May 17, 2011
AQHA Professional Horseman Shane George offers exercises to perfect the half seat position.
By AQHA Professional Horseman Shane George with Christine Hamilton for The American Quarter Horse Journal
In Part 1, AQHA Professional Horseman Shane George explained the half seat and common problems. In Part 2, he explains what to do to perfect the two-point position.
What to Do
Make sure you have correct position.
Learning to ride a half seat starts by learning how to post and get in and out of the saddle. You might need someone on the ground to help you get the right angles and position for the half seat.
First, make sure you have a good foundation through your leg. You want heels down nicely, good contact from below the knee to the calf, and into the foot and stirrup.
Then, your seat should be softly out of the saddle and your body forward. Get your seat out of the saddle without standing straight up: You want the frame of your body to change and put more angles to it. When you’re sitting in the full seat, your shoulders should be in line with your hip bone, down to the back of your heel. In the half seat, your shoulders come forward, and you get your body over the pommel of the saddle, and your hips go back. You are out of the saddle, but the lower leg structure is the same as if you were riding full seat.
Make sure your back is straight and your shoulders are back and not rounded.
Could off-balance riding be getting in your horse’s way? Horse trainer Martin Black says he sees a lot of horses having people problems — or maybe it’s people having ego problems. Learn more in AQHA’s downloadable report, Horse Training Techniques With Martin Black.
Your elbows should be in front of your body and more forward on the horse’s neck, arms out in front of your elbows. The position should be where your arm is comfortable out in front of your body. Usually that’s a third of the way up the neck, just before the crest. Don’t get any farther than that because then you’ll be halfway up the neck and too forward.
When you get up out of the saddle, inch up on your reins so that your contact is shorter and smoother and your arm is out in front of you. If you want to slow down or speed up, then you can immediately soften your hands on the reins or take more hold. Your arms have got to be flexible, because you want to follow the mouth of the horse. That’s important in the canter.
You shouldn’t rely on the neck for balance. However, when you’re shaping a horse or bending, your knuckles do touch the neck. But don’t lean your hand on the horse’s neck.
The exact half seat position can vary with a person’s body type. Everybody can’t look the same. Riders are long- or-short-waisted, tall or short-legged, etc. You must have a correct model for a half seat, and then adapt to a style that suits you and find your own balance.
The half seat is really an easy maneuver and position. It’s a smoother balance than when you sit with your full seat in the saddle.
Practice it on the flat. Improve your half seat by riding it at the trot or riding it without stirrups. To have a nice half seat, you must have good balance on your horse.
For a beginner rider, riding in a half seat on the flat is a good introductory lesson for jumping.
But even if you’re not thinking about jumping, it’s good to ride in half seat to learn another balance on your horse. It’s always beneficial to ride in as many different ways as you can to feel comfortable on a horse.
Horse trainer Martin Black says that by experimenting with your weight position, you will discover a place that you can feel your horse move freely and easily. Learn how in AQHA’s downloadable report, Horse Training Techniques With Martin Black.
Working across the diagonal. Try this exercise to work on getting in and out of the half seat quickly.
Ride a large figure 8 in your arena. Hand gallop in a half seat across the diagonal. Then come back to a full seat at the canter in the turn at the end of the arena.
In the turn, you want to recreate a balance that doesn’t get too heavy on the front end, just as you would if you were in a course turning to approach a jump. Collecting back into a full seat helps you learn to do that.
In a course of jumps, you don’t want to be cantering on the front end through a turn and then have to look up to the jump. You want the horse’s balance up and off the front end. You don’t want the horse pulling and dragging you through a jump.
You could also try this at an extended trot in half seat (across the diagonal) and come back to a trot in full seat through the turn or an extended canter in half seat and collected canter in full seat.