Saddle Seat riding is an English riding discipline that is designed to show off the high action of certain horse breeds. The style developed into its modern form in the United States, and is also seen in Canada and South Africa. To a much lesser extent, it is ridden with American horse breeds in Europe and Australia.
The goal of the saddle seat riding style is to show off the horse's extravagant gaits, particularly the trot. It is not to be confused with the various hunt seat disciplines.
The most common horses used in Saddle Seat riding are:
- American Saddlebreds
- Morgan horses
- Tennessee Walking Horses
These breeds are all known for their smooth, high-stepping gaits and their willingness to perform.
Saddle Seat riding is divided into several different classes, including:
- Hunter Pleasure
Pleasure classes are the most popular type of Saddle Seat competition. They are judged on the horse's gaits, manners, and appearance. Equitation classes are judged on the rider's form and technique. Hunter Pleasure classes are similar to Pleasure classes, but the horses are also evaluated on their ability to jump small fences. Hack classes are judged on the horse's way of going and the rider's ability to control the horse in traffic. Park classes are judged on the horse's gaits, manners, and appearance in a park setting. Exhibition classes are the most creative type of Saddle Seat competition. Riders are given a theme and they must create a routine that showcases their horse's talents.
Saddle Seat riding is a beautiful and elegant equestrian discipline. It is a great way to show off the natural talents of certain horse breeds and to challenge riders to develop their skills.
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Mutschelknaus Goes Far Riding Saddle Seat
By Leah Brown
Read the original article at Ohio Amish Country here...
It’s not every day a 12-year-old from Stone Creek gets a chance to visit Albuquerque, N.M. It’s even more rare for that same girl to be making the trip to compete at Arabian Horse Youth Nationals.
Although many people show animals for 4-H at the fair, this type of competition is much different. Each competitor must complete a riding pattern where judges specify what types of steps horses and riders must use and what direction they should travel around the ring. “They can even tell you what foot the horse must start on,” Melissa Mutschelknaus said. The sport is similar to dressage, but there is more emphasis put on the rider’s position.
Jordan Mutschelknaus, a middle school student at Garaway High School, has been riding and competing with horses since she was a toddler, according to her mother, Melissa. “I rode for 25 years,” Melissa said. “Now Jordi does it too.”
“I did Western when I was really, really, really small. It’s really slow,” Jordan said of competitions she rode when she was as young as 3 years old. “The horse’s head is lower. I haven’t done that for a long time.”
As she got older, Jordan learned new styles of riding. She has competed in the hunt seat and is currently competing in saddle seat. Both styles of riding are faster than Western and more strict, according to Jordan. “Slouching or leaning forward is bad (in saddle seat),” she said. “Perfect posture, looking where you’re going, keeping your heels down and not letting your knees flap around are good.”
Since posture and form for both horse and rider are quintessential to high scores, practicing is the key to success. “I practice maybe four or five hours a day,” Jordan said. “And I go to camps. I just got back from one in Indiana and I have another one coming up.”
Of course with so much practice, sometimes there are mishaps. “One time I wanted to learn how to canter,” she said. “The horse did it, I let go of the reins and screamed, and fell off the back. I was OK though.”
Despite some tumbles during practice, Jordan has never fallen in competition.
Since her family has a farm in Stone Creek where they breed Arabian horses, getting practice space is not a problem. Her current horse, Anza de Cognac, isn’t one that was bred on the farm, but one that Jordan was thankful to find.
Many years of competition and a small competition pool have resulted in some heated rivalries and close friendships. “I have a lot of friends I show with,” Jordan said. “But in the ring it’s competitive.”
She doesn’t personally know the girl, but Jordan said her biggest rival always came to competition in a purple riding outfit and is now referred to as the Girl in Purple.
Now, after years of practice and plenty of competition wins, Jordan will participate in her biggest competition yet. Arabian Horse Youth Nationals is scheduled July 19-27. There will be multiple rounds of competition and many other nationally ranked riders competing. “I’m seeded first,” Jordan said. “I’m nervous, but I think I do have a really good chance of doing well.
“This is the first time I have felt like I’ve been able to compete.
“It’s really fun to get to make new friends and being able to say I ride horses,” she said. “Not many people get to say that, and I’m grateful for everyone who’s helped me.”
Although she has already won her spot at nationals, part of the challenge of competing is raising the money to enter the tournament. “Half the money must be raised through sponsorships,” Melissa said. “You would be amazed at the generosity. Most people just want to know how the competition turns out.”
As part of her fundraising efforts, Jordan has set up a bank account for donations. Anyone wishing to contribute can mail checks to Jordan Mutschelknaus, c/o First National Bank of Dennison, 824 Boulevard, Dover 44622. For information, call Melissa Mutschelknaus at 330-204-4183.