We often talk about using our seat in horseback riding, but explaining exactly how to use the seat is not always explained in a clear manner. It's a difficult topic, but I'll take a stab at it. If nothing else, maybe the discussion here will motivate you to dive deeper into the topic with your instructor.
Why would you bother to learn to move the seat bones, you ask?
The seat is the most essential of all riding aids. Everything depends on the seat - your balance, your capacity to use your rein and leg aids, your coordination in following the horse's movements, even your ability to calm a nervous horse. Without a deep, effective seat, your hands and legs will never become "independent" of the torso, and thereby they will always unintentionally interfere with the horse's movement.
The topic of the seat is long and complex. Learning to use your seat effectively should take a lifetime to develop, so we will begin with just one basic aspect: how to move the seat bones.
Well, it's simple but not so easy at the beginning.
Go Grab Your Dining Room Chair and Learn to Scoop
Do this off the horse: go grab one of those flat wooden chairs. Sit forward a bit on the edge of the chair, and work on tilting the chair forward so that it comes off its two back legs.
The action required to get the chair to tilt is a "scooping" forward of the seat bones.
Can you tilt it with both seat bones? Can you tilt it with just one seat bone?
It may seem fairly easy to tilt the chair. Practice a bunch of times so your body can be blueprinted for the movement. Then, let's take that technique and head off to ride your horse. Now, you must scoop in the same way while the horse is moving! 🙂
When you are sitting on the horse, try for a moment to ignore your legs that are gently hanging on the horse's side. Keep your feet in the stirrups, but just let your legs hang and take your focus to your seat bones.
Ask the horse to walk and now, pretend that your seat bones take the place of your legs. In other words, start walking on your seat bones, in rhythm with the horse's movement. Use your seat bones as you would your legs - move them forward and backward as needed to follow the horse's stride.
If you want to walk on your seat bones, you have to "find the feel" of how to scoop forward and up with each seat bone at the right time.
The trick is to identify which seat bone needs to move when. Scoop the left seat bone forward, then the right seat bone, then left-right-left-right and so on.
After you have tried this at the walk, try it at the sitting trot. The advantage of the trot is that it is only a two-beat movement and your seat bones can move forward together at the same moment (that you would have posted forward if you were posting). The disadvantage is that it is a quicker movement so your seat has to "scoop" forward/backward faster.
The canter has a serious scooping action. You might in fact have an easier time using your seat bones in the canter because it has a slower tempo (in general) and so you can follow easier and stay in the movement.
If you find your seat staying in the saddle more regularly, you know you're on the right track.
If you get tired after just a few minutes of riding, you know you're definitely on the right track!
If your horse suddenly snorts and loosens through the back, you can begin to celebrate!
Again, I know it is very difficult to explain a feel, never mind try to teach it in words. I hope this article helps you just a little in the quest for the perfect seat!
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Find more about the seat and effective riding here:
Rarely Considered, Often Neglected: Lunging to Develop the Riding Seat: Riding on the lunge is the best way to begin the search for the effective seat.
6 Ways to Unleash the Power of Your Riding Seat: As you become more subtle in the aiding process, you will begin to discover just how powerful the seat can be in guiding the horse without disturbing and interfering in his movement.
3 Ways to Use Your Seat in Horseback Riding: Just about everyone and their grandmother talks about the seat in riding. Do this with your seat; do THAT with your seat. Why the fixation on the riding seat?
How to Ride Your Excited Horse in 5 Easy Steps: Let’s face it – horses aren’t always calm and accommodating. There are times when they can be… shall we say… a little over-exuberant!
Breaking the Cycle: It Might Not Be What You DID Do…: … but rather what you DIDN’T do!