So, as a follow-up to some of the discussion on the equitation post, I’m curious what your thoughts are on the form to function? My aunt, who used to show Saddlebreds, made a comment to me about trainers being notorious for bad equitation. I don’t know how true that may or may not be, but I have seen trainers who just do not sit pretty in the saddle.

If having good equitation were the best functional way to ride a horse, you’d think those who do it all day every day would have it down pat. So what’s the correlation here? And if it’s NOT the “best” way to ride a horse, then why do we teach it and have performance evaluations on it?


12 Responses to Equitation

  1. leslie says:

    That’s a good question. I don’t really know, but I’d guess that it’s because equitation is the basis of proper riding, but since every horse is different, you have to improvise to get the best out of each individual animal. Since trainers are usually showing the young and/or difficult horses, they have to do more to get the best performance.

    Some trainers ride in ways that appear to have no connection to proper equitation at all, so my theory might be bunk.

    On the other hand, riders like Beezie Madden and Margie Engle have fantastic form and win at the top levels of international competition. And lots of former equitation champions go on to be successful trainers and top riders.

  2. Tea says:

    That’s a great question. Leslie brings up a couple of really great examples -Beezie and Margie. George Morris has referred to these ladies many times for examples of good form being an effective part of performance and optimizing a horse’s performance.

    They are balanced. They are balanced jumping over jumps that are taller than me and are still as balanced when they are jumping them at speed. Balanced is what I always want to be when I riding. There are a few that cmoe to mind in the Morgan ring who look painfully out of balance. I haven’t read Helen Crabtree’s book in ages but I can imagine that the importance of balance is something that you can read about in those pages. It’s not a seat specific philosophy.

    If some folks took a week this winter and dedicated it to longe lessons (no stirrups), maybe come spring I wouldn’t have any cringing moments of looking away when some follks come careening around the ring.

    Just my opinion.

  3. Jennifer says:

    The trainers get sloppy and they don’t have to, because unlike Beezie & Margie, Morgan and Saddlebred trainers don’t fall off just going around the ring.
    It is the best way to ride, look at Judy Whitney. She was always in position and her horses were fabulous. I think the whole picture would improve, no more careening through corners, if the trainers would at least sit up.

  4. colwilrin says:

    I don’t know. I am trying to think of top trainers with bad equitation…and am drawing a fairly large blank. Mary Carlton, Kathleen Peeples, Stacy Hennessey, Jenny Taylor, Amanda DuPont, Katie Mair, Judy Whitney, …the list goes on…all have equitation beyond what I would criticize.

    On the other hand…it is easy to pick out 3-4 riders from almost every equitation class I have watched this season who are completely oblivious to what their horse looks like. Either that, or they are too afraid that they may move a hair out of position if they ask the horse to set its head, or move forward at the trot.

    If I had to pick what was the more significant problem, I would say that it is riders neglecting proper horsemanship because they are concentrating too hard on their own equitation.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Maybe it is just a male characteristic, then.

  6. Tea says:

    I’m not sure what that this means: “The trainers get sloppy and they don’t have to, because unlike Beezie & Margie, Morgan and Saddlebred trainers don’t fall off just going around the ring.” I can’t recall the last time I saw either of these woman, Beezie or Margie, just fall off their mounts for no reason just going around the ring.

    But anywho…I have to agree that what I have witnessed it is a predominently male thing. I must add that Judy W’s balance and self carriage has always been outstanding.

  7. StacyGRS says:

    I believe the comment about Beezie and Margie was about the fact that they have to stay on while going over large fences…the consequences for bad balance are a bit more severe in their world.
    That said, alot of us get sloppy because we don’t work on our eq. I can’t speak for all of the people you mentioned (thank you, btw, for inculding me in the list that doesn’t offend you:) showed equitation for years as kids…it is HOW we were taught. You can know good equitation from bad, but, without concentrating on it for years, it is not going to become second nature enough for you to not think about it anymore and have it still be reasonable. Proper equitation form is the most efficient way to ride, meaning you are put in a place and position that you don’t have to overcome balance issues, fight momentum, etc, but, those that didn’t learn that way learned to overcome these things and do their job despite the disadvantage they had in their form. Most that learn as adults, or even learn proper position after having ridden for years and developed habits, will struggle to change those things…it will take alot more than a week of lunge lessons to adjust years and years of habits…I promise:) When you see someone that has form you appreciate, they put years into it. It may have been long, long ago, but they did:)

  8. Jennifer says:

    Thanks Stacy for clarifying my statement. I also agree that it is a matter of education. If you were taught proper form it is much easier to attain on a day to day basis.
    My biggest problem is that I put my lower leg to far back. This is a consequence of NOT having adjustable stirrup bars and constantly have to strain to get them in position. Now as an adult with a proper fitting saddle I work to keep them a bit forward, ongoing battle.

  9. leslie says:

    If you’re looking for creative interpretations of saddle seat riding position, I think you’ll have better luck looking at Saddlebred trainers than Morgan.

    Things are changing, but historically most of the top trainers in the Saddlebred world are lifelong riders who grew up in the horse world and possibly never had a formal riding lesson, certainly not an equitation lesson. Also, the majority of the old timers are male, and there definitely seems to be a gender line when it comes to adherence to equitation (with exceptions on both sides, of course.)

    Nowadays I think more young trainers come up through lesson programs and jr exhibitor/equitation ranks rather than just being born into the business.

  10. jns767 says:

    I am almost always trying to keep up with my eq. skills. Since I’m no longer a jr. exhib. rider, I find that when I do have lessons, they’re much more concentrated on the horse as opposed to how I look upon that horse. I have been told not to worry about what I look like but instead ride however I can to best help my horse look his/her best. Hmmmm…..I still want to look good though, and would really love a good old fashioned equitation lesson here and there.

    Anyway, I’ve noticed some haunchy shoulders, poor heel/leg positions and bizarre head positions on older/professional/ammy riders. I know I struggle with my lower leg being too far forward and I feel like no matter what I do, I’m always looking at my horses’ head instead of where I’m going. But I think that some ammys/pros can give the eq. riders a run for their money: Kelly Kraegel Varner is imo, one of them :)
    The last part is off topic a bit, but as far as extreme equitation lessons go – - – - seriously, the most intense equitation lessons I’ve had were from hunter/jumper trainers. You have to be correct on your horse before you jump for your own safety, so I also learned a great deal during those lesons and feel that it made me a better rider as a whole.

  11. jns767 says:

    oh geez, I wish I could edit my comment. Sorry about the random subject changes…..

  12. RaeOfLight says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

    The main reason I asked about this is because I was thinking about my own riding abilities. I consider myself to have a respectable seat, balance, etc. However, I have never had much equitation training. I’m just curious if I would see much benefit from equitation training at this point? Obviously I can’t compete in equitation classes, and to a certain degree any (knowledgeable) instruction is going to improve a rider. But I wasn’t sure if this would be something I should actively pursue or not.

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