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How To Use Your Seat Instead Of The Reins

Use your seat not your reinsWhen we were first learning to ride, many (most?) of us were told to simply kick the horse to go and pull the reins to slow down or stop. As we became more experienced, we realized that there was more to it than that, and that pulling on the horse’s mouth, while it mostly made him stop (in varying degrees of effectiveness), many times it wasn’t very pleasant for the horse or the rider. And finally, after being terrified or even injured by a bolting horse where the more we pulled, the faster he went, it was clear we needed a new game plan.

We saw people whose horses stopped easily and happily on a light or even loose rein. They told us the secret was to “Use your seat, not your reins.”

But how do you do that? This article from EQ Magazine explains it …

“Use Your Seat Instead of Your Reins”

By: Editor In Chief, EQ Magazine

It’s important not to use your reins to control the things that you should use your seat to control. If you pull on the reins to steady rhythm, slow speed, decrease the length of stride or do downward transitions, you BLOCK the hind legs from coming forward.

So, make it your goal to develop a knee jerk reaction to use your seat instead of your hands for each of those four things.

Your seat can be used in four different ways:

1. Passive Following Seat
– Your passive, following seat tells your horse that everything (his rhythm, speed, and the gait) stays the same.
– Simply open and close your hips to follow the current movement of your horse.

2. Driving Seat
– Your driving seat tells your horse to increase his speed or length of stride.
– Think of pushing the back of saddle toward the front of the saddle, polishing the saddle from back to front, or pretending you’re pushing a swing higher in the air.

3. Retarding or Stilled Seat
– The stilled seat steadies the rhythm, slows the speed, decreases the length of stride, or asks for a downward transition.
– Sit in a “ready” position by stretching up tall so you have a gentle curve in the small of your back.
– Then, contract or tighten your tummy muscles like you’re doing a sit-up. This action braces your lower back and stops your hips from following your horse’s movement.

4. To Control the Position of Your Horse’s Body
– Your shoulders should be parallel to your horse’s shoulders, and your hips should be parallel to his hips.

Words of wisdom! It may be simple, but it’s not necessarily easy, depending on your level of ability, understanding, and pre-existing bad habits. Get a good instructor to help you. No-one has ever learned good horsemanship on his own!


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