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.
Taking It Slow
At this stage, try to sit to the trot only at a very slow speed.  To ride in
balance requires good control of the horse.  You certainly couldn't walk a
jerking tightrope after four lessons.  It's the same with the horse.  So take it
Before you go faster, you also must learn to control the horse better by
doing something called collection.  That means asking the horse to round
up his body to absorb more of the shock and provide a smoother gait.  
You'll learn about collection in lesson 6.  For now, keep Foxy trotting at a
nice, slow pace.  Remember, hips forward with the shock (and back).

The sitting trot is an elusive seat.  If you try too hard when learning it, the
more elusive it becomes.  Your mind just can't fire your muscles fast
enough.  It requires a relaxed state.
You now know all the pitfalls of learning the sitting trot, so expect them.  
Don't get upright when they occur.  Leave those tensions and worries at
home.  Keep in mind that the sitting trot simply involves following the horse's
motion.  With practice, it will become as natural as the sailor's bending his
knees to absorb the shock of the waves.  I guarantee that the first time you
experience it, you'll grin from sea to sea.

Don't Do It Backward
Many students think they've learned the sitting trot correctly, but they've
actually learned it backward.  They roll back with shock, instead of forward.  
Initially, with the horse going slow, this will feel comfortable.  But once the
horse starts to move faster, you'll bounce straight up in the air again.  Why?
If you sit to the trot this way, the saddle moves before you do, and you find
yourself constantly playing catch-up.  Your legs creep forward and your
back hunches.  Before you know it, the bouncing is bruising your butt and
jarring your teeth.  You may very likely come right out of the saddle.

So if your instructor tells you, "You're legs are too far forward and you're
hunching your back," you're probably sitting to the trot backwards.  This can
be hard to see, even for your instructor.  Make sure you roll your hips and
those butt bones forward with the shock.

Private or Group Lessons?

I generally favor group lessons because students find them to be
more fun.  You get to meet other aspiring riders,
make new friends, and share your triumphs and woes.  
In addition, learning to ride takes time in the saddle, and
you can get in twice as much riding time in a group lesson
for less cost.  Group lessons usually run one hour and cost
from around $40 to $45, depending on where you live;
private lessons generally last half an hour
and cost from $55 to $65.

If, however, you run into trouble learning a particular skill,
consider taking a private lesson.  Sometimes that extra instruction,
combined with more practice, is all you need to get back on track.
You're on track if you can:

Stay on the horse at the sitting trot (extra kudos if you don't grip or

Use your arms and legs to communicate with the horse while sitting
to the trot.

Turn the horse while maintaining your posture.

Realize when you've lost your rhythm, stop, and start over.

Why You Can't Sneak Up on a Horse

The horse's eyes have three lids.  You can see two of them;
the third, least visible one helps keep the eye free of dirt and dust.  
After all,it would be pretty difficult for the horse to wipe a
speck of dust out of his eye with a 15-pound hoof,
especially one that has a steel shoe on it.

Notice that the horse's eyes are located on the side of the head.  
That's why he can't see you well if you stand directly in front of him.  
He can, however, see very well to the side and, with his head
down, almost in a full circle, an evolutionary adaptation that
helped protect him from predators in the wild.

Even at night, you can't sneak up on a horse because his
large pupils permit excellent night vision.  If you're out on the trail
after the sun goes down, you might need to worry about hitting
your head on a branch, but you don't need to worry about the horse
hitting his.


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Mike Smith's
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Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156          fax: 301-421-9049