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So, for those of you (like me) who didn't quite understand why sitting in the middle of the horses back is normal for the sport of Saddleseat, I found an excellent article that made it clearer for me. I always thought it was one of those "corrupt horse world" things (you know, soring, heavy shoes, controversial training methods, etc).

Taken from ponies-in-the-house on Tumblr (I wen't through and fixed some grammar mistakes, but the message is the same).



How Horses are Built:


Many people ask me why only certain breeds have Saddleseat riders. Well look at the photos!

“Saddleseat” type horses are built VERY differently than the “typical” horse. their necks are much higher on their body, this is why they always have that HUGE crest in the hunter and western rings.

They are also built for they legs to move in a more “up and down” motion than a “forward” motion.

Their center of gravity is in fact, in the center of their backs, not on the withers, thus making bareback MUCH easier (don’t believe me? Get on a TB bareback, and then jump on a Morgan. I’m sure you will notice a difference). These horses are built for MOTION not SPEED

The necks much higher on the body are why Saddleseat horses tend to have back problems, being particularly inclined to swayback. The same problems are evident in a lot of draft horses bred for driving as well, since draft horses also tend to be selected for a higher-set neck. In addition, just looking at the illustration, you can see how Thoroughbreds are selected for a flatter topline whereas Saddlebreds are selected for a concave topline. That contributes to back issues too.
 

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Some saddleseat horses definitely are built more uphill with high withers and a center of gravity set farther back than say a QH or Tb. However, this doesn't necessarily equate to back problems. Most have quite strong backs with no issues. I think you are refering more to the genetic disorder 'lordosis', which IS more common in saddlebreds (I think I saw something like 5-7% may have it?), but it is also present in other breeds. However, this is a genetic disorder that causes spinal deformity and usually evident at an early age...and surprisingly does not necessarily cause pain or loss of use. A good science based article here:
The Truth about Horse Swaybacks
 

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Their center of gravity is in fact, in the center of their backs, not on the withers
The middle is always the weakest point. Not to say that saddlebreds are bound to develop back problems, but the rider sits in the middle because it helps the horse's gait, not because it's better for the horse.
 

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These horses have massive shoulder movement, and it frees up the shoulders to sit further back, plus they come out of their body differently too with their necks.

If you ride one bareback, you naturally sit further back on them, any more forwards and you can tell you are not centered correctly at all.

That said....the current fad of riding in a chair seat makes me want to take a lash whip to riders. Irons are there to use to rise and fall to trot....so that you are not dropping on horse.

In the old days? That would have had people pulled off horse.
 

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There are those that work to "ride correctly" and those who ride. The following video is from a newsblurb that was done a few months back. It shows the proper position for saddleseat. Now, not all people are equitation riders but... it shows where the actual desired position is supposed to be. The clip doesn't start into it right off so give it just a few seconds.

Beyond the Game: Young Mukwonago sisters taking sport of “Equitation” by storm | FOX6Now.com

Now, the trainer that taught these girls proper position of riding and whatnot...
His riding position differs a bit. He isn't as worried about equitation. He is still a far cry better then some of the trainers out there as far as position. Some look like a sack of potatoes bouncing around up there. Their goal isn't worrying about how they look but rather, making the horse look it's best. I wish people would work a bit more on how they look in the saddle. I think the horses would enjoy less bouncing around on their backs. ha ha
 

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The one thing that I saw that has me wondering is the bit about Morgans. Not all Morgans are built for Saddleseat classes. There are new types (ones built more for that) and the old types (the ones who are built like tanks). It was still interesting to read though.
 

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This is true. Some of the Morgans now days that you see in the Park classes look very much like Saddlebreds. The Arabians in the Park classes look much like Saddlebreds as well. I think they are all beautiful horses but I miss the old Arabians too. They were just as beautiful but... different.
 

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These horses have massive shoulder movement, and it frees up the shoulders to sit further back, plus they come out of their body differently too with their necks.

If you ride one bareback, you naturally sit further back on them, any more forwards and you can tell you are not centered correctly at all.

