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It’s a fact that a lot of parents don’t know a whole lot about the sport their child is engaged in.  They pay for the lessons. They pay to send them to horse shows.  They are chauffeurs.  But to many, a horse is a horse and the idea is to stay in the saddle, look pretty and steer the course around the ring.

Recently I had a mother ask me how to explain saddle seat to her friends who rode hunters.  My reply to her was as follows. 

Saddle seat is a style of horseback riding within the category of English riding. It is designed to show off the high stepping action of certain horse breeds. Developed in the U.S., saddle seat lends itself especially to American Saddlebreds as they are generally light in the front end (forequarters) and have high head carriage.  Thus, a flat saddle also known as a cut-back, is used putting the rider in an erect position and in balance with the horse.  (When riding hunt seat, the riders are in a forward position.)

So, if parents stay to watch a lesson, they will probably hear the instructor remind the student to sit back in the saddle, sit up straight, shoulders back, elbows at your side, keep a straight line from the elbows to the bit, keep the horse’s head in the correct position, with your hands on the reins stay light in the horse’s mouth, look up in the direction you want to go, the horse will follow your eyes, and on and on.  Simply put, saddle Seat was developed to help accentuate the thrill of riding an animated horse – the American Saddlebred.

The goal of the saddle seat riding style is to show off the horse's extravagant gaits (i.e. walk, trot, canter), particularly the trot. That’s when you will see your rider “post”, rising up and down; out of the saddle and back in rhythm with the horse.  Note that the Saddlebred can also be taught to perform two more gaits – rack and slow-gait. In the United States, there sometimes is confusion between saddle seat and hunt seat disciplines among individuals who are neither familiar with different styles of the English saddle nor the substantial differences in rider position and attire between the disciplines.

This unique style of riding was designed by Americans for Americans!  It gives you that adrenalin rush without having to jump fences so one could conclude that it is safer but every bit as exciting!

So, Mom and/or Dad, the next time someone asks you to explain saddle seat, you will know how to answer.  Right?  Have more questions? Ask the child’s instructor or trainer to explain or clarify.  And finally, our hope is that you will enjoy watching your kid ride – saddle seat on a Saddlebred!  

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