Riding with your seat as aid

We have all heard of the term “riding with your seat”. Using your hips, leg aids and to distribute weight right. But what is really riding with your seat, and why is it so important to do it? We have all used our seat in riding at one point, even if you are conscious about it or not. Riding with your seat is to give signals to your horse using your seat and posture. Seat, leg aid, balance and weight. I am not an expert at this subject, but I will try my best to explain.

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Why is it so important for us to use our seats when we ride? It is simple to take the easy way out and only use the reins to control and give signals to your horse. But when you first teach yourself to ride with your seat, I can promise you, you won’t look back. In my own opinion, riding with less rein and more seat will increase communication and create harmony. I’m not says that bits and other aids are torture, but to be able to signal the horse without, or with less, use of reins/extra equipment is something that both you and your horse can take advantage from.

Communication is the number one most important part of riding. The signals you give your horse should be easy to understand and perceive without confusion. Riding with your seat can help you to create a horse who is more responsive and sensitive to the signals you give.

How do you ride with your seat? Riding with your seat is actually very straight forward. This is where pressure and release comes in. A horse shouldn’t need to be taught to be ridden with the seat, they do basically understand what we want if we are clear enough with the signals we make. Through hundreds of years of domestication, horses have learned to give away to pressure. So the result of putting pressure on one leg is for the horse to give and move in the direction you are pressuring to. And of course, how much a horse will give to the pressure comes back to each individual and how much practise is behind.

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Photo above: Here is a great example of riding with the seat. I am putting my leg on his left side, as well as closing and squeezing with my seat to the right. My left leg is open, giving direction as well as my whole upper body is pointing to the right. 

If I ride and want my horse to move right, what do I do? Well, it’s as easy as shifting my weight til the left and opening myself to the right rotating my upper body, I will also give pressure from my left leg aid. Halting a horse? Sit down, lean back, squeeze your buttocks together and say “whoa”. If you practice enough, stopping a horse without saying “whoa” will be a walk in the park.

Why should we avoid unnecessary rein use? Excess rein use can contribute in creating and irritated horse. It’s not abnormal to see angry horses going against the bit and almost screaming “stop pulling me in the mouth”. And as if that wasn’t enough, having “aid deaf” horses(as we say in Norway) is not such an uncommon thing anymore. This happens because the horses get “used” to all the jerking and pressure, making him almost immune to the aids. Some even go against the aids. Having an irritated horse who goes against the aids is something no one wants to end up with, and the only way to fix this, it to go back and change the root of the problem.

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Photo above: Baldur halting from a canter by using seat and voice.

But why can’t I just use my reins to move the horse? By teaching yourself to use your seat and posture as an aid instead of your hands, you can save both yourself and your horse. To hale and drag in the reins can become very tiring for the rider, and not least for the horse. Learning to move the whole horse instead of just turning it is also gold itself.

What you get out of using your seat more is better communication, flow and understanding. Cooperating is easier, and the horse will respond more for smaller signals. It’s easier to avoid an “aid deaf” horse. Extra equipment becomes more and more unnecessary. Is extra equipment a shortcut? Does it do more harm than good?

My personal experience is that I have seen many riders pull and jerk the reins in trying to get a result. I was once in this group of riders, but now that I have opened up to using my seat more, I have changed my views completely. I have realized that I can obtain the same, if not better, by using my seat more than I use my hands. I have noticed big changes in my horse. He is much more sensitive to pressure and responds more to less pressure. Being able to aid and direct a horse without a bridle says a lot about what is actually possible to do with these creatures as long as you have the perseverance to make it happen. It takes time, but it is absolutely worth it in the long run.

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And finally; what are your thoughts on the subject? Do you actively use your seat when you ride, or do you not think about it? Do you believe riding with the seat is a good aid?  

12 thoughts on “Riding with your seat as aid

  1. I think that the seat is an essential part of communicating with the horse. I do not like and nor do the trainers I work with), using the seat to “drive” the horse forward. There are some trainers who do this and it involves pushing the seat down and forward. I like using my lower leg for that not grinding with my seat. But as you have said the seat is very useful for directional signals and for downward transitions. I love the photos of you with no tack! Nice!

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  2. I definately think it is a very good and sometimes under appreciated aid but I do think it is very easy for riders to fall into driving especially when jumping. At the moment I am working on softening up my hands and using my seat to control the pace rather than the reins. I have done a lot of exercises which are jumping while only holding on to the buckle it allows the horse to have its neck over the jump while you concentrate on keeping the smooth rhythm with your seat.

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  3. I absolutely LOVED this post, Mathilde!
    Using your seat and legs VS the reins is a very important part of riding. When I have my horse in the future I will totally be doing a lot of bareback/tackless riding in order to achieve good responsiveness in my horse and also in myself.
    Keep up the good work, Mathilde!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love so much about this article. Well done! And great photos for examples. The seat is so important, and always good to keep fine-tuning it so we don’t rely on our bits.

    Liked by 1 person

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