Welcome To USEF

Sign In To USEF

Saddle Seat

In Saddle Seat Equitation classes, riders should convey the impression of effective and easy control. To show a horse well, he should show himself to the best advantage. Ring generalship must be taken into consideration by the judges. A complete picture of the whole is of major importance[...] in "open" Equitation classes (not breed restricted) only the rider is being judged, therefore, any horse that is suitable for a particular style of riding and is capable of performing the required class routine is acceptable.


Hands should be held in an easy position, neither perpendicular nor horizontal to the saddle and should show sympathy, adaptability and control. The height the hands are held above the horse’s withers is a matter of how and where the horse carries his head. The method of holding the reins is optional however both hands must be used and all reins must be picked up at one time. Bight of rein should be on the off side. According to tradition, the "on side" is the side on which you mount and therefore, the "off side" is the opposite side.

Basic Position

To obtain proper position, rider should place himself comfortably in the saddle and find his center of gravity by sitting with a slight bend at the knees but without use of irons. While in this position adjust leathers to fit. The rider should not be sliding off the back of the saddle nor should there be excessive space in the seat behind the rider’s back. Irons should be placed under ball of foot (not toe nor "home") with even pressure on entire width of sole and center of iron. Foot position should be natural (neither extremely in nor out) with heels down.

Position In Motion

  • Walk: slight motion in saddle
  • Trot: slight elevation in saddle when posting; hips under body not mechanical up and down nor swinging forward and backward
  • Canter: close seat, going with horse, not rocking
  • Slow Gait: steady in saddle, no slap nor twist; legs straight down, intermittent calf pressure permissible; hands slightly raised, flexible contact, no sawing
  • Rack: seat smooth in saddle; legs down and slightly back, not thrust forward; hands low in motion with gait, not sawing but placement optional to individual rider and horse


Exhibitors and judges should bear in mind that at all times entries are being judged on ability. However, neatness is the first requisite regarding a rider’s attire and the following requirements are based on tradition and general present-day customs. Judges must penalize and may eliminate those competitors who do not conform. Adjustments to tack and attire for valid medical reasons is permitted provided a dispensation certificate has been granted.

  • INFORMAL: Riding habit will consist of jacket with collars and lapels of the same conservative color with matching jodhpurs, a collared shirt, tie, vest, and complimentary gloves, jodhpur boots, and derby or soft hat (protective headgear may be worn without penalty). Conservative colors for informal riding habits include black, blue, grey, burgundy, green, beige, or brown and may contain herringbone, pin stripes, and other combinations of colors that appear solid. Colors not included in this list are not acceptable and shall be cause for elimination. Only informal dress is permitted in Saddlebred Pleasure Equitation classes, day or night
  • FORMAL: Even more conservative attire is required for evening classes. Riding habit will consist of tuxedo-type jacket with collars and lapels of the same color with matching jodhpurs, formal shirt, bow tie, vest or cummerbund, and matching top hat (women), homburg or other soft hat (men). Solid colors for formal riding habits include dark grey, dark brown, dark blue, or black. Formal shirt must be white or off-white with the bow tie and vest or cummerbund to match shirt or riding habit in color. Colors not included in this list are not acceptable and shall be cause for elimination. Formal riding habits are not to be worn before 6:00 p.m. and are not mandatory after 6:00 p.m.; exhibitors competing on Pleasure horses have the option to wear formal attire in Open equitation classes as specified by the rule
  • OPTIONAL: Blunt end (unrowelled only) spurs and/or riding crops


  • Bridle: Entries shall be shown in full bridles (curb and snaffle). Pelham bits are permitted in Pleasure Equitation Classes. Martingales or similar tie-downs are prohibited.
  • Saddle: Flat English-type. Forward seat, Western and side saddles are prohibited.

Electronic communication devices used for the purposes of coaching, etc., between competitors and individuals outside the ring shall be prohibited. Exempt from this rule are riders who have been granted a presidential modification.

Class Routine

Riders enter the ring turning to the right and proceed counterclockwise. All riders shall be worked both ways of the ring at all required gaits as directed by the judge. Incorrect diagonals and leads shall be penalized. The order to reverse can be executed by turning either towards or away from the rail. Entries will line up on command and any or all riders may be required to execute any appropriate tests included in class requirements. Judges are encouraged to call for at least two tests of the top competitors. When individual tests are called for, the judge’s opinion rests on a 50-50 analysis of the railwork and the individual tests. The fall of horse or rider does not necessarily cause elimination, but is penalized at the judge’s discretion. All entries chosen for a collective workout must be worked both ways of the ring in front of each judge at any gait requested.

Read More

Frequently Asked Questions

Back to Top