One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “Can you help me sit the trot better?” The following tips will help you with this all-too-common challenge:
- First and foremost, your horse needs to be on the bit. If his back is hollow, stiff, or tight, you’ll find it impossible to sit comfortably — and, in turn, you’ll make your horse uncomfortable too!
Here are the aids to ask your horse to come on the bit:
- Close both calves as if you’re asking for a lengthening or a medium gait.
- A fraction of a second after you feel a surge from behind, close your outside hand in a fist to capture, contain, and recycle that power back to the hind legs.
- Keep both legs and your outside hand closed for about three seconds.
- If your horse starts to bend his neck to the outside during those three seconds, give some soft squeezes on the inside rein to keep his neck straight.
- Soften and go back to maintenance pressure of your legs and hands.
- Slow the trot down. Ride “sub-power,” and when you can sit easily, increase the impulsion for just a few strides at a time. Then slow down again.
- Put your horse on the bit in posting trot. Once he’s round, sit for just a couple of strides. Start posting again before you feel like you need to grip with your legs. Reorganize your body, relax your legs, and sit again for just a couple of strides.
- Cross your stirrups over the front of the saddle. Post without your irons until your legs are tired. If they’re tired, you can’t grip, so you’ll sit deeper.
- Focus on your hips. Notice how they open and close in the walk. Mimic that motion when you’re in sitting trot. The looser your hips are, the easier it’ll be for you to sit with the motion of your horse.
- Pretend you’re a belly dancer. As you swing your hips, use a buzz phrase like “Do the hootchie kootchie.”
- Hold the front of the saddle with your inside hand. Use that hand to pull you deeper into the saddle so you can learn the feeling of sitting close to your horse in sitting trot.
- Relax your knees and thighs by taking then an inch or so off the saddle for a moment, letting them drop, and then placing them on lightly again. (If you pinch with your knees or draw your legs up, you pop yourself right up out of the saddle!)
- Take lunge lessons. This is the best way to develop an independent seat so you can sit the trot easily. Don’t use any reins or stirrups. Let the person lunging you handle steering and controlling the speed. Do exercises in which you move one part of your body while you keep the rest of your body still (arm circles, scissor kicks etc.). Also, just practice sitting deeply on your horse in his traveling gaits as well as through upward and downward transitions.
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