Alrighty so I've been on the Arabian saddle seat circuit enough that I feel relatively confident on commenting on this.
First and foremost, pads and stretchies are just ways to fast track the horse into the show ring. Pads way more than the stretchies; a) the pads don't seem to do much for horses that actually have the talent, and they don't magically make your horse trot higher. I'm basically convinced people use pads because other people (namely trainers) are using pads.
My horse was shown saddle seat, and shown in pads (Mayyyyybe like 1/2 inch thick? He was still able to go out and do horse stuff, and was not cooped up in his stall). He has a good Country English Pleasure trot, however the way the arabian politics are working, there's some people who say the purebreds just need to be focused on having the right form, but in the ring it's always the highest stepper, but we're moving on from that. He does not, has not, and probably will not ever trot "level". The pads (Ours are thin, flexible leather) did not make him trot level and were basically there for concussion.
My friend's horse (half saddlebred) trots above level, even without his shoes. They were pulled, and he was still trotting above his ears without them. They were put back on, no real difference.
The major con with pads (especially with saddlebreds because their pads and shoes are bigger than the AHA's), is that you have to consider turn out. Way too many people go "I'm not going to risk my horse throwing a $200 shoe, so they're not going out (at all) except to be worked". (And then they wonder why their horse is so hot and high strung...#logic) That is not an option, for your horse's sanity. You have to have a safe place for turn out. My horse went out in the arena during bad weather, and we had smaller paddocks (still enough room for him to run around in and fart about) they could go out in when it was dry.
So basically pads are dumb because they really don't do anything, are expensive and can infringe on your horse's turnout. 0/10 reccommend when you sit down and think about it.
Stretchies Stretchies aren't really the end of the world. Your horse is sitting more upright in the second video, but she doesn't look "out of control" or "insane". Most people are used to seeing forward moving western/hunter types without the knee action. While saddlebreds can obviously be shown hunter, they're going to look different from the forward-moving warmbloods, etc especially people used to working with western stock horses- they simply do not move the same way.
It's for resistance training, but either the horse works with them or they don't. Rush didn't mind the stretchies and kinda putzed along, but they didn't do anything for him so I only used them 3 times and then I stopped. My friend with the high stepper actually trots lower with them on, go figure (but he also hates them). I would recommend working her on the lunge line or in long lines with the stretchies rather than just turning her loose with them. She doesn't look wigged out or upset by them by them; she's not tripping over herself, trying to bolt or just generally being stupid about it. Every once in a while she stops at a wall and thinks about it before trotting off, but w/e.
You need to do this with a softer bit (IDK what one you use, not important, but just don't do this with a strong bit ;.;), but there's the whole "pushing them through the bit" and making them sit down; my dressage trainer actually explained this to me, I just don't think she realized I'd be applying it to saddle seat. Think of your horse like a see saw; when the back end goes down, the front end comes up, lifting the front and elevating the trot/knees/action. Definitely have your trainer explain how to do it. It's not that hard, but still.
Saddlebreds, Icelandics, Friesian, Morgans,Arabians (as well as gaited breeds) are built to have the motion. Not always, not every single one of them, but you can see it in the free photos of them out to pasture (to avoid infringing on copyright laws, do a google search- I'm on a ton of Arabian facebook sales pages and there's plenty of people who post photos of their arabs trotting level, barefoot out in the pasture. 80% of them aren't even people who show, and 50% of those don't show saddleseat, so have no reason to do anything to force the motion) They're able to do it because their center of gravity is not over their shoulders like the forward moving western stock/hunter type horses. People think I'm full of it when I say that, but find a saddlebred/gaited horse/w/e, and a western stock type horse. I have access to Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse (gaited) and a Paint- you can feel the difference when you actually hop on these horses bareback. The paint horse's center of gravity is over his shoulders, and he's very low to ground, long and low headset, etc. (so very traditional in what people want- he was show trained before his owner got him, and he's a very good boy) The KMSH is very upright and he doesn't trot (he ambles), so he doesn't have the high stepping gait, but he naturally is very upright and his head is right there in front of your face when you're on his back. His owner does not show, is a beginner, isn't not bent about his training or anything beyond "can this horse walk/amble/canter when I ask without murdering me? Yes? Cool". There's nothing forced about him, his motion or headset (I probably should work on having him collect and round out his back and booty more especially since he's upright, but that's for another discussion). She doesn't care- she just wants a horse who can be putzed around in the pasture. All his flash is him being him.
So yeah. Basically anything at/below level is totally possible to achieve without short cuts through proper training/utilizing any training she already has by sitting her back and down. It's when you get to the above level (in most instances, however I know a park horse trainer who gets his horses to work by working them in a sand pit and sitting them down- those shoulder muscles man) that things can possibly have gotten weird, and most people have a bad taste put in their mouth involving high action, saddle seat etc, because of the ridiculous big lick abusers (Which there are abusers in every discipline, saddleseat included, but the big lick people kinda take the cake and there are issues that need to be addressed in the saddle seat circuit aside from just the big lickers but that's for another discussion).
Last edited by Bedhead; 05-25-2015 at 12:20 PM.