What’s a Sella Division?

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Saddle Seat Divisions showcase horses with showy gaits, particularly trots with high leg action. The riding style is geared towards show horses with gait, and the tack and commands are similar to English-style riding. The division is divided into classes, with a focus on manners and performance. A variety of action breeds are shown, and grooming is meticulous. Special equipment is sometimes used to promote high gaits, but cruel shoeing equipment is banned in most competitions.

A Saddle Seat Division is a division in a horse show dedicated to saddle riding, a riding style that derives from English-style riding. Saddle riders use similar tack and commands as in English-style riding, but their riding style is slightly different, geared to specifically show horses with gait. Many people enjoy watching saddle races because even inexperienced people can enjoy the look of horses gone to the show ring.

The goal of a saddle division is to highlight horses with showy and distinctive gaits, particularly trots with high leg action. The horses shown in the saddle can vary widely, but are typically gaited horses, as in horses with gaits beyond the basic walk, trot, and canter; these horses are sometimes known as “action breeds,” in reference to their showy gaits. The riding style used by mounted riders encourages the horses to have bold and striking gaits which look stunning in combination with the elegant tack worn by the horse and the formal attire worn by the rider.

Seating is always done flat, because the focus is on pace, and is divided into a number of classes which can be further broken down by age or skill level. Three- and five-gait classes are basic lessons that showcase horses with special gaits, while plantation classes focus specifically on showy walks. The park, pleasure, and classic divisions promote manners and performance over flashy gaits, although gaits are still important. A riding lesson at a saddle division highlights the connection between horse and rider, with judges keeping a close eye on the commands used and the manners of both parties.

Shown under saddle is a wide variety of action breeds, including Morgans, Tennessee Walking Horses, Icelanders, Saddlebreds, Standardbreds, Arabians, Paso Finos, Missouri Foxtrotters, Andalusians, and Racking Horses. Typically the mane and tail are left free and flowing, with some riders tying the tails in the stables to promote particularly long growth. Grooming in a Seat Seat split is meticulous, as a sleek appearance is as important as graceful, smooth action in the ring.

Because the saddle seat emphasizes flamboyant gaits, horses shown in a saddle seat split are often shod with special equipment to promote nice, high gaits. This has sometimes been a controversial topic, as some shoeing equipment historically used in the saddle is actually quite cruel. Shoes designed to deliberately injure horses are banned in most saddle competitions today.

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