Remnants of Saddle Seat Where I Least Expect Them


Awareness of the outside world. Science: Ancient DNA reveals the long-sought homeland of modern horses, Gibbons, 20 Oct 2021.

O School Horse, why do you do me this way? I thought we were buddies. [Second Lesson]

At my lesson last week, I could NOT get School Horse to canter.

I blame saddle seat.

After the clinic with Stephanie Moseley, I have been pretty good about prying saddle seat out of my position. Sit in the middle of the saddle. Legs under me. Little finger outside the reins. No need to swap the whip when you reverse. [Clinic]

I even remember to revert back to inside rein, outside leg canter aids. [Show Report]

Saddle seat horses canter off of outside rein, outside leg.

I should say, saddle seat horses canter off of outside REIN, outside leg.

Riders are told to tip & tap. Tip the head to the outside. Tap on the shoulder with the whip. There are some weigh shifts and legs aids, but lots of hand signal. Way more hand signal than hunters. The hunter canter cue is leg supported by hand, but mostly leg. I’m thinking that dressage canter cue, at least for serious dressage, is mostly weight. But I digress.

The saddle seat hand signal is not a yank or pull or anything harsh. It is a small signal that the horse has learned to associate with cantering. You can find folks online who will pontificate at great length about how having the head to the outside frees up the inside shoulder. You will find other folks pontificating the same thing for having the horse look to the inside. Meh. Having ridden both, I think it’s a learned response. You could yodel La Marseillaise and the horse would learn that you mean canter. But I digress. Again. It’s a habit.

So there I was, unconsciously wiggling my fingers, while School Horse proceeded around the ring wondering what I was going on about.

Instructor tells me to stop pulling.


Tell me to shorten my reins, close fingers, or sit up. Sure. I know what you mean. I’ve heard it often enough.

Tell me to stop pulling and I have no idea what is going on. I don’t pull. I am much more likely to drop the contact, and therefore need to shorten my reins and close my fingers. See above.

When I was told to stop pulling, it didn’t even register. I wasn’t pulling. I was tipping and tapping. I might have been better off pulling. At least it would have made sense in context. Neither School Horse or Instructor had a clue what I was doing. Not clear that I had much of a clue what I was doing either.

I finally figured out that I was speaking saddle seat to a hunter. Maybe. It was toward the end. We may have simply run out of lesson. I will try to remember for next time.

So, there was the general frustration of not riding well and the specific frustration of not doing well on the part that one is usually good at. Pffft.

The jumping was canter poles, a cavaletto, and a crossrail. All at a canter. All a hot mess. OTOH, if they weren’t a hot mess, I wouldn’t be there.

Stay safe. Stay sane.

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