Seat Aids – to energize & slow down

Today I researched and taught the seat aids. It worked out pretty well, and I got some great feedback and ideas from a friend, so I thought I’d share!

The Seat Aids

Helpful Warmups

  • Shoulder circles backward – tends to be tight – one at a time then together “growing taller in your spine”
  • Lift one arm straight up toward the sky by ear – stretches whole side, drops seat bone, extends leg – as long as possible is best
  • Alternate leg swings – slowly swing one leg forward and the other back from the hip, sit deep, relax back/butt, keep torso quiet – find balance point for seat bones
  • Torso turns – as far to each side as can without involving hips/legs, keeping seat bones down, until you can separate body movements – separates body parts

Review / Prerequisite Skills – before using seat aids the rider must be able to:

  • identify when hind legs pick up off the ground by saying “right, left, right left”
  • use leg aids to extend hind legs strides at the walk by applying pressure when the hind legs pick up
  • establish a good seat:
    • seat bones level – keeps you centered and balanced on horse
    • seat muscles relaxed – frees up hip joint to move with horse
    • as horse steps, it shifts your pevis side to side

Seat Aids – to energize and slow down

  • What
    • use of seat to speed up and slow down
  • Why
    • you can use the seat to talk to the horse
    • helps other aids of legs and hands not work so hard
    • sets the horse’s rhythm and speed
    • instead of passively sitting on a horse you learn to actively use your seat to ride it
    • when you go trail riding on vacation your seat will be kinder on your horse so you will have a happier horse and more comfortable ride : )


  • You can use your seat in these ways:
    • small weight shifts – NOT pumping or leaning
      • side to side – burden/lighten seat bone, lengthen leg on the side you burden (can add squeeze of leg as do so) – these are used more for turning because when you shift weight over he wants to follow to keep you balanced above him, like balancing a stick on your hand
      • forward/backward – tilt pelvis forward or tuck onto pockets
      • torso stays the same, no leaning
    • following motion
      • neutral
      • energizing – relax, open hips, swing with motion, exaggerate a little, move a little faster than he is so he feels the need to catch with to you
      • resisting – tighten your core, stop following his motion, resist with your seat, sit on your pockets and push back a little
      • no pumping or pushing the horse, you will just annoy him
  • To speed him up:
    • Relax hips, let them swing freely with his motion
    • Add a little weight shift from side to side with his motion
    • Speed up your weight shift and following motion to a little faster than he is going – imagine how fast and energetic you want him walking, then make your body go that speed
    • Add alternating leg squeezes when he picks up his hind feet – when you will feel him drop that hip to bring his hind foot off the ground and forward, slightly weight that side, lengthen your leg, and squeeze with the calf
    • Let your hand move with his head so you don’t restrict forward movement
    • Don’t wing your shoulders, over exaggerate, pump, or push – you’ll just annoy him
    • Look ahead and think forward
    • Make it rhythmic
  • To slow him down:
    • Shift your weight back by tucking your pelvis and sitting on your pockets
    • Tighten your core and stop following his motion
    • Resist with your seat
    • Put weight in your heels
  • Note: how much of this you explain depends on the student

Practice (options)

  • Energize and Slow Down between cones
    • set up 2 cones on each wall, 20 ft apart
    • energize horse between cones on one wall, follow motion normally on curve, slow down horse on other wall, repeat – first use seat, then add leg/rein as needed
  • Progress: increase repetitions
    • add another cone in the middle of the wall, rider must speed up for half the wall then slow down for the other half, on each wall
    • add 4 cones on each wall to mark transitions, ride must speed up, slow down, speed up on each wall
  • Progress: use as a Pre-Cue to Trot and Whoa
    • pre-cues let him know something’s coming and be prepared, instead of surprising him when he’s not prepared
    • energize walk then ask for trot – use seat to energize walk and build up energy, so that by the time you ask him to trot, he’s ready and willing – like winding up a jack in the box, or pulling back a slingshot
    • slow down walk then ask for whoa – use seat to get him as slow as you can, then use your reins as lightly as you can to whoa, try to make this as smooth as possible
  • Energize and Slow Down between ground poles
    • set up ground poles 10 strides apart (40 feet)
    • the rider must energize and extend their horse’s walk so that they fit 12 strides between the poles
    • then the rider must slow down their horse’s walk so they fit 10 strides between the poles
    • add more poles as needed, so rider must energize then slow down their horse
  • Progress: between ground poles on a circle
    • set up 4 ground poles on a circle
    • the rider must energize and slow their horse’s walk alternately between poles to achieve the number of steps requested – for example, 5 steps, 4 steps, 5, 4, and so on
  • Progress: between ground poles on a circle with whoa and trot
    • set up 4 ground poles on a circle
    • the rider must alternately walk energetically over a pole and woah over a pole
    • or, the rider must alternately walk slowly over a pole, energize, trot over a pole, slow down, walk over, and so on
  • Progress: use seat aids for steering
    • slightly increase weight in direction you want to turn – your horse wants to keep you balanced, so he will step under the weight, like balancing a stick on your hand, or a child on your shoulders
    • practice through circles, cone weaving, etc.


Please add to this! How do YOU teach the seat aids?


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!

3 thoughts on “Seat Aids – to energize & slow down

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *