How To Sit The Trot Without Bouncing
When we ask dressage riders about the most challenging part of their training, a great number of the answers will probably be “sitting the trot”. Challenging or not, it is one of the most essential parts of dressage training. If you cannot sit the trot, you will be doomed to stay at the beginner level because you won’t be able to move on to more complicated movements.
It is ok to have difficulties when you are learning how to sit the trot. You can be bouncing in the saddle, can’t sit properly, and move your arms continuously. It is even harder for adults who lack regular exercise and muscle memory to sit the trot without bouncing. If you are learning dressage and can’t help bouncing in the trot or leaning forward-backward, here are some effective tips to help you sit the trot like a professional:
1.) Understand why you bounce
Understanding the trot is the main step to improve. You might already know about this but we want to restate it because you need to know everything about this movement so that you can adjust yourself to it. The trot is a gait that consists of 2 beats. If you ride the trot by standing up in the stirrups and sitting down again, you already know that 1-2 rhythm. 1 you stand - 2 you sit, and continue doing it until the gait changes. This simple stand-sit practice is to avoid the shock that the horse’s body creates with each time his body moves forward and his hooves hit the ground. As the horse pulls a hind leg, your hip on that side rises suddenly and you find yourself up. Before your body returns back to the saddle, the other hind leg moves and throws you up again along with the shock coming from the hooves. When you try to sit the trot, you cannot avoid the shock. With each step, the shock will throw you up-up-up-up! The only thing you can do is to find a way to absorb the shock in your body and make it flow to another direction. In this case, the direction should be: core -> hips -> knees -> ankles. To do it, you need to have a strong core, flexible legs, knees, and ankles.
2.) Master the walk
This is another simple tip that will sound easy for you but, the trot is similar to the walk in some ways. The walk is a gait that consists of only 1 beat and it goes only forward. You don’t need to stand up and you can take that slight shock without any problem. In both gaits, the side of the back, on which the hind leg swings forward, feels a bit lower, the rider’s leg on this side swings slightly inward towards the horse’s belly. The only difference in trot is that it is faster and the shock is more powerful upwards. You need to master the walk and must be able to understand which leg is swinging inward.
3.) Practice in the lunge
Practicing to sit the trot in lunge will allow you to focus on your posture and the movement without worrying about where you are going or how you will use your aids.
Start with a slower trot to take things easy. Focus on the horse’s movement which has 2 beats up and forward. An easy way to adjust yourself without getting cramps is to ride the trot with stand-sit for a while and trying to ride it for 1 lap without rising and 1 lap with rising again until you are comfortable with both ways. When you get used to it, you can try to sit the trot for longer and longer.
4.) Support your hips with the stirrups
You have already learned the principal of the trot. So, when a hind leg moves forward, your leg and hip on that side rise up. The same thing happens to the other side in the next quick step. To avoid bouncing with each step forward, you can support your hips by using the stirrup on that side. You don’t need to stand up or push yourself. All you need to do is to have a proper leg position in the stirrups and support your body with the side that moves up. Try to take the shock with your core and make it flow through your legs to the stirrups.
5.) Don’t grip your knees
When you try to stay in the saddle so that you grip your knees and kind of squeeze the horse by doing that, you are more likely to lose your balance and bounce even more because the power you apply at that spot will throw you up as the horse moves. To let the shock flow, you shouldn’t grip your knees and ankles. Try to relax and be more flexible. Try to grip the saddle with the most upper part of your thighs and the hips instead.
6.) Keep the toes in
If you are trying to keep your legs relaxed in the trot, you may end up having your toes out. If so, just keep your knees relaxed and move your feet inward to keep the toes in. When you try to do this, you will recognize that your thighs will work stronger and you will be able to keep your position in the saddle easier.
7.) Move your ankles
As we mentioned above, the last point that the shock should pass is your ankle. If you want to keep your posture and make that shock flow easier, you can push your heels slightly down and move back up in a rhythm just like stand-sit. Try to keep your stirrups fixed and just move the heels up-down by getting help from your calves. This way, you will be able to let the shock in your hips flow through your knees and go out from your heels.
8.) Ride without stirrups
We can hear you saying “Hey, I can’t do it without getting help from the stirrups!”. You might even hate No-stirrup November but mastering to ride the trot without stirrups can help you sit it better. You can do it and ride it without stirrups. Just relax, start with a nice slow walk and when you start to trot, use your thigh and core muscles to move your body slightly up and down. If you can do it well, you can try to sit and just swing your legs and make the shock flow through your body without using the help of the stirrups.
9.) Do regular exercise
Regular exercise is the key to create a perfect muscle memory that will help you stay in shape, keep your posture in the saddle. It will also help you get the shock of the 2 beat-trot into your body and make it flow to another direction. We recommend doing regular stretching exercises, yoga, or any other exercises that you like. When making an exercise plan, make sure to focus on your core strength and make your legs and arms more flexible. You can also check out our blog post about Equestrian Fitness here.