Establishing an independent seat

Most instructors understand the importance of an independent seat yet most riders (and instructors) are often in too much of a hurry to move onto bigger and better things to properly establish the seat first. I believe this this often has significant consequences down the track.

I see the majority of children learn to ride horses by playing games, going on rides and experimenting with how high they can jump their ponies. In the process they do learn balance and how to sit on a horse but they also learn that the primary aids are the legs and hands. Unfortunately then, most instructors have to reteach the riders to do less with their hands and legs and learn to ride with their seat when they want to do more with their riding down the track.

I think that learning to ride should be fun but learning to really use our seat in the early stages of riding could take a lot of the pain and frustration out of having to relearn it at a later stage, not to mention the physical punishment the horse has to go through along the way. Undoing the years of conditioning can be a battle for the instructor and the rider.

Games and jumping definitely helps a beginner rider to learn better balance but often by default, ie. learning how not to fall off. I believe we need to spend a lot more time with beginner riders on the lunge, often without stirrups and reins, even saddles for that matter, to help them find their seat and learn how to use it as a primary aid ie. can they make their horse go, stop and turn with their seat only? Great, now complement that with the reins and leg. The hand and the leg should supplement the seat, not be a substitute for learning how to use the seat. 

In most parts of Germany, your first 10 lessons (sometimes more if required) buys you time on the lunge with no stirrups or reins before you would be considered to enter a group lesson in the school. In most countries like Australia and the US where we can have a horse in the back paddock, most riders don’t learn to use their seat until after they have established many bad habits like pulling on the horse’s mouth, lifting the heels to “niggle” the horse forward, gripping with the knees etc, much of which transfers the riders tension to the horse, often creating horse behaviour problems.

I say “bring back the regular lunging lessons” where the rider gets the opportunity to really stabilise their position and iron out any positional faults that most of us have creep in from time to time.

By watching our riding videos and reading our rider position articles you will gain further knowledge of how to ride with your seat.