Let’s be honest; many riders don’t really long for a ‘better trot’ in their riding. In fact, most are quite happy to simply work with what they already have right now and see the trot as a filler. A part of the ride that gets you from one thing to the next.
And trotting, by its very nature, doesn’t really help change this! The rhythm can often have a slightly hypnotic effect on riders. Lulling them into a contented 1,2,1,2,1,2,1,2, regardless of how good the trot is – or isn’t.
In this episode, I want to begin helping you to turn your mind towards a better trot. What would it look like for you and your horse? And how would it feel for you and your horse? Finally, how prepared are you to actually allow this better trot to happen underneath you? Will you be able to move with it? Or will you begin to block it with your seat?
Rhythm & Tempo
It is easy to simply accept standard 1,2,1,2,1,2, that you feel and move with every time you trot. Believing that, after finally mastering the whole posting or rising, your work in the trot is complete. Thinking that your sitting trot is as good as it is going to get right now – and not paying attention to it anymore.
Being able to stay with your horse while posting, rising, or in the sitting trot is merely the beginning of your work to encourage a better trot.
And I think becoming more aware of the rhythm and tempo you have right now will then help you know where to focus your attention going forward. Start by really noticing each distinctive hoof beat inside of each stride.
By paying attention to each individual beat, the 1 or the 2, you can then begin to notice what is between those beats – the space.
Creating More Space for a Better Trot
How do you think having more ‘air’ within each of those strides will help you and your horse? It will allow for slightly more time. A bigger movement perhaps. More energy. Which will all contribute to ‘more’ of a trot. A better trot.
Creating space begins with you, the rider. If you lose your balance at the slightest change in tempo or rhythm, this is where your work will begin.
Focus on using your core in a way that positively impacts you in the trot. Whether you are posting or sitting, assess if you’re carrying yourself, or being carried along by your horse’s energy.
Two great exercises to begin testing this are ‘up,up,down’ and ‘down, down, up’. Basically, you are either sitting or rising for an extra beat each time. Two downs, followed by one up. And two up’s (with no down in between) followed by one down. Doing this will allow you to see if you are supporting yourself, or relying on your horse for support.
Blocking with Your Seat
Once you have the basics in place, begin asking bigger questions of your skills by adding more energy into the trot. More energy will require more suppleness – from you and your horse. And it is this lack of suppleness in the rider that often causes the seat to block the flow.
If you feel like you cannot keep up with your horse’s movement, you’re probably right! This is caused by a lack of suppleness (or swing) through your seat.
In sitting trot, the result will be more bouncing. The ‘trampoline effect’ of the horse’s back comes up to meet your bum as it comes down. This causes that uncomfortable ‘double bounce’.
When you’re posting, unable to ‘keep up’ will feel like either being left behind the movement or being bounced out of the movement. Both are caused by the rider depending on the horse to move them – rather than taking responsibility for their own body.
Many riders find that they can do quite well when their horse is ‘slow and steady’ – but as soon as more energy is made available inside of the trot – they are no longer in sync with each other through the movement.
Developing Your Suppleness
Your suppleness needs just as much attention and work as your horses. It truly irritates me when riders spend HOURS working on their horse – and then completely fail to work on themselves! And I believe that riding alone, (unless you are riding all day long, all of the days, the right way), is not enough.
Just like you use different exercises to develop your horse, find different ways to begin developing yourself too as a rider.
The trot requires a ‘hinge-like’ movement through your lower body. And this movement can be difