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Hunt seat riding is a very popular style of English riding in North America. Hunt seat riding is a type of “forward seat riding”, and is “based on the tradition of fox hunting.” This is why there is not only flat work, (riding without jumping) but jumps as well.
There are two types of competitive hunt seat riding, hunters and equitation. In the hunter ring, horses are judged on movement, form and manners. The rider is judged on position, neatness of attire and how well the rider can control her horse. While riding hunt seat equitation, only the rider is judged, while jumping or on the flat. The rider is judged as if she was riding in the hunter ring. In hunt seat equitation there might be a pattern which you need to memorize. The pattern could consist of backing up, turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand or counter canter; perhaps even a combination of all.
Hunter jumps are not as brightly colored as show jumping jumps. Instead, the jumps are made to look more natural, with muted brown and green colors. Hunt seat riders also ride in a more forward position than in any other English discipline. There is also little or no contact in the reins while riding on the flat. This allows the horse to stretch his neck, back and to have a flowing and free moving stride.
While hunt seat showing is not an Olympic discipline, many show jumping competitors began by riding in the hunter divisions, before moving into the jumper division. Some hunt seat horses vary quite a bit from western horses, although the Quarter Horse, which is an excellent western horse, is also one of the best breeds of horses for hunt seat riding. Other ideal hunter horses are the Thoroughbred and any Warmblood breed.
An ideal hunt seat horse and rider team is when the horse has a free flowing length of stride and is very elegant, and the rider ideally “has a very secure position. This includes proper leg position, weight in heels, soft hands, good posture, balanced seat, eyes up and, when working over fences, looking ahead towards the next fence.” Hunt seat riding is a very fun style of English riding and is the building block for any English discipline.
Here is a video of a hunt seat equitation class.
Here is a video of a perfect hunter round.