Saddle seat is a competition, where the horse move around with upright neck and animated gaits and the riders where long coat and derby hat.
The saddle seat equitation evolved from the times when the plantation owners would show of their flashy, high stepping horses in the park on Sundays. Hence the name park horse.
The horse have to have a natural animated gait like the American Saddlebred, the Morgan, the Arabian and the Tennessee walking horse. Sometimes also Hackney, Dutch harness horse, Paso fino and Missouri fox trotter. The trot or the gait for the gaited breeds is considered the most priced gaits. Saddle seat horses should be energetic and pleasant, while responsive to the exhibitor. The rider sit behind the center of balance to make the horse lift the front legs the most.
Classes under saddle
- Three gaited – open to the American saddelbred in walk, trot and canter.
- Five gaited – open to the American saddlebred in walk, trot, canter, rack and amble.
- Plantation walker – open to Tennessee walker in flat walk, running walk and canter.
- Park – open to Morgan, Arabian and Saddlebred show walk, trot and canter. judged by their brilliant high stepping action.
- Pleasure – For all breeds. Judged on good manners, smooth performance in walk, trot and canter and sometimes extended gaits.
- Classic or country pleasure – The same as for Pleasure but in this class the horses also back up.
- Equitation – The class is judged by how the rider sit on the horse. How he or she use the aid. Class terminology varies between breeds. For example Saddlebred may be shown in English show pleasure or English Country Pleasure. Morgan horses have park, English pleasure and Country English pleasure. The Tennessee Walker exhibits in three categories, flat shod, Plantation pleasure and Performance.
Any breeds used in the saddle seat may also be shown in harness. Called fine harness or pleasure driving. Where they show walk and two speeds of trot.
In any competition classes may be broken down in
- age divisions both for the horse and the rider.
- experience both for the horse and the rider.
The saddle is flat and put the rider behind the motion to encourage the horse to lift both the head and the front legs up in the air. The saddle seat horses usually wears a double bridle, the gaited horses like the Tennessee walkers and the Missouri fox trotters use a single curb with long shanks.
The rider uses long coat and jodhpurs. Jodhpurs boots, derby hat, a vest, tie and dark gloves.
Long mane is the norm and the bridle path is trimmed farther down the necks. The American saddlebred and the Tennessee walker usually have braided forelock and the first part of the mane with a satin ribbon color coordinated with the browband and the riders outfit. Arabian and Morgan are never braided and no ribbons in the mane or the tail. Usually the horse gets a full body clip two weeks before competition. And that really means everything like head, muzzle, ears, chestnuts and legs etc.
The saddle horses usually grow long hoofs and are shod with pads and heavy shoes. Ordinary horse shoes are held on with horseshoe nails clinched under and on the outside wall of the hoof. The shoes for the saddlehorses need a metal band over the hoof as well as clinches because of the weight. And the horses needs to stay inside so they don’t loose their shoes. On the Morgan and Arabian horses the pads are not allowed, for the Am saddlebred its allowed with a 1 inch wedge pad and the Tennessee walker wobble around on 4 inch stacks.
Many saddle seat horses also wears special devices to increase their action while in training. Those devises used is stretchies (elastic rubber tubing attached to the front legs by leather half-hobbles, are used to provide resistance training), weighted rattles (large beads) or chains placed around the fetlock, and shackles or running W, devices composed of pulleys and ropes that help increase the horses range of motion.
And then we have the soring used on the Tennessee Walking horse. By placing caustic ointment on the coronary band and pastern of the horse, he will pick up his feet faster because he gets pain when he touch the ground.
The tails in the American Saddlebred and the Tennessee Walking horse are nicked (an surgical operation that cut the retractor muscle under the tail) and put in a tail set. A tail set is a harness with straps that loop from the chest to the back of the tail to support a spoon crupper that prevent the tail from sinking down. In the showring this harness gets off and the tail is put in a brace to hold it in place. The Morgan and the Arabians are not allowed to have a set tail.
The Saddleseat discipline
American Saddlebred gaits
Crabtree, Helen. Saddle seat Equitation. Double Day revised edition, 1982 ISBN 0_385_17217_6
Lampe, Gayle. Riding for Success: Both in and out of the showring. saddle and bridle, inc revised edition, 2013 ISBN 096555015X