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.

Scoop your seat bones
Dining room chair - how did Kitty get in the pic?

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.

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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! 🙂

On Horseback

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!


    1. Great question! I think it depends on the horse – some horses slow down going into the corner, some might speed up. You have to gear your rhythm to the horse’s needs. But in the end, you don’t want ANY change through the corners – the rhythm should stay consistent, the impulsion the same, the overall outline of the horse should be steady.

  1. This is awesome. Would you place your feet on the floor when doing the exercise in the dining room chair? That seems obvious. Do you try and keep the weight in your heels or keep weight in your legs some where else during the chair scoop exercise? Thank you, Gina

    1. Thanks!

      Your feet are on the floor. Weight is in the seat bones. The chair tilt comes from your pelvis tilting. I don’t get much difference in the weight in my feet either way.

  2. At The sitting trot my seatbones don’t work together. It’s like the seat bones are individually moving left right left right with the horses stride. Just slightly… Is this wrong?

  3. Interestingly enough I use or follow with my seat bones in the trot alternately as in the walk. Just a faster or bigger movement to follow but it allows for me to identify which hind leg is where on the horse.

  4. I was taught you are supposed to separate the two seatbones when sitting the trot. And to ride the canter you make a backwards circle with your pelvis.

  5. Hmm.. great discussion here! I use both seat bones at the same time, during the forward thrust of the trot phase. I can and do use the seat bones independently.

    For example, I will put more weight and activity (“push”) into the right seat bone on a right turn. If I want to secure the horse more to the outside rein, I will also use the inside seat bone more prominently in the forward movement to the outside rein (also reinforced by my inside leg at the same time).

    But I don’t believe I have a left-right movement in my body in the sitting trot. If you alternate seat bones in the trot, wouldn’t you be creating a left-right sway in your body and maybe even a collapse of the hip on the off-side?

    Keep the comments coming!

    1. It isn’t so much a left right action. It’s almost the same motion your seat bones make as if you were running. As the left hip of the horse comes up and forward, your left seat bones comes up and forwards. As the left hip of the horse goes down and back, your left hip goes down and back. You can feel the separate movement of the horses hips if you ride with your eyes closed. It’s really amazing!!

  6. First of all, let me say that I thoroughly enjoy your blog. But this is the first time I have read this older post (I see it comes from 2013) and I do have an issue with your description of the use of the seat bones. The exercise with the chair is a good one for identifying how to use your seat bones effectively…..however, there is a difference between an active (aggressive) and a passive seat. The seat bones are used as an aid for a specific purpose, such as a transition, but if continued to be used too aggressively can result in driving your horse’s back down. We must be very careful to teach a following (passive) seat, where the seat bones are used in a manner where they slide or follow the horse’s movement, if riders misinterpret the use of their seat bones we will end up with pumping, driving seats and horses with hollow backs and destroyed top lines.
    the Old Coach