This article, like any other on this site, will not show you or teach how to use
as a riding aid, but it will hopefully broaden your
perception and understanding of it, which in return should help you to find your
own way, your own seat and its implementation as riding aid, should you manage
to advance at least to that point.
The seat aid, like any other riding aid, can be used in various ways and forms, and for different reasons. It can be used outside the motion of the horse, as well as, with or within the motion. The implementation of riding aids outside the motion is fairly clear to anyone (see most dressage "riders"), however the difference between within and with the horse's motion is not clear to most people. This article will hopefully help to clear this up, as I will try to compare it to something that you may have experienced.
The primarily function of the seat as an riding aid is relevant to speed and gaits, mostly used in the gait transitions, hence compared to the "gear box" in the "Riding Aids" article. This of course will not work in the genuine riding without the in-synch hand riding aid. The seat can be however implemented as a communicative aid but is very limited and to some point even impractical, especially when it comes to working (cattle, military, police) horses. In other words, by the working horses, as well as, the pleasure horses we do not really want the horse responding too much to the rider's seat, since the seat will get often off balance due to the work preformed by the rider in relevance to something else (work) than the motion of the horse itself. Hence, the good seat of the rider in working horses primarily serves to keep the rider in the saddle while working off the horse, and only the forceful seat aid (horse does not want to go somewhere) is implemented when needed, which is not relevant to the horse's or rider's balance.
The deep seat article refers to the deep position as if in standing. When a person stands on another person's shoulders one thing the person at the top must do, and that is to stop balancing himself, so the person at the bottom can do the balancing for both. If the person at the top starts to balance himself then he more likely falls off since the below person can no longer do it, or better said loses a full control over it. This is very important when riding horses, since most riders that did not master the seat tend to balance themselves on horses while riding them and often subconsciously using their legs. This of course leads to the lack of responsiveness by the horse to the seat aid, and mainly to the leg aids, since the horse cannot distinguish what is "rider out of balance" and what is the actual riding aid (cue in the communicative riding aid application), hence such riders often use spurs and other riding aid amplifications.
In this out of balance seat the horse will simply ignore the rider's seat, as well as other aids, and drags the rider with him as a burden. Since the horse is on four legs, not like us on two legs, he is less effected by the self-balancing and out of sync rider and overcomes (adjusts) it to some point when traveling in the slower gaits and speeds, while in the faster speeds the horses get often afraid and injured (hence nervous, appearing to a greenhorn as if they want to go). Hence again, do not ride your horses fast if you cannot ride well, which is not determined by the fact that you did not fall off the horse during the fast ride. Riding a horse fast in high speeds does not display some courage or riding skills, it only displays carelessness toward the horse and irresponsibility and insensitivity on the part of the rider who does not know his incompetence, or better said too proud or afraid to face it.
The above pics should give some idea about a balanced seat. It always remain relatively unchanged during the heavy seat (not posting) in all gaits. The torso (hips and upper body) remain in fairly same alignment as when person is walking on the ground. The PIC # 1A shows that when horse is balanced in the average riding balance (campaign level) the torso of the rider may give the impression as if leaning forward. This "illusion" is caused by the lowering of the hind legs joints, hence from the horse's hip everything is going up as if in sitting on somewhat backward slanted board. Just by natural balance the rider will not ever lean backwards on such balanced horse.
This pic # 2 demonstrates in somewhat grotesque and exaggerated way the "ass wipe seat" implemented during the sitting gallop, commonly practiced during the education of young cavalry recruits in some European countries. Also often implemented during the basic education of beginner riders. This seat is harmless to the horse but it is not practiced by the advanced riders with an advanced seat as in the above pics.
All the pics above numbered 3 demonstrate in fairness the so called forceful/punishing seat used frequently in dressage and in reining. In booth cases the rider buries his seat bones into the horse's arched back, which of course is uncomfortable or painful to the horse. This, like any other riding aids, can be used for different reasons, as the pics above demonstrate. One for "driving/chasing" the horse forward and another for stopping. Both based on the interference with the horse's back in a from of punishing/forceful fashion.
