You learned that the posting trot makes traveling from point A to point B more comfortable on a
horse. But posting also has a downside: Because you're up and out of the saddle more than half
the time, you lose a bit of control. The posting trot certainly has its place, but it falls short in these:
When the horse is misbehaving, when you're training a horse and when the footing is rough.
These are all times when you need more control over your horse and your position. To achieve
that control, you need to learn to sit to the trot, instead of post. Sitting to the trot simply means
that you stay in the saddle as the horse trots, which lets you exert more pressure on the horse with
your weight. Eventually, you'll find the sitting trot even more comfortable than the posting trot.
Those of you who also want to learn how to ride Western certainly will want to learn to sit to the
trot. Western riders seldom post to the trot, or the jog, as they call it.
The horse you'll ride today is Foxy.
Foxy is the boss among the geldings, commanding their respect by his stoic presence. Foxy likes
to eat more than anything else in the world. He even likes his worming paste. He has a knack for
opening stall doors, a trick he's mastered so he can get to the grain in the feed bin. Consequently,
he has a double lock on his door to prevent him from gorging himself and coming down with a case
Despite his tough manner in the field, he's actually calm and cooperative with riders. His only
drawback is that, well, he's a bit bumpy. In fact, he's been called the horse with square wheels. He
teaches beginners to sit to the trot in a hurry, or wish they had. His attitude seems to be, "Well, I
may not be happy about it, but it's time to go to work." Foxy walks nicely out of his stall and to the
ring. He stands quietly while you mount.
Introduction to the Sitting Trot
The aids to the sitting trot are the same aids that you learned for the trot in lesson 2, but your body
moves differently as the horse moves. When the horse trots, his left front and right hind legs (and
right front and left hind legs) hit the ground at the same time. His motion is not straight up and
down, so yours shouldn't be either. There's a pitch and roll to it, like a ship on the high seas.
To continue with the nautical analogy, many good sailors have a peculiar posture; they tend to
stand with their knees slightly flexed, which gives them a bowlegged appearance. That's because
they've learned to follow the ship's motion -- its pitch and roll -- with their bodies, which requires
angulation of the joints. By flexing their knees, they absorb shock. If their posture remained stiff
and ungiving, they'd take the full brunt of the waves.
Riders must learn to give similarly. If you go with the horse's motion, you lessen the shock. If you
resist it, you're in trouble. Moving in harmony with the horse is what makes the sitting trot a
beautiful way to ride. If you can learn to do the sitting trot, you'll look darn good up there. Don't
believe me? Watch more advanced riders. They almost exclusively sit to the trot.
Gripping Is a Sin!
You're mounted in the ring, warmed up, and ready to go. You ask Foxy to trot and he nicely sets
off down the side of the ring. You don't post. Whoa! You're bouncing straight up in the air. Your
hands fly around uncontrollably. Foxy begins to speed up. Time to halt and talk about this,
assuming you haven't bitten off your tongue.
Some riders pick up the sitting trot right away. If you don't, don't worry. Many students find this
seat a challenge. You've actually sat to the trot already, before you learned to post. It may only
have been for a few strides, but you did it.
You'll remember that I advised you not to try to analyze the mechanics of the posting trot and to try
to feel it instead. With the sitting trot, however, an understanding of the mechanics can help.
The sitting trot requires balance, suppleness, and poise. Here's the bottom line, folks: If you grip,
there is no way you can hold yourself in the saddle when the horse trots. You must not grip.
Gripping is bad.
Remember something called surface tension from high school physics? If you let the air out of a
basketball, it won't bounce because you've released the surface tension. Something having
surface tension will bounce. If you grip with your legs on a saddle, you create surface tension in
your buttocks and thighs, and you'll bounce. The only way to release the surface tension is to relax
and grip. Don't grip.
Riding well also requires good balance, and for something to be well balanced, it has to have a firm
base. In riding, you want to keep your base -- your center of gravity -- as low as possible. (Men
have a bit of a disadvantage here because they tend to have more muscle mass, or weight, in their
top half than do women). To keep your center of gravity low, all your weight should be directed
downward, into the saddle.
To repeat, gripping raises you out of the saddle and destroys your balance. Without balance, you
grip harder. Then you come up farther. Before you know it, you're bouncing wildly, the horse goes
faster, and you lose control.
Remember what riding is all about. It's nothing more than balance, poise, and suppleness.
Judicious contact between rider and horse preserves balance. The key word here is judicious.
A Mounted Exercise to Find Your Seat Bones
This mounted exercise will take us to the next step in
learning the sitting trot. Foxy is standing cooperatively
at the halt. Now find your seat bones.
1. Take your feet out of the stirrups.
2. With your legs extending straight down, lift them out to the side
two or three times. You should feel two definite bones in your rump.
These are the lower ends of your hip bones.
3. Roll back on those seat bones. Your hips will also roll backwards.
Now roll forward onto those bones. Your hips roll forward, too.
Do this without moving your shoulders, raising your legs,
or tightening your thighs or knees.
4. Roll back and forth quickly several times, maintaining
your upper body position.
That's the sitting trot!
|Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156 fax: 301-421-9049