If I purchased a saddle seat horse, I might name him Injustice … and you’re probably wondering why.
We’ve all seen the horrific images of, primarily, Tennessee Walking Horses with all sorts of insane gadgets and shod in outlandish ways. But are these practices common to all saddle seat riding? And are we correct to just assume that they are?
Here at ThinLine, we’ve dedicated ourselves to creating and developing products that provide comfort to horses and riders, so performance improves, and riding becomes joyful.
How is it that after 15 years of service to the equine world, ThinLine had not developed a saddle pad for saddle seat riding?
There were no easy answers to this question. Judgment crops up all over the place. With people, you don’t know, even breeds of dogs. But judgment is rooted in ignorance, so I, Elaine, owner of ThinLine, packed up my dressage horse and moved into a saddle seat barn.
I began taking equitation lessons from Jim Paden (pictured here) of Cedarwood Equine, a knowledgeable rider, trainer, and USEF judge in several different divisions including Saddle Seat Equitation. I rode the saddle seat horses at the farm in my lessons with him.
For saddle seat riders, reading what I’m about to say is common knowledge to them. However, riders from other disciplines may find it surprising.
Riding saddle seat is different.
While dressage riders spend lots of time riding circles, saddle seat riders work their horses on the rail. They also work their horses for shorter periods of time, rarely more than 20 consecutive minutes a session, except when walking on a loose rein.
The expectation of the riders, even for beginners, is that when they pick up the reins to go to work, their hands and seat are correct, so the horse is in the bridle, collected, and performing at a maximum.
This level of performance expectation is something that, as a dressage rider, I’d only witnessed with top FEI riders.
Another aspect of saddle seat riding that differs is the rider’s position. When you look at a saddle seat rider, it looks like the rider sits almost behind the horse’s motion. And there’s a reason for that.
Because saddle seat horses are asked to “give it their all” and expend as much upward and forward energy as possible when it’s time to work, being behind the motion allows the rider to give a driving aid immediately if it’s needed. So, it makes sense for the rider to be positioned in such a way so she’s always ready to drive her horse on.
In my lessons on the saddle horses, learning to ride more “behind the motion” required a new level of balance on my part, because just a slightly wrong touch with my hand would immediately shut down all the power the horse was producing.
The more I rode the saddle horses, the more I realized that riders dealing with all that power could certainly benefit from ThinLine’s technology.
ThinLine’s foam absorbs the movement of the horse and the corresponding shock that riders feel. It takes that shock and spreads it across the foam rather than up into your back. Likewise, any shock that riders are creating on their horses’ backs is also being dispersed across the foam.
But saddle seat riders view saddle pads differently, namely, to keep saddles from getting dirty, with no expectation that pads could provide a benefit. So, getting riders to give them a try initially was a challenge.
I worked with Jim Paden for about two years on the ThinLine pad. He was my product tester. The finished product is the result of many rounds of prototypes. Cutback saddles require a unique support design. Getting the pad to fit well and not move with the big shoulder action these horses have was no small feat!
When I eventually was able to convince other riders to give the ThinLine Cutback Saddle Pad a try, their horses responded the way most horses do when ridden in a ThinLine saddle pad: better use of their backs, better concentration, improved movement, and performance.
The riders experiencing this phenomenon were truly surprised and delighted; whoever would think that a saddle pad could have such a positive influence on a horse’s way of going? ThinLine does and is happy to be able to offer these amazing horses and their riders the ThinLine Saddle Seat Cutback pad.
Lastly, the insight I gained from my firsthand experience with saddle seat riding was invaluable; I am grateful! I look forward to meeting more of the wonderful riders and horses devoted to this extraordinary riding discipline.