The pics numbered 4 demonstrate in fairness the "humping seat" of the rider. This is often caused by two factors, misunderstanding of riding theories, particularly the seat function and mainly caused by the horse going off balance. This rider is more likely implementing the "ass wipe seat" (pic #2), but he cannot do it in the same way, since the horse's back is all deformed due to imbalanced and constricted going, hence pushing against the seat bones of the rider in the upward direction. There is a big difference between the PIC #2 and the PIC # 4 seat.
If and when you finally manage to steady your seat enough to go with the horse's motion it means that you have manage to ride the horse with his motion (on top of the horse), but this is far from the concept of being one with horse. To implement the seat aid within the motion of the horse (not on top of it) would be best compared to a human body (since you know it) and its individual parts when moving. In other words in the advanced stage the rider's body becomes as if some additional part of the horse's body, hence in some instances, like in the light seat during faster gallops, the rider can actually add his own strength, into one combined motion and strength with the horse. Here is a simple comparison to be observed, with very careful eye, so one can see it to understand it. Tell one of your friends to stand up straight, in natural way as he/she always stands. Watch the person very closely from the profile, as he is motionless, and then simply tell him/her to walk out. The entire body moves as one and all moving parts simply enhance the other motion, so it is with any riding aids when riding the horse as being one, especially the seat aid.
Now, the most important part in that person to be noticed, in relevance to the seat aid, is his upper body and hips during the initial part from stand still to walk. Even though the upper body leaned forward you have not noticed it, anymore that the person that did the walking did not notice it, the latter function being in the person subconsciousness (instinctive). This too is also very imperative when trying to understand the concept of being one with horse, because the over all riding becomes instinctive by the rider as much as the motion of the horse is guided by its inborn and gained instincts. Hence becoming one with the horse basically means that the horse's inborn/gained instinctive motion and balance of his body is joined by our gained instinctive body balance and motion created simply by riding a lot of horses. Hence only the horses make riders and nothing else, and riding on a horse hardly qualifies a person as a rider, in as much as reading books on riding will hardly enhance the riding instincts of a rider.I do not whish anyone to believe what is written in any of the articles on this site, but I wish that people would become more perceptive and observant in seeing things as they are, that to be the key to understanding and sound reasoning. Do not believe something to be truth, but see it to be the truth, as the strong faith rests in awareness and not in beliefs.
The seat aid in the more advanced riding is neither forceful nor it influences the horse's balance, but is more or less a conformational aid that simply solidify the leg aids (if used) with the hand aid within the motion of the horse. In the more refined stage of a riding horse the leg aids are hardly used, while the heavy seat becomes more or less a suggestive form of riding aid, primarily determining the speed and gaits. It is all very harmonious and also very hard to imagine if you have never seen it or done it. Seeing it is very difficult when one does not know what to look for, such balanced riders often look to the greenhorn's eyes as if they are doing nothing, because it appears this way since the motion of the rider is within the motion of the horse, hence we see nothing as in the case when watching a person taking a step forward we did not notice that his upper body leaned forward since it was within the motion of the entire body, legs, hips etc.
When comparing a person walking on the ground to the "modern" and incompetent "successful" riders of toady, the motions of some important body parts become noticeably different. The hips move with the upper body and the upper body position to the hips hardly changes when the person is walking, while by these incompetent riders the hips go one way and the upper body goes the other way, especially in the "sitting" gallops during the "humping" style riding. (see PIC #4 or click here to see it in motion)
The use of the heavy seat as riding aid, when used either with or within the motion of the horse, rests in the rider's ability to steady his seat to the point that he no longer balances it. In the advance stage the rider adds his seat to the horse's motion and the most noticeable part during this process is the rider's body balance and motion, which very much resembles his (upper body and hips) motion when walking (moving) erect on the ground.