That said....the current fad of riding in a chair seat makes me want to take a lash whip to riders. Irons are there to use to rise and fall to trot....so that you are not dropping on horse.

In the old days? That would have had people pulled off horse.
I always loved Saddlebreds and saddleseat, and my friend wanted me to learn so I could show her Arabians for her. (I rode hunt seat) So she took me to an Arabian saddleseat trainer, and I COULD NOT get my leg back under my hip where they wanted it, while sitting straight up, which felt like leaning back. She would not continue teaching me, even though I was not showing equitation!!!

When I went to the National Academy Finals, I told my DH I could have done THAT....riding in a chair seat!! On a drugged horse, but that is another story.....

Those Milwaukee girls are lovely!

Nancy
 

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I always loved Saddlebreds and saddleseat, and my friend wanted me to learn so I could show her Arabians for her. (I rode hunt seat) So she took me to an Arabian saddleseat trainer, and I COULD NOT get my leg back under my hip where they wanted it, while sitting straight up, which felt like leaning back. She would not continue teaching me, even though I was not showing equitation!!!

When I went to the National Academy Finals, I told my DH I could have done THAT....riding in a chair seat!! On a drugged horse, but that is another story.....

Those Milwaukee girls are lovely!

Nancy
Ha Ha It is amazing how one can move, bend etc... when young. I don't know how old you are but when I was young, I managed to ride equitation, but now as an old fart, my riding is far less pretty.
 

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There are those that work to "ride correctly" and those who ride. The following video is from a newsblurb that was done a few months back. It shows the proper position for saddleseat. Now, not all people are equitation riders but... it shows where the actual desired position is supposed to be. The clip doesn't start into it right off so give it just a few seconds.

Beyond the Game: Young Mukwonago sisters taking sport of “Equitation” by storm | FOX6Now.com

Now, the trainer that taught these girls proper position of riding and whatnot...
WC CH Callaway's Where There's A Will - YouTube
His riding position differs a bit. He isn't as worried about equitation. He is still a far cry better then some of the trainers out there as far as position. Some look like a sack of potatoes bouncing around up there. Their goal isn't worrying about how they look but rather, making the horse look it's best. I wish people would work a bit more on how they look in the saddle. I think the horses would enjoy less bouncing around on their backs. ha ha

This rider is horrible...and needs to be one of the ones pulled off the horse and beaten with a buggy whip.

Couldn't watch it at all. Bad hands too.
 

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This rider is horrible...and needs to be one of the ones pulled off the horse and beaten with a buggy whip.

Couldn't watch it at all. Bad hands too.

Ha Ha Yeah but there are far, far worse than this guy. This guy is good compared to many of the "trainers" that show. Half the time I am watching them thinking, "how in the world are they not falling off?" as they are bouncing all over the place and always seem to be just on the brink of a major tumble.

I think the girls he taught are lovely riders.
 

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Ha Ha It is amazing how one can move, bend etc... when young. I don't know how old you are but when I was young, I managed to ride equitation, but now as an old fart, my riding is far less pretty.
Inga, I WAS young at the time --- 16 or 17, I cannot remember!!!! Now , I would be that trainer, hunched and flopping! Not really.... I have ridden TOO long to ever "hunch", um, I HOPE!

Nancy
 

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Inga, I WAS young at the time --- 16 or 17, I cannot remember!!!! Now , I would be that trainer, hunched and flopping! Not really.... I have ridden TOO long to ever "hunch", um, I HOPE!

Nancy

LOL I honestly do not know how anyone can hunch and bounce that much on a horse. It seems it is always the trainers. Those very same people teach others how to ride and their students do not bounce around like a sack of potatoes. Look at Scott (trainer in the video) students. They are lovely riders. It makes you wonder how they get on and don't feel just a little bit silly. It certainly doesn't look comfy to me and.... It seems they are most often just on the verge of falling off.

I have seen dressage riders too that look ridiculous with their head bobbing and flumping about. I know you need to move with the horse but if you look like a bobble head doll, it likely is taking things over the top. I have seen the very best dressage riders that look lovely and move with their horses without their head bobbling about. I guess each person takes what they want and throws away the rest when it comes to "how to ride"
 
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