It’s important not to use your reins to control the things that you should use your seat to control. If you pull on the reins to steady rhythm, slow speed, decrease the length of stride or do downward transitions, you BLOCK the hind legs from coming forward.
So, make it your goal to develop a knee-jerk reaction to use your seat instead of your hands for each of those four things.
Your seat can be used in four different ways:
1. Passive Following Seat
Your passive, following seat tells your horse that everything (his rhythm, speed, and the gait) stays the same.
Simply open and close your hips to follow the current movement of your horse.
2. Driving Seat
Your driving seat tells your horse to increase his speed or length of stride.
Think of pushing the back of saddle toward the front of the saddle, polishing the saddle from back to front, or pretending you’re pushing a swing higher in the air.
3. Retarding or Stilled Seat
The stilled seat steadies the rhythm, slows the speed, decreases the length of stride, or asks for a downward transition.
Sit in a “ready” position by stretching up tall so you have a gentle curve in the small of your back.
Then, contract or tighten your tummy muscles like you’re doing a sit-up. This action braces your lower back and stops your hips from following your horse’s movement.
4. To Control the Position of Your Horse’s Body
Your shoulders should be parallel to your horse’s shoulders, and your hips should be parallel to his hips.