Hence we ride and sit/stand the way we move when on the ground, relevant to our physical shape and ability, when it comes to the seat aid only; while the legs, since they no longer carry us, can no longer be part of our body motion anymore than the hands no longer are for the same reason, when riding a horse. Hence the importance of "separating" the hands (at the shoulders) and legs (at the hip) is of the essence to get balanced seat and to be able to use it as a riding aid within the motion of the horse. As mentioned before this must become instinctive, otherwise the seat aid is no longer with or within the motion, but it still can be used with some limitations as a communicative and/or forceful riding aid.
The above description of the seat aid is presenting the use of it in genuine riding and the seat can also be used as a communicative riding aid, as well as, in forceful, often in punishing way.
The communicative use of seat aid does not work too well because most riders do not have a refined and balanced seat, hence the horse is irresponsive or dull to it, since the animal cannot distinguish what movement of the body is caused by the rider's imbalance and what the actual aid is, hence he ignores it, similarly as in leg aids. Further more, the communicative seat aid, as all communicative riding aids, does not work when the horse becomes distracted, or even worse panicked.
There is the so-called punishing seat aid, which in reality causes the horse pain in its back during motion. You can actually see it in today's dressage when the brutal rider collapses his hips backwards (see pic# 3), collapses in the lower back and buries his seat bones further back into the "hunched" upward back of the horse.
This of course is at least uncomfortable to the horse and at most painful, thus the horse simply moves forward away from it. These nincompoops call this whole action some sort of a "driving the horse with your seat (hips) forward".
Now here comes the fun part of the whole picture. This sort of forceful seat, the driving the horse forward, is often implemented by the working riders (in any gait) when riding a young horse when the horse is refusing to go there where we want it to go. This is fine to use in such cases, often practical when we want to get the horse out of some harms way and such. Now, please note, this forceful seat is used by the genuine rider only in cases when the horse is refusing to go somewhere, which means that when used by a dressage rider in the show ring it only shows the horse's refusal to the going that is presented, hence unwilling horse that should not be in any show ring to begin with.
This is how absurd and ridiculous the dressage is these days, and not just dressage, because you will see other forms of forceful seat aid implementation as well, like in reining, where the rider leans back, thus buries his seat bones into the horse's hunched back (motion interference) and the horse learns that when he stops the pain will stop, hence he stops fast. These varieties of implementation of this form of forceful seat aid are commonly seen in reining as well as in dressage, though for different purposes, hence today these two discipline have this in common, thus the reining people call them selves the dressage people of the western style riding. It is all nothing but a whole lot of hogwash. This is how primitive and brutal the riding has become by these so-called horse lovers and/or "elite riders".
In addition to all above varieties of using one's seat, there is also the "wipe your ass" seat, as some of us called it. In reality this a form of "military recruiting seat", used in the education of green riders in the military. This seat is characterized by the rider wiping the saddle from back to forth with his butt during sitting gallop, which is very noticeable and often present in the so-called riding of "sport horses", hence in eventing, dressage and jumping. This greenhorn-recruiting seat served primarily to have the greenhorn rider moving with the horse as soon as possible, thus not interfering with the horse, as well as, in learning the implementation of seat as riding aid for the future advancement (the military did not have time (years) to make a rider, hence this was very practical for such speedy process in education).
There is nothing wrong with this and it is a very good way to learn to ride a galloping horse in the heavy seat without bothering the animal, however this is not a part of the advanced rider's seat, but more or less a part of the improved beginner rider's seat. One learns this within one or two weeks, while at the same time it does not interfere with the horse's motion, which is actually a great accomplishment to have a green rider sit in a gallop without interfering with the horse's motion.
When used in the higher and more demanding riding it looks sort of as using one's fingers during the math class when adding and such, which is OK in the first grade, but when seen in college, while in attendance, one would be perceived as mentally impaired; hence the absurdity of such seat in dressage, or by anyone who considers himself to be an advanced rider.
