tend to agree with Littauer that most recreational riders trying to imitate good dressage riders do a lot of harm to their horse. Of course, he also argues that most recreational riders need a simplified method for a forward seat, because we also lack the strength, balance and feel needed to ride like a top level jumper! I think instructors who try to teach position based off of experienced competitive riders do both riders and horses a grave disservice!


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