Chair Seat Woes

I’ve been fairly honest on this blog about my lack of [any] formal education when it comes to equitation. My training to this point basically revolves around not hitting the horse in the mouth over fences, and staying on. Not so formal training includes friends in the arena yelling at me (which I invite). So it comes as no surprise that after years of riding dirty stoppers, run-aways, and the occasional naughty train Irish Draught, I’ve developed a very defensive jumping position- namely, the chair seat.

Starting young with the chair seat

Starting young with the chair seat

Part of my issue in the past has been that my stirrups have been too long, and going back to some images of me riding it’s fairly obvious that’s lending itself to my poor eq.

Hello, ultra long stirrups. Hello, chair seat.

Hello, ultra long stirrups. Hello, chair seat.

I’ve been cajoled convinced to shorten my stirrups up in the extreme, and this week bumped up into stirrup leather territory that has never been punctured.

Blurry ass screen grab complete with youtube line. Now that's quality media.

This week’s attempt. (Blurry ass screen grab from complete with youtube line. Now that’s quality media right there.)

Yesterday was a bit better than this even, as with every stride I reminded myself to attempt to “point my knees down” and post back into my heel. All went well at the walk and the trot, but my attempts at two-pointing without chair leg at the canter sent my ankle into fiery spasms that took minutes to recover after every session.

Oh hello, chair seat.

Chair seat, my oldest friend.

Some of my struggle is obviously built into my muscle memory at this point, but all of the photos here have another thing in common (other than my two year old self, because duh): the saddle.

The Marcel Toulouse Marielle Monoflap

The Marcel Toulouse Marielle Monoflap

I remember when I was shopping for a new saddle (probably 8 years ago), I was specifically looking for a saddle that had a more forward stirrup bar. Now I wonder if the forward flap and stirrup position are adding to my frustrations to find a more solid lower leg. When I have my leg completely under me, it hits the rear block. But, I certainly don’t want to blame my poor position on the tack if that’s not the culprit either.

Training warmup vertical

Blurry screengrabs- we’re full of them here. And the one of very few images where my eq doesn’t entirely disgust me over fences.

At this point the tack issue is probably all moot, since it’s not really worth saddle shopping until I know what equine prince charming I’ll end up with. However, next weekend I’m on the horse hunting trail again and trying anywhere from 4-7 jumping horses, and I’d rather not feel like more of a numpty than I normally do.

[Edit: scroll down to comments to see various video progressions of the chair seat, with this video as being what I consider my “best” position in this saddle]

Saddle experts and eq princesses, chime in- what can I do to find my balance and not be disgraced by my chair seat woes? Is there anything I can do with my current saddle to fix the issue? Is it the saddle at all?

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26 thoughts on “Chair Seat Woes

  1. To be honest, I don’t look at most of your pictures and see a chair seat. To me a chair seat is a leg jutted stiffly out in front, such that the seat is heavy and the rider is out of balance and behind the motion… I’m not seeing that. IMO you want the leg to be slightly in front while jumping, especially on XC (which is why most monoflaps put your leg right at the girth by design with the forward-placed stirrup bar and the ). Flat work, sure, drop a plumb line from ear to hip to heel, but jumping – you’re more stable over the top of the fence with a leg that is a bit more forwardly placed.

    To be even more honest, I hate the obsession that seems to exist with “equitation”. I think to focus on how your position looks in a photo is to come at the issue backwards. Lots of people can manage to pose for a picture but are a hot mess in actuality.

    • I get what you mean regarding the equitation obsession. In a form follows function sport like eventing, being effective, safe, and fair to the horse will(should) always trump a pretty picture. I guess some of what I should have mentioned is that in two point I feel a bit unbalanced (and sometimes painful regarding my ankles) and I wonder if a lower leg that was a bit more underneath me might make my position out of the saddle more effective.

      • I do think that the saddle is probably part of your problem if you feel unbalanced. Toulouse’s are not known for having great balance, and while they made a good attempt at a monoflap, the positioning of the blocks and flap are a bit “off” in relation to where the stirrup bar is. If you put it side by side with something like a Devoucoux Chiberta or even the County Monoflap, you’ll see big differences in where things are located and at what angle.

        • I would be afraid to sit in a Devoucoux, because if I fell in love with it I’d probably have to sell a kidney to afford it! The County though may be worth looking into… although I don’t see prices yet for the Solution monoflap (assuming that’s the one you’re referring to)

        • Used Devoucoux’s are cheaper than the County (the monoflap is a new model) but they only fit a certain type of horse. All the french monoflaps have a pretty similar balance though. The leg is not quite as forward in the French saddles as it is in most of the English styles.

  2. I’m in agreement with Amanda here, I don’t see a horrible chair seat in most of your photos! You look like you are following the horse and staying with the motion, while staying securely in the back seat, which is the most important thing. But if you ARE feeling unbalanced, as a former Equitation Princess I can help you with that. 😉

    The saddle may definitely be having a negative effect; many close-contact h/j style saddles have a much straighter flap and more set-back stirrup bar that allow your leg to hang straighter. If you are hitting the rear block when your leg is in the correct position, it’s probably not a god fit!

    One exercise I LOVE to find balance in two point is to stand straight up in your stirrups so that your crotch is over the pommel and your legs are STRAIGHT – knees almost locked and heels down. Find your balance. If your leg is too far forward or back, you will fall. Once you are balanced in the standing position, slooooooowly sink your hips down and back until you are in two point. Repeat at all 3 gaits. Go from standing to two-point to an exaggerated two-point with your hands on the horse’s ears and chest on their neck, then back to standing. Repeat. These exercises will force you to find stability and balance in your lower leg, otherwise you’ll be falling all over yourself.

    Good luck trying horses this weekend!! 🙂

  3. It could absolutely be the saddle. When I was searching for a saddle over the fall/winter, I tried several that put me in a chair seat. Combine that with muscle memory and it’s a losing battle! But a saddle that encourages your leg to lay where it’s supposed to be will help a lot.

    It’s also helpful to think about stretching your leg/heel down and back.
    Good luck!

  4. Hello fellow chair seat aficionado. I am glad to see the club is still accepting new members. 😉

    Flatwork is the only place I feel qualified to give any tips. My chair seat is helped when I can take my legs away, meaning relax my hips and open my hip angle. I started doing this by thinking about pulling my lower leg back with my heel (pointing my heel at my horse’s stifle, or tipping my heel up). I typically don’t have an issue with my heels being down, so this brought my leg back and under me. Another thing that helped was to think about my knees trying to point at the ground, rather than forward. That also changes the hip angle and pulls my legs down and back.

    You already sit up really nicely and follow the horse well through your back, so I’d imagine the issue is coming in your hips and legs somewhere. Hard to say without really watching you. Video/photos can only show so much, you know?

    • I don’t feel like I struggle in a dressage saddle, as I’m comfortable lengthening my legs and of course big old thigh blocks are wonderful helpers. Because I generally ride in a dressage saddle 80% of the time I’ve also had more time to fix my position. This video is dark for the dressage part but shows the difference in my position between dressage/jumping:

      This is what happens to me when I feel unbalanced in jump tack, which I very much did on this little Connemara X who subsequently hated me. I’m loathe to share this video because this is also right in the middle of Foster’s rehab and I was wildly out of shape from not riding for months.

      This is the best example of my position in this saddle, as I was fairly in shape and jumping more often. This is one of my last jump days with Foster before he broke. :*|

      I’m going to edit my blog post with these links to so it might be helpful!

      • In comparing the last video to the middle one, it seems the biggest weak area is your core. Your upper body tips forward a lot riding Flynn, but doesn’t in the Foster video. Every time you tip, your leg shoots out in front of you and your back hollows out. Seems like you might be struggling to stabilize your upper body, which is creating more instability in your legs. That makes total sense when you mention that you were out of riding shape, and because you have a tall upper body. Maybe explore your upper body first? Again, it’s so hard to say what is causing what when watching a video. I am inclined to agree with Amanda that your slightly forward leg in the jumping photos/video seems to be quite stable and okay, and I wouldn’t expect your leg to be as far back in your jumping saddle as your dressage saddle.

        The only other thing I’d say, which I can’t tell from the videos or photos if you struggle with at all, is to see if your toes are sticking out. When my toes stick out, my lower leg comes off and I shoot out into a chair seat (or hover over my horse’s back, super attractive). It’s something easy to experiment with.

        • Very interesting insight! Will definitely see about trying to activate my core (admittedly weak right now as well) and watching my toes 🙂

  5. I’d say sitting on the triangle the bones in your crotch makes versus on your glutes would help make your knee point down. My trainer always used to say ‘if it doesn’t hurt you ain’t sitting on it.”

  6. I have a chair seat too. I think it’s partly equipment, partly lack of fitness and strength and part body build.

  7. I have had chair seat issues ever since playing polo. Various saddles haven’t done anything to help so I’m sure it’s just me. I do have fantasies of finding a perfect saddle that helps me, but I think it’s more likely that I need to just pull my stirrups up and do a lot of 2 point and stirrupless riding.

  8. I personally find that having my stirrups too short tends to shoot my legs out in front of me more than too long stirrups. Though of course with no base of support my legs are all over. So there’s a happy medium somewhere. But I would say a more forward flap is definitely going to put you in more of a chair seat, as will a seat that puts you more in the back seat to begin with. When I’m having trouble finding a balance with my seat, I will sometimes drop my stirrups but still keep some knee angle. This helps force me into a more balanced position without having to fight my stirrups and heels and whatnot.

  9. I gotta chime in about the saddle- I used to ride in a Toulouse for over a year and struggled with my leg being too far forward, too far back, unstable, basically everywhere except where it was supposed to be. I assumed it was just my own lack of strength, but once I got a saddle that fit my leg better it was like WOAH huge difference. All of a sudden, keeping my leg on was sooo much easier. It wasn’t even so much about correct position, it was feeling like I had a strong, stable base to work from without having to “fight” my tack.

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