There is a big difference between the "humping" seat (pic #4) and the "ass wipe" seat (pic # 2), though they may look alike to a greenhorn, they definitely do not feel alike to the horse, the "ass wipe seat" being harmless to the horse, while the "humping" seat feels painful or in the least uncomfortable to the horse since it is not going with the horse's motion but rather against it, as against the "ass wipe" seat that at least follows it.
So how do you recognize in very simple way a non-forceful decent seat? The rider's body never leans back, it hardly moves and the rider's hips stay in the alignment with his upper body (just like when a man is walking or standing), just as simple as that.
Another brutal way to use one's seat is the implementation of it to set the horse's motion and body out of balance, hence by interfering with both, the motion and balance of the horse. This is commonly practiced by the jockeys in racing in the light seat, when the jockey uses his body weight to throw off the horse's balance more onto the front (forward), which in most cases make the horses accelerate since they feel that they have only two choices, to fall or to keep running; a very simple, fairly ruthless and primitive way of riding that is presently governing the racing industry.
The education of riders and jockeys in the racing industry is also very simple following the educational principles of "monkey see and monkey do" and no awarness. In the heavy seat the offsetting the horse's balance can be seen often by the incompetent riders when trying to change leads in gallop and so on and such. This often includes out of motion hand aids, as well as, the leg aids. It is very easy to see; hence be observant and perceptive and you will learn a lot more by looking at the riders and their horses than by reading books or listening to people, who for most part are full of shit these days.
The Internet is not some information highway, as it is often referred to, but it is a bullshit highway, and to find a truth somewhere means browsing through a lot of shit, and it is up to you see what is what.
The more refined implementation of the seat aid in the heavy seat primarily revolves around the position of the rider's upper body, which the hips then reflect onto the horse's back. It is fairly simple but very difficult to accomplish since a balanced seat is of the essence, hence if you do not have a well-balanced deep seat you simply cannot implement it as a riding aid.
In the light seat everything remains similarly relevant, the upper body reflected in the hips rests on the knees and in the stirrups in which case one again needs a solid light seat that is not supported by the hands resting on the horse's neck, so one can use the hand aid to its full extend. However, it is recommended for the lesser rider to rest his hands on the horse's neck when in the light seat (or heavy seat), lest he/she will learn to hang in the horse's mouth. In the advanced beginner stage one can begin learning the use of the hand riding aid, which is limited to the horse's motion of the neck if in contact with it. If and when the hands are off the horse's neck one must be aware and needs to notice the huge difference between hanging in the horse's mouth and riding in hand, which to a greenhorn will often appear alike.
The rider with a decent heavy seat, and when using it as a riding aid, displays hardly any vertical deviation of his seat in relevance to the ground, as well as, the motion of the horse while riding it. In other words the upper body looks "floating" like and most importantly never leaning back, since the leaning back only shows the rider being out of the motion with the horse, looking often completely grotesque and discombobulated like some ridiculous dead figurine bobbing up and down or back and forth (see pic # 4B). In a simple comparison, go and watch a person walk and compare his upper body and hip motion to a rider on a horse, the more it differs the worse the rider. This is referring to the profile view and has nothing to do with watching someone's ass from behind.
The position of the upper body in the light seat, as well as, the implementation of that seat as a riding aid, is relevant to the speed of the horse (more on the use of light seat in the "Light Seat" article (coming soon)).
To learn to sit is one thing, to learn to implement the seat as a riding aid is another, the latter very much relevant to the rider's attitude and completely dependant on the formal. Hence again look within your self for the solutions to your problems with the horse that you are riding and/or handling, and search not in the books or in other people's "brains" and most importantly do not blame the horse for your incompetence. Remember that a person cannot have a balanced seat on an out of balance moving horse anymore than a horse could not move in balance with the a rider whose seat is off balance. One without the other simply does not exist when the horse is burdened by a rider, though many horses can make it look "good" and "balanced", and some even easy.
Written by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a Lee Stanek