Mastering the art of sitting trot is not easy and takes time to perfect. Dressage rider and trainer Sam Turner helps you get it right.

The rider’s position and breathing can be a big influence in sitting trot. I see many who are struggling with it because they aren’t lined up in their position. From a biomechanical point of view, you need to have a neutral pelvis – this is when your seat bones are pointing directly down towards the ground. Once you are in this position you can plug into your horse, so it’s much easier to follow their movement.

Many riders end up gripping with the back of their thigh and sitting back slightly in sitting trot because it feels easier, but what you’re doing is driving your seat bones into your horse’s back – that’s like jabbing your fingernails into your own back, so your horse drops their back and runs away. You then grip too much with your thigh to try to stop yourself bouncing.

Establish a neutral pelvis

Your seat bones are the connection between you and your horse – you want as much of your surface area attached to your horse as possible.

This exercise will make you aware of where your seat bones are. Ask someone to hold your horse while you do this.

How to ride it:

  1. Take your feet out of your stirrups.
  2. Lift your knees right up so they are in front of the pommel of your saddle – so you’re sitting a bit like a jockey.
  3. In this position, feel where your seat bones are, adjusting your position if necessary so that they’re pointing downwards towards the ground.
  4. Keep this seat bone position as you slowly relax your legs down into the normal position.
  5. Take back your stirrups, maintaining a neutral pelvis.

It may take some practise to maintain this position while your horse is moving. If you feel yourself slipping back into old habits, repeat the exercise.

Don’t grip with your thigh

As I’ve mentioned, many riders grip with the back of their thigh to try to stop themselves bouncing. It’s that big muscle at the back of your thigh that you need to take off your saddle flap.

When I’m teaching, I ask riders to think of the snow ploug position (if you’re a skier) or pigeon toe. Whichever imagery works for you, the aim is to encourage you to alter the position of your thigh so that the inside of it is gently on the saddle and the back of your thigh is off the saddle.

This then allows you to support your won bodyweight, rather than gripping with the back of your thigh and sitting back.

Relax those glutes

Some people tighten up their glutes (the muscles in the bottom). This is usually because they’re trying to hard that their buttocks are like two hard-boiled eggs, making it virtually impossible to ride a good sitting trot. Try thinking about your bottom as a fried egg – just let everything relax. Obviously you do need some tone, but it you have your glutes too tight, how can you expect your horse to bring their back up and work in your rhythm?

You need a level front and back, and a neutral pelvis. Your weight should run down your thigh, allowing you to support your own bodyweight. The back of your calf should be off, so your horse can move freely from behind.

Meet the expert: Sam Turner has successfully competed at grand prix level dressage with her traditional cob Billy Whizz. Based in Worcestershire, Sam offers freelance training to riders of all levels. She has a particular interest in biomechanics and qualified as a Ride with your Mind (RWYM) trainer in 2019. 

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