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 of colic.

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


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