Western Seat Basics

Certified Horsemanship Association instructors teach you to sit right.

Certified Horsemanship Association

Maintaining your seat is important to succeed in western pleasure. Journal photo.

Instructors from the Certified Horsemanship Association explain the correct positioning needed for a balanced seat:

    • Hands and Arms: Elbows are relaxed and close to the sides. Traditionally, reins are held in the left hand, with the rein hand above and just in front of the pommel. The right hand is loose on the right thigh or across your midsection.

Your position in the saddle influences the horse's way of going, which is especially significant in western pleasure classes. AQHA’s Showing Western Pleasure DVD demonstrates the correct way of going at the walk, jog and lope. AQHA members get a discount!

    • Head: The head is level, eyes looking ahead
    • Shoulders: Both shoulders are square, relaxed and even. Be careful that the left shoulder doesn’t move higher than the right or twist forward as a result of holding the reins in the left hand
    • Back: The upper back should be flat, sitting tall in the saddle. The lower back should be relaxed and flexing with the horse’s movements
    • Lower Body: Sit deep in the center of the seat of the saddle, not back on the cantle. Keep your hip in line with your shoulder and the back of your hee
    • Legs and Feet: Stirrup length is important. When standing up in the stirrups with your heels lower than your toes and your knees slightly bent, there should be a space about 2 1/2 to 3 inches (a hand’s width) between the buttocks and the saddle.  The knees and thighs are rolled in so that the flat part of the knee is against the saddle. There is light contact with the horse on the inside of the calves. Ankles are flexed so the heels are lower than the toes. Only the balls of the feet are in the stirrups.

Now that you know the basics of the western seat, learn the basics of a western pleasure class. AQHA's Showing Western Pleasure DVD gives insight into the judging process and is an excellent resource for horsemen of all ages and experience levels.