Let’s start with an experiment. [if you do it please leave a comment sharing how it felt:) ]
Exercise: It will only take you 2 minutes. You can sit on the floor or on your bed. Sit on your heels, upper body straight. Take your arms to your sides and move up so your are kneeling. Repeat 3-4 times. Do it side by side with a mirror if you can or rest your phone somewhere so you can film yourself doing this. Then, read on and see video at the bottom of this post 🙂 And share your views!
Let’s have a think now…
In basketball, there is a clear difference between bouncing the ball up and down against the floor, and throwing it up and forward on a nice arch so it goes through the net. Different body position and use of limbs, back, shoulders, fingers must be assumed for either.
In equestrian, in rising [or posting] trot, there is a similar difference between an up and down rise when we use the bounce of the horse plus push from the stirrups or forward and up rise & sit when hips of the rider travel on an arch and we lift our body without changing neutral spine posture. Different use of back, abdominal muscles, hips, feet and..thighs.
So, which way is the right way, and why?
You might think, hey I’ve been doing rising trot for so long I don’t even remember when and how I learnt it but if you have issues with your horse’s forwardness, impulsion, straightness, back roundedness, connection back to front, consistency of contact to name just a few, stay for a little longer, it would be great to hear your views!
Over the last 20 years I taught over 14.000 complete beginners or novice riders to ride (I am actually slightly overwhelmed by this number as I decided to under calculate it as not to exaggerate!) and sadly, half of those I would have taught by an up-and-down mantra. In 1997 I came across Centred Riding and changed my ways slowly until I was able to eliminate the need for up-and-down instruction from my teaching vocabulary.
Rising by using your back, upper body motion and/or by pushing up from stirrups (standing up on them) has a huge effect on rider’s ability to stabilise own body, achieve independent hand, encourage free, forward movement in the horse, use their lower legs independently of upper legs, ask for greater collection later in training and the list goes on.
Random freeze frames
I typed in You Tube: ‘my horse riding lessons’ . Below are random freeze frames from some public videos showing what most of us assume is a stage “we all have to go through”. But do we really?
On above photos riders are completely dependent on their horse’s balance having none of their own. Their rising trot mechanics is such that they push themselves upwards using hands, upper body swing and rely on stirrups as if they were a springing platform. This is highly detrimental to horse’s back and willingness to work and for this reason alone it would nice if we avoided it but there is another side of the story: it takes much longer for the rider to acquire balance and confidence if they are taught to rise up and down.
When riders use upper body swing to help with lift they cannot use their upper body to stabilise the horse’s ribcage later when they learn to school. If they don’t learn to achieve stable, controlled thigh position they struggle immensely with using them for turning and positioning the horse’s shoulders.
Let’s look at more freeze frames of rising/posting trot where riders use their thighs to lift them:
The biggest advantage of good mechanics of the rising/posting trot
The cherry on the cake of good body use is that your posture will create a back to front riding…Your own back position and its positive isotonic muscle tension (rather than movement) becomes a driving aid. As the horse loses energy and tries to fall behind your leg (think of a mini feel of sitting in a breaking car that pushes you back into your seat), he/she will feel your own energy counteracting his own and coming from your back forwards. This motivates the horse naturally in the same way as a foal knows to run if nudged by the mare from the back. Rider no longer has to kick holes in horse’s sides if they use their seat/upper body well.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with me? If you ride well, can you tell how you use your thighs in trot? If you teach, how do you teach rising/posting trot to beginner riders?
Have you had a go at the exercise at the start of the post? Here it is again, this time on video which forms part of Aspire’s Start Programme video material. There is nothing like waking up that muscle awareness before beginner riders try it in the saddle 🙂
- Sitting Trot Case Study (plus a Blogger Weekend Challenge!) (aspireequestrian.wordpress.com)
- An Online Shop with a Difference: Come and Purchase some Aspirations 🙂 (aspireequestrian.wordpress.com)
- The magic of a virtual training programme (aspireequestrian.wordpress.com)