Teaching Sitting Trot -

By: Sally Cochran

To many people, learning the sitting trot is even harder than learning to post. Posting helps your movement because you can follow the horse's step as it trots. Sitting, however, involves letting your body relax enough to follow the horse's movements in harmony ' definitely easier said than done! As a general rule, every student will do a sitting trot before they learn to post. My students start out learning sitting trot for the first lesson or two, then move on to learn posting.

 

Once they've gotten a good idea of the posting trot and are relatively good at it, I teach them sitting trot ' because by that point they will have a better sense of balance, an understanding and practice of how to control the horse and ask for a faster or slower trot, and know what to do if the horse goes too fast or gets out of control.

 

When your student attempts sitting trot, it helps to have them imagine wrapping their legs around the horse's barrel. This will sit them deeper in the saddle, sitting in the correct place, and enable them to move with the horse as it trots. Many people tense up when they need to just relax and follow the horse's motion with their hips and pelvis. Just like we went over earlier with the 'rocking chair' example, if the rider is leaning too far forward or backward in the saddle it will throw their balance off and make it a lot more difficult to settle into the rhythm of the horse's movement. It can help immensely to have the student ride without stirrups ' either on a lunge line or with the instructor leading the horse. For a beginning student, it's enough to worry about to stay on top of the horse without worrying about where the horse is going or how fast!

 

Sitting trot, done correctly, should look effortless. The rider's seat should not move out of the saddle. Thinking about the horse's movement ' if the horse's back is moving up and down, then it stands to reason that the rider's seat should follow it in some way to create harmony ' if their seat is stiff, then they will be bouncing around like a pogo stick. Just completely relaxing doesn't work correctly either because then all you're doing is feeling like a sack of potatoes flopping around on the horse's back, which is neither comfortable nor good for the horse's spine, or health in general. It's up to the rider to learn to follow the movement. The key to this is synchronizing the movements of the rider's lower back to that of the up and down undulations of the horse's gait at the trot.

 

Have riders practice this exercise at the walk at first, then at the trot once they're comfortable with the movement. First have them flex their back in, to the natural hollow of the lower back. Just the pelvis should move ' like the runners on the rocking chair that we were talking about earlier ' the upper body should remain still and straight, eyes looking forward, and the heels should be down. Once this position is achieved correctly, have the rider return to the upright position ' rocking back on the 'runners' of their pelvis once more, so that the back is flattened again. Make sure that they don't go too far ' they shouldn't roll back on the pelvis so far that they back rounds out or they are slumping in the saddle with the effort. This is an easy movement, but takes time to perfect ' be patient.

 

This exercise, by using your pelvis as a pivotal point in the saddle to move with the horse, works because it shortens and lengthens your spine in coordination with the height the horse's back is lifted and lowered on each trot step it takes. This is hardest to do at a trot, especially for a new student. Insist on taking baby steps with this exercise ' it's hard to accomplish more than a few strides at a time when you're first starting this exercise! Do lots of walk to trot to walk transitions and allow your student plenty of time to learn this skill fully before asking them to do sitting trot without stirrups or for any great length of time. If the student loses the movement after a few strides, they will start bouncing. This continual beating on the horse's back will cause the horse to stiffen its back, thus making it even harder for the rider to sit the trot.

 

A great article shared with me if you'd like to learn even more about the sitting trot:

 http://www.rogerguevremont.com/pdfFile/LearningTrot.pdf

 

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