“Keep your seat quiet…” is this good theory?
“Keep your seat quiet.” “…Stay still!”
Have you heard that before? …is this good theory?
The truth is, sadly often instructors are not educated on HOW to teach, or the theory behind what they are even asking their students to do. I sometimes refer to instructors that say things like “…keep your seat still…” or “…your hands are moving too much, keep them still…” as “Parrot Instructors.” Why? Because they repeat back what someone else told them but didn’t stop to ask themselves “…what is the theory behind what I am saying?”
I will explain…
The statement “Keep your seat (or hands) still…” is a case of having the “right intentions,” but it is "misusing words” on HOW to appear “visually looking still.”
To un-pack this we need to understand HOW a horse’s brain works, and HOW the horse’s / rider’s body moves when working together. The idea of "visually looking still” while riding is "THE goal!" But HOW or what do you do to get there? …Well… it’s harder than “freezing up on the horse.”
Now for a moment picture this for me, what’s the first thing that most horses do when they see something sketchy? “Freeze!” They stop, get very still and look. Their body tenses up and gets ready for fight or flight.
As rider(s), we need to be the horse’s confidence, their trustworthy leader in the sense that they look to us (or rather sense from us) to determine what to do in those situations. Making our seat “tight,” and not moving it when our horse is perhaps worried, leaves them to likely interpret that as “FEAR!”
A rider’s “seat” that doesn’t move, or that moves against the motion, is loud to the horse, and quite often makes them off balance. This “forced stillness” on any body part leads to all kinds of problems. Clamping down and holding on the horse has a similar result as "freezing up" on them, this can make them more fearful or want to flee/run. Now they can be "untrained" to that "instinct response," but it is still instinctual for them.
A truly “quiet seat” (or hand), stays with the horse’s movement even if (or when) the horse is spooking.
Our goal is to move our seat in the same (or planned ahead) rhythm and move in controlled balance to help influence the horse’s balance and movement.
Asymmetry or crookedness causes most people to sit outside of the motion often left behind, or way too far ahead, of the horse’s movement. When your body’s ability to move is asymmetric (haven’t taught anyone yet that it isn’t just a little asymmetric), one or more sections of your body is always unbalanced.
Our goal should always be to put our bodies in the correct balance and possess the strength / elasticity to hold our own balance not just being an awkward a load to carry.
You want to know the irony of all of this? When you move your seat in balance with the horse, you will LOOK still! You will LOOK like you are “up there doing nothing…” but the truth is… you are up there MOVING!
Now there is such a thing as “moving too much” or “sloshing around in the saddle” with no tone/strength. This happens when we are out of sync with the horse’s movement. Whether bracing against the movement and being frozen, or over accentuating it and wiggling too much.
A truly quiet rider MOVES with stability, strength, leadership and balance!