Dueling Disciplines

How different are hunt seat and saddle seat? Last week, I blamed my poor performance at the show on the vast gap between the two styles [Show Report]. Now, I’m wondering.

The photo I mentioned, Doug Shiflet’s 112-008-PA15, isn’t as bad as I thought (not pictured, need to click over). A little forwardness with the torso is acceptable for saddle seat. The rot sets in at the level of my bra strap.

Let’s go to the visuals:

Doug Shiflet Photography

Doug Shiflet Photography

Here I am attempting to line up for the ribbon presentation in the Showmanship class. I am slumping and looking down at Trump.

Doug Shiflet Photography

Doug Shiflet Photography

A moment later, all three of us have snapped to attention and are smiling at the photographer. The only difference in my position is my shoulders.

Outside of the equitation ring, round shoulders would not matter by themselves. Anyone in the horse world has seen brilliant trainers who sit like a sack of potatoes. In my case, the position fault is a symptom of a larger problem. When I drop my shoulders, I set off a cascade of errors. My shoulders go. My head follows. My hands loosen. My reins get flabby. This horse drops his shoulder. I am not in position to request a fix. Thinking that work is over for the day, the horse flops along on his forehand. I flop about in the saddle. While entertaining, this frame is not effective for any activity other than galloping along the trail.

I still blame the leg lessons, but not for reasons previously stated. It’s not hunt seat per se. Rounded shoulders aren’t ideal there either. However, in concentrating on my leg position, I forget all about the top half. At this point, the upper body position is my rate-limiting factor.

In post-show lessons, I have obsessively focused on holding my upper arms/shoulders back and centered over my seat. I visualized a position that would make it easier for the horse to mobilize his shoulder. Both Alvin and Bingo responded beautifully. I could see how elevating the front of the horse could power an extended trot or smooth out a sharp turn in a jump-off. It also didn’t look too bad as saddle seat.

In riding two disciples, I go back and forth. Clearly the two riding styles form a Venn diagram. The question is how much overlap? Last week it was Never The Twain Shall Meet. This week, Riding is Riding.

If you ride in two disciplines, how do they compliment/contrast?

Categories: Horse Shows, Horses, Saddle Seat, Sports Psychology

7 replies »

  1. From the knee up, I think dressage and saddleseat are quite similar (though dressage requires a bit more ‘tucked’ pelvis)…but it is amazing what keeping your shoulders back and elbows bent and at sides can do for the effectiveness of your riding….

    • “… effectiveness of your riding.” So much yes. I’m also amazed how how tired my legs & butt are after a lesson that focuses on my arms & shoulders. This is what happens when one puts all pieces in the right place. Finally.

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