English Saddle Seat Riding Basics

English riding basics

1. Introduction

If you have chosen to ride English you probably have visions of jumping or learning the art of dressage. The cummunication bewteen horse and rider is your key to success. The horse needs to be trained to recognize a riders signals and the rider needs to know how to give those signals.
Horses can be taught through a process called “pressure” and “release”. Pressure is what we use to tell the horse what to do. Release is what we use to tell the horse he has done what we asked correctly.

2. The basics

Riding involves the use of a bit that puts pressure on a horses mouth. Whether that pressure will hurt your horse or not depends on the amount of pressure you apply. It is always perferable to use as little pressure as possible. Bits by their very design can be very severe or very mild. When you first begin to ride choose a mild bit for your horse such as a single jointed D- ring snaffle or Egg butt snaffle. When riding hold the reins about 4 inches above the pommel of the saddle and keeps your hands still. English reining only requires moving your fingers, not your whole arm.
Applying gentle pressure on the reins with your fingers will tell the horse what to do. When the horse does as you ask it is very important to then release any pressure. This will keep your horse from developing a hard mouth or prevent him from ignoring your signals. Most novice riders run into problems when they fail to communicate with the horse in a manner the horse as been trained to regconize. Learning a little about how horses are trained will go a long way in helping you become a better and more considerate rider.

3. Mounting up

Mounting up is of course the first thing. You can mount your horse from whatever side you want. The horse does not care. The only reason left side mounting is popular, is because there are more right handed people than there are left handed people. Stand beside the horse and put the ball of your foot into the stirrup. Push up off the ground with the other foot and swing your leg up and over the saddle. This will put you right into the seat of the saddle. If you are too short or don’t have the strength to push yourself up, then using a mounting block or step will make getting on the horse much easier and will keep the saddle from shifting. Do not use a fence for mounting. Horses are famous for moving away from the fence just as your ready to swing yourself up. Many a rider has taken a minor fall because of this. Use a mounting block or have someone give you a boost.

4. Holding the English reins

English riders hold one rein in each hand. The hands are close together just above the saddle pommel. The reins should have just enough slack for the horse to be able to move his head and neck freely.

5. The Stirrups

Only the ball of the foot goes into each of the stirrups. The stirrups should be even on both sides and just long enough that when you put your feet into them, your leg is slightly bent at the knee. You will find later that stirrup length can depend on what type of riding your doing at the time. Jumping requires a slightly higher stirrup length then dressage or an hunting or hacking event. Adjustments can be made at any time without much trouble. Some riders can even make an adjustment while sitting on the horse.

6. Moving forward

Sit straight and tall in the middle of the saddle. Hold the reins lightly with just enough slack for the horse to move his head freely. Apply pressure to the horses belly by squeezing with your legs and make a clicking noise. Do not slap with your legs, just squeeze. When the horse moves forward stop squeezing. This tells the horse he is moving at the right speed. If you want the horse to go faster, squeeze a little harder.

7. Turn left or right

When your ready to turn, gently pull the left rein back towards the horses right shoulder using one finger. The tricky part is using just enough pressure on the rein to tell the horse to turn. If your whole arm is moving then your are using much more force then you need too. As soon as the horse turns his head and begins to turn, release pressure on the rein. If you continue to pull on the rein the horse will think you want him to turn in a circle.

When turning right the same technique applies. Use only one finger to pull the rein towards the horses left shoulder. Release pressure on the rein as soon as the horse begins the turn.

8. Stopping

Getting a horse to stop is the most important and should be practiced often. Very light pressure is the key to stopping a horse. When you pull back on the reins too hard, the horse will become either insensitive to the pressure or he will drop his head down to his chest. When the horse drops his head to his chest he is ignoring you and avoiding the bit. So to stop a horse, practice with the horse at a walking speed. Pull gently and straight back on the reins. As soon as the horse stops, stop pulling the reins. Do not allow the horse to continue to walk forward again until you give him the signal by squeezing with your legs. If you allow your horse to move forward again before you give the signal, the horse will learn he can do as he pleases. This is not a good thing. The moment you give control over to your horse is the moment things start to go wrong and soon your horse will be misbehaving whenever he wants. Practice stopping your horse at the walk until your satisfied and comfortable that your horse is obeying before you ever try trotting or loping. Remember to use as little pressure as possible to keep your horse from evading the bit or developing a hard mouth.

9. Parts of an English saddle

english saddle parts

Here is a nice clear diagram of all the parts of the English saddle. If you want more information our guide below tells you what all the parts do for you and your horse

The English Saddle Parts

parts of english saddle

Every English saddle has all the main parts as shown in the diagram. However not all English saddles will look the same. Each type of English saddle is designed for a certain kind of riding.

Flaps, knee rolls, seat position and stirrup position will vary depending on what the saddle is used for.

Flaps can hang straight down or be moved more forward. Straight hanging flaps are seen in dressage saddles and forward flaps are seen in jumping saddles.

The knee rolls can be over stuffed or lightly stuffed. Over stuffed knee rolls are for jumping saddles, so that the rider has a place to anchor the knee as they lean forward to make the jump.

Dressage riders like more lightly stuffed knee rolls so they can have better contact with the horse.

Seat position can have an effect on riding as well. Level seats that do not tilt either up or down are preferred by most riders.

Stirrups should hang down toward the middle of the saddle regardless of what type of riding you do.

The panels and gullet are designed for your horses comfort. Good saddles will have thick wide stuffed panels that are springy when you press on them. They should not look bulky or lumpy.
The gullet is designed to clear your horses spine and withers. Make sure your saddle is not resting on top of the horses withers and that if you look at the back of the saddle you can see lots of room for the spine. In other words the panels should not be resting on your horses spine when you look down at the spine from the back of the saddle.

There are many more things to be considered and many more details to learn about. However if your new to horse back riding this little guide is a good start. A good book on tack and horseback riding is a basic everyone should have. Look below to see some books that have information every rider should know about. Clicking on a book will take you directly to amazon so you can get more details on content and pricing.