No, I don’t find saddle seat as a general discipline cruel. I do think there are some problems in a few of the show rings, but as a whole I don’t find weighted shoes, chains, stretchies, full bridles/two bits, cutback saddles etc. cruel. (That being said, I don’t think a weighted shoe should be some absurdly heavy thing with extra long hooves - if the horse doesn’t naturally have the action, don’t force it.) I don’t condone the Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horses, don’t lump Saddlebreds, Morgans, or other breeds ridden saddle seat in with them because they are NOT the same. In this post I’m addressing general saddle seat excluding the Big Lick walkers.
You will see some bad riding and you’ll see some horses not suited to the discipline, and I do feel bad for those horses, but I see that in every discipline - hunters, dressage, eventing, western pleasure, barrel racing, foxhunting, jumping, endurance, cutting, roping, trail riding, and so on. Bad riders don’t make an entire discipline bad and there are many good riders with happy horses out there doing saddle seat.
The saddle seat horse should be naturally talented. That action you see is the horse, not the equipment. Even barefoot and turned out you’ll see their heads held high while trotting at/above level.
- It is a MYTH that Saddlebreds have their tailbones broken.
- It is a MYTH that all saddle seat horses are sored. (this IS a real issue with Big Lick walkers, but see the end of my first paragraph.)
- It is a MYTH that chains are meant to irritate. They are lightweight. I’ve had them on my own ankles just to see what it was like.
- It’s a MYTH a saddle seat horse will be ruined for any other type of riding.
- The horses you see with their “front legs tied” while on a line are wearing stretchies, which are for resistance training, and are similar to the bands people wear.
- Like other disciplines, a good, well-ridden saddle seat horse should be pushing from the hind end.
A good horse who is happy in his/her discipline, including saddle seat, is truly beautiful.