Dressage Versus Saddle Seat, The Night Before

Home Team vs. Adventures in Saddle Seat


The night before the show last weekend [Report], I was much less nervous. I was glad to be headed into a dressage ring.

Well, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d utter.

Dressage ain’t never been my fave, but it’s closer to what I understand than saddle seat is.

Dwelling on the Differences
In the dressage ring, there is no traffic.
In a saddle seat arena, I have to make game-time decisions about transitions and lines in order to avoid other horses.

In the dressage ring, I don’t have to wonder if the judge is watching. The judge is always watching.
In a saddle seat arena, the judge only sees me for a few seconds. I never know which few seconds.

In the dressage ring, I know exactly when to do what.
In a saddle seat arena, my fate is at the whim of the announcer.

In the dressage ring, I can finally, thankfully go back to riding off my lower leg. My horse will not go airborne if I squeeze him like a tube of toothpaste.
In a saddle seat arena, my strongest aid is taken away. As for the airborne, it has happened. I have witnesses.

In the dressage ring, I know where the points are to be gained. When halting through the walk, to show several walk steps. Hold the halt. Make a distinction between a circle and a corner. And so on.
In a saddle seat arena, I am baffled. Sometimes I ride well and win. Sometimes I do – or think I do – exactly same thing, and land in the doghouse.

In the dressage ring, I’m not fighting everything I’ve learned over decades of riding.
In a saddle seat arena, it’s all about style, and I will always be riding with an accent.

Reality Check
In a saddle seat arena when I’m actually on a horse, I’m not this bad. I know more about showmanship than I did six years ago. When my partner is one who (whom?) I can leave to get on with his job (*cough*Sam*cough*), I can be flashy (‘I’ve never seen Sam overtake anyone.’). It’s been a long time since I’ve forgotten to finish my pass.

In the dressage ring when I’m actually on a horse, I’m not that good. I can discuss the nuances of dressage. I have been paid to write about the nuances of dressage. I cannot produce said nuances at will. My tests tend more toward rallying the troops, aiming for the letters, and realizing that my communication with my horse is not as prompt as I thought it was.

In reality, the achievement level is about the same. The anticipation is totally different.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Categories: Dressage, Horse Shows, Horses, Saddle Seat

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