Saddle seat riding is a form of English riding that is designed to showcase horses with a high-stepping trot. Saddle seat riding can trace its origins back to two sources. The first being the Plantation style of horse riding, where a smooth moving and high-stepping horse was used. The second source of saddle seat riding was an European influence of a flatter English show saddle. These riders typically showed off their high stepping horses by riding them through the parks on Sundays. Hence the term “park horse” was coined and is still used today. The biggest differences in saddle seat versus the other English disciplines is the rider equitation, the saddle, the type of horse, and the rider clothing.
Rider Equitation: The saddle seat rider sits well back in the saddle. This rider position is set behind the horse’s center of balance. This allows the aids of the rider to encourage the front high stepping action of their horse. They carry their hands higher than in other riding disciplines. Riders are to sit straight and are penalized if they are leaning too far forward. The rider’s position reflects the desired carriage of the rider’s mount. They should remain upright with their shoulders back. They must post in a fluid motion that is quiet. Overall, the rider must make the ride look effortless.
Saddle (Tack): The saddle seat saddle is very different than other English riding disciplines saddles. They contain a cut-back pommel to allow for higher wither and neck clearance. The saddle features a flat seat with very little padding. The saddle sits further back on the horse to allow a behind the motion effect which translates to higher action in the front while gaiting. These saddles are typically longer in length. The saddle seat horse typically wears a double bridle, which allows to the rider to aid in the neck carriage of the horse. The bridles sometime sport colorful brow bands, depending on the breeds and current fashion trends.
Type of Horse: The type of horse used for saddle seat riding is typically the American Saddlebred. The saddle seat horse must have a high upright neck and high action gaits. Other common breeds include the National Show Horse, the Tennessee Walking Horse, the Racking Horse, the Spotted Saddle Horse, the Morgan, the Arabian, the Hackney, the Dutch Harness Horse, the Paso Fino, the Missouri Foxtrotter, and the Rocky Mountain Horse.
Rider Clothing: For men and women the saddle seat attire resembles that of a men’s business suit or a tuxedo. Solid colors are wore such as black, navy, brown, hunter green, or gray for the long fitted coat. The shirts are either of solid color or pinstriped. A vest is worn over the shirt, along with a tie and gloves. The riders wear jodhpurs, which are close-fitting pants with knee patches and bell bottoms that strap over the boots. The boots worn are jodhpur boots, which come just above the ankle in height. Typically, the rider is topped off with a derby hat or the rider may opt to wear a helmet.