Most people are familiar with two kinds of riding, English and Western. There are actually several sub-categories for each. Although western saddles may look very similar there are many subtle differences between the saddles used for working cattle, barrel racing, reining, pleasure riding and showing. The visible differences between English saddles are somewhat easier to detect. Racing saddles are very small and light weight. Hunting and jumping saddles are built to position the rider for comfort and safety while traversing across obstacles. Saddles for dressage are designed for close constant contact. Finally, saddle seat saddles are designed to allow the rider control and enjoyment of a spirited horse with fancy gaits.
English Saddle seat riding does not receive the publicity racing, rodeo, or Olympic equestrian sports do. This is most likely because saddle seat competitions are judged subjectively. The previously mentioned disciplines have finish lines, timers and obstacles, or a test that makes placing these competitions easier to understand by the general public. Despite the lack of media exposure saddle seat riding is attractive to a large number of enthusiastic riders who enjoy a truly American alternative to other riding forms. Saddle seat riding is an excellent recreational activity that encompasses many of the principles of dressage with a less complex long range objective. This gives a saddle seat participant the opportunity to compete successfully with a smaller investment of time.
Saddle seat showing is done using many well known breeds of horses including the American Saddlebred, National Show Horse, Morgan, Arabian, and many others. Saddle seat horse show competitions probably started the same way other equine competitions did, most likely two fellows on horseback with one stating mine is better than yours. With racing the better was faster, with jumping the better was higher, with Saddle seat the better was the fancier movement. The term fancier required a third opinion. This introduces subjectivity and the need for a judge comes into play. Gradually these challenges developed into the organized competitions and shows of today. Saddle seat competitions take place in an arena or riding ring where the horses and riders perform the required gaits in each direction around the ring. They compete collectively. These groups are divided into classes for specific breeds of horse, age and experience levels of riders, and age and ability of the horses. Shows range from local academy competitions to Class A, regional and highly competitive National level events. The winners are chosen by a single judge or panel of judges at larger shows.
Saddle seat riding combines the equestrian arts with the performing arts. The proper execution of the equestrian arts is of primary importance. The inclusion of the performing arts can have a significant impact on the judge's perception. Although traditional, the riding attire is very stylish allowing for a great deal of personal preference in the selection of a riding suit. Use of performing arts also comes into play when competing in a group of your peers. This includes the showmanship shills needed to position yourself and your horse for the best advantage in the arena. Using your demeanor to radiate confidence in yourself and your horse's ability to the judge(s) requires performing arts skills as well.
Whether you want to hone these skills to national level competition or use them recreationally to increase your ability and confidence while riding, Saddle seat provides a very enjoyable and truly American alternative to other equestrian disciplines. Bob Jensen Stables is pleased to take the lead in inviting you to experience saddle seat riding! Please call us to schedule a tour of the barn or to schedule a riding lesson.