If you had to describe a movement your body feels in sitting trot to a non-rider, how would you do it? If you wanted to tell them how not to bounce in sitting trot, how to stay centred and help the horse via your seat in sitting trot, how would you do it? How does your pelvis move in the saddle and what part of your body absorbs the concussion?
If there is an issue with your sitting trot, if you have difficulty sitting to the movement of your horse, I recommend having a go at the above questions. If you are not sure, take a moment to think before you read further 🙂 I’ll pop another photo below to delay your reading 🙂
If your answer was that the movement is an up and down motion which needs to be absorbed by your lower back I recommend you try a little exercise pictured on photos above. Get someone to lead your horse, place your hands on each side of your horse’s spine where the saddle panels would be and have a little walk. Then get the person leading the horse to trot him/her in hand and try to follow. If you can’t keep up, stand back and watch the motion of the horse’s back.
You will feel in walk that each side of the spine, each side of the back moves forward and up/down but on alternate side. This creates both up-down and lateral motion which your body will need to absorb somehow.
Your lower back alone is not going to be able to do it unless your horse is a very flat mover with little to no actual propulsion from the hind legs.
The Hip Joins
The advice riders often hear is to “relax the hips” or “let your hips go with the horse”. The key is what part of the hips needs relaxing…
Have a look at the rider below. She is my brave guinea pig taking part in Aspire Video Library project and she is working on improving her sitting trot. She has mainly jumped with her horses and is generally a very quiet, neat rider. But…Her feeling was that the movement to absorb was up and down and she tries to deal with propulsion by a) holding on with her legs and b) letting her upper body absorb the movement (I showed it on a video and photos in another post – I will link to it in Related Articles at the end of this post for anyone interested). Such ‘technique’ means that she loses her effectiveness in schooling her horse that she could otherwise have.
Another result of bracing through knees and legs in general is that the seat is inevitably bounced up and away from the saddle. It’s important to realise that majority of issues in sitting trot and full seat in canter stem from rider’s hips/pelvis. Being the biggest joint in direct contact with the horse, rider’s pelvis is an unforgiving “detail”!
Breaking the vicious cycle
If you too have a habit of bracing or only feeling the up and down movement try to first feel the back of the horse with your hands. Then stand on the ground and gently drop the weight into one leg while resting the other and repeat this 20 times. Feel gentle rocking of your pelvis up on one side and down on the other. Now “hold” /”lock” your hip joints in place and try to do this again…Impossible isn’t it?
Imagine how you can “gel” with the movements of your horse’s back if you let your hip joints “give in” on alternate sides in sitting trot, picture the seat bones massaging your horse’s back, one at a time, not both “driving” together…
When sitting in the saddle try to feel those minute movements in your hip joints, first in walk, then in a very slow trot/jog. You will notice that any bracing in your knee or ankle also has an effect on your hip joints so keep checking for each joint and let it work.
One side down the other side up – the movements are very small and as such barely visible to the onlooker but you can certainly feel it.
There are many causes of issues in sitting trot and many exercises in the saddle you can do to help with improving your skill – if you want to see the ones we are using with the rider here, check the full video once it’s ready in a couple of months!
Oh, and if you are not sure where the hip joints are and how they can move have a look at this cool 3 D tutorial:
- Sitting Trot Case Study (plus a Blogger Weekend Challenge!) (aspireequestrian.wordpress.com)