By Kay Beard, ‘r’ Licensed Official
Many equitation competitors have raised the question, which seat should I ride in while on course in an equitation class? There are four types of seats used in the American Forward Style of Riding, those include the full seat, light seat, half seat and driving seat. Each of these seated positions in the saddle has a time and a place for its use. Confusion has arisen regarding which seat should be used on course in an equation class.
To adequately answer this question, a rider and their trainer must know their horse and the particular challenges that are presented on the assigned course. In order for the rider to execute the equitation course successfully, a variation of the four seats in the forward riding system may be required for any given horse. While it may be most appealing to the judge to be in a light seat, if you have a horse that you know to be spooky at certain types of jumps, a driving seat may be required to get the job done. Equitation is not only a harmonious ride and seamless aids, it is also a matter of being an effective rider.
A half seat and a light seat are used for galloping and jumping. Thinking back to the roots of our sport and its origination on the hunt field, a light seat is suitable for the rider to stay with the motion over fences and ride away from the fences with ease. This is the most comfortable for both horse and rider across uneven terrain for long periods of time. With the evolution of our sport being adapted out of the field and into an arena, the ideal remains as if a rider was performing in an open field.
With the ideal of carrying a light seat, there are certainly suitable times to use varying seats during an equation course. For instance, a full seat most often would be the most effective ride for a tight rollback turn, where a higher degree of balance and control is required. In addition, if a rider anticipates a horse to balk at a certain obstacle, a driving seat may be necessary for the rider to accomplish their task. Another time on course a rider may choose a more open hip angle (or a deeper seat) to a fence could be to a vertical in which the rider feels they may need more balance and push off the ground to help the horse jump clean. If an element of the course requires a hand gallop to a fence, a half seat would be an appropriate position for the ride to that fence.
In conclusion, there is no “one seat fits all” answer to this question. Depending upon the circumstances of a course diagram and a rider’s knowledge of their horse, there is a time a place to use each Forward
Seat Riding System position effectively. The ideal end result is for a rider to demonstrate an effective, harmonious ride with invisible communication while competing in an equitation class.