Savvy is all about: focus, feel, timing, balance, and an independent seat naturally combined.
Riding is nothing more than the mere act of not falling off. What this means is a good rider is someone who can stay on a horse no matter what he does, and probably look quite good doing it.
When you let your horse be the judge, he's going to have an entirely different perspective of what a good rider is.
How is your riding style, where your legs are, how straight your shoulders, how upright your back and whether you stay on or not are not important to your horse. He is going to judge you by feel.
Are you in harmony with his back?
Are you in time with his feet?
Do you zig when he zigs and zag when he zags?
Are your hands steady?
Do you grip with your legs?
Are you stiff and resistant or do you flow easily with him?
Are you truly balanced?
The truth is, most people are not in harmony with their horses. If you were to ride without a saddle and try not to touch your reins, you'll have the facts right there. I believe the main reasons people are not in harmony with their horse are 1) They have not learned to ride bareback well, and 2) They do not know how to be a good passenger.
Normal riding lessons often start in the saddle with a rein in each hand and contact on the horse's mouth... Sit straight, heels down, hands upright... Now kick him to go, steer him to turn and pull him to stop.
It is almost impossible to do all this and get in harmony with a horse when you've not had much experience with horses, and yet that is how most people learn to ride.
Something you hear about is having an independent seat. I define this as not gripping below your knees or using your reins for your balance.
There is no closer secret than that between man and horse, and I'm telling you that your horse knows immediately whether you have an independent seat or not.
Let's look at it naturally. You have to learn how to move with a horse. It's as simple as that. I teach people to take a passenger lesson so they can learn how to find their balance without the complications of reins, steering and trying to maintain a hand and leg position. Let the horse teach you.
Take a Passenger Lesson
This is not as easy as you might think, so if you are considering going out to try it, let me give you some of my perceptions.
First, most people have trouble relinquishing the controls to the horse. We spend much of our time around horses with the belief that we need physical control, and to let go of this can, at first, be terrifying for some.
So, saddle your horse and get yourself in a round corral. The size should be appropreete to your fear level. The more concerned you are about doing this, the smaller the area. You can always graduate to a larger area.
Prepare: practice bending your horse to a stop.
This is also a test for the horse. Most have become so used to being held back that they don't know what to do when they have their head. You could allow your horse to do anything he pleases or you could set some parameters such as, "...you can go anywhere you like as long as you stay in the walk."
If you ask your horse to do this at the walk and he can't hold gait by himself and breaks into a trot, smoothly lift one rein to stop him. (It is far more effective to bend your horse to a stop because this disengages the hindquarters. Pulling on two reins actually engages the hindquarters.) If he slows down, ask him to walk again after he breaks gait. In this way your horse learns to maintain the walk himself.
The next clue is to become aware of your reactions to your horse's movement. Quite probably you will find that subconsciously you'll try to control the direction he takes, stiffening your body when he goes to turn, speed up or slow down.
This lesson is about learning to turn loose to your horse. See what it takes to follow him exactly, through those turns, zig-zags, and gait changes. You'll learn a lot about how you really feel to the horse then.
Bareback riding is the most natural and effective way to develop an independent seat. You have to get in harmony or you don't stay on!
Take passenger lessons regularly. Both of these activities really will help you get into harmony with your horse, develop your riding and "feel," and prepare you to be a more natural rider for your horse.
I wrote an article about fluidity earlier on and about passenger lessons. Go back to those for more in depth.