Learn to Ride Two-Point or Half Seat

Horse and rider on a wooded trail in fall

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Riding two-point or half seat is useful for a number of reasons. Western riders may wish to ride two-point when their horse is trotting faster than would be comfortable to sit. English riders will adopt a two-point position when going over jumps and those riding in hunter shows may be required to show how they can ride two-point at both the trot and the canter. When you're learning to ride, it's a good way to learn how to keep a secure leg position, increase balance, stretch your legs, and ride with your heels down.

Over rough ground on a trail ride, you may wish to ride two-point to avoid bumping your horse's back riding up hills. A two-point position will help put your weight forward and allow your horse to use its haunches to help push it up the hill. Learning to ride two-point securely is also the first step to learning to jump your horse over fences.

Getting Started

Although you can try adopting a two-point position while your horse is standing, it's a little easier to start out a walk. Start by bending slightly forward at the hips and lifting your seat out of the saddle a little bit. Don't stand up in the stirrups or fold yourself in two. You just want to be slightly forward of center. Don't let your back become swayed or hunched. Stay flexible and relaxed.

Rise up in the stirrups letting your weight drop down into your heels. Your ankle will be flexed, and you'll be holding your own weight up, not just standing up in the stirrups. Don't shove your heels down; just balance, flex your ankles, and let your weight drop downwards.

As you rise up, you'll need to shorten your reins so you can maintain the right amount of contact with the bit. Your hands will be slightly forward of the horse's shoulder. There should be a straight line through the elbow, hand, reins and bit. Don't lower or lift your hands, clench with your legs, or hold yourself up with your hands. Your knees will be slightly bent so you can flex with the movement of the horse. Keep your head up and your eyes forward.

You are using your thigh and core muscles rather than pinching with your knees. Keep practicing to improve your skills and muscle tone.


  • Don't grip with your calves, as this may encourage your horse to go faster.
  • You should be rising from the knees up. Don't let your legs slide forward or slide backward.
  • Keep your shoulders squared, and don't collapse to one side or the other. Keep your balance in the middle.
  • Give with your hands as the horse moves its head and neck.
  • If you're really having trouble, try shortening or lengthening your stirrup leathers. You should neither be straining up on your toes, nor be folded up like a jockey.

Working With a Coach

If you're not feeling completely secure, ask your instructor or coach to put a neck rope or strap on the horse, or a grab strap on the front of the saddle if there is no horn. You could also use the mane. This will give you a place to hang onto rather than holding on with the reins. Try holding the two-point position and only use the strap if you lose your balance.

If you're still having a hard time, your instructor may put your horse on the lunge line, allowing you to concentrate on your position without worrying about the reins and hurting your horse's mouth by inadvertently hanging on them.

If you're going to see a show hunter, it's worth getting specific lessons in riding hunt seat so you can add finesse to your skill and understand what judges are looking for.

Increasing the Pace

As you become more secure, you can try trotting, flexing at the knee and hip to absorb the movement. When you've conquered the trot, you can graduate to the canter and the hand gallop. You can also help improve your balance by trotting over poles.