What Is The Ideal Seat For Equitation Classes?


This week, I partnered with Geoff Teall to answer a member's question for EquestrianCoach.com's Ask The Experts, which was published on their website and shared on our Facebook page.  

Lona asked the following question:

More and more in the IEA equitation over fences classes, I see riders sitting the canter all throughout their courses. I have viewed your videos of using the three seat positions, and the video of the Maclay winning ride, and I am wondering why so many trainers are having their students sitting the rounds instead of using a light half seat. They are winning the classes as well, so I am wondering if the rules have changed and I am just not aware of it. That being said, I did have one rider win her over fences class using a light half seat, so there certainly could be other factors involved, but still wondering why so many are sitting the equitation over fences classes.

My answer:

As outlined in the USHJA Trainer Certification Manual, there are four different seats in riding, as defined by the angle of the hip. From lightest to strongest, they are: Half Seat, Light Seat, Full Seat and Driving Seat.

Half Seat and Light Seat are used for galloping and jumping. These two seats allow a horse the most freedom and the ability to use their back when they jump. The only time it is correct to use a Full Seat on course would be for a tight rollback turn, when more balance and control is needed.

The problem with riding an entire course in Full Seat is that the rider then needs to throw his body forward to catch up with the motion of the jump. This causes a horse to lose his balance, jump off his front end, have a rail down, get quick in the air, etc. The correct position between the jumps is a Half Seat to allow the horse to have freedom and impulsion. The Light Seat is correct in front of a jump, as this position supports the horse’s balance, the hip angle stays closed, and the horse jumps up to the rider. The rider doesn’t jump down to the horse.

As a judge, and as a clinician at the judge’s clinics, we continue to strive for education and uniformity in our judges. It is disturbing to me to watch horses ridden in a Full Seat around the course, creating a high-headed, hollow-backed canter that leads to the same type of jump. There is nothing more beautiful to watch than a round over fences with horse and rider in true harmony, with invisible aids, seamless communication, and ridden in our American Forward Style of Riding!

Please feel free to ask any follow-up questions!

Until next time!


Tricia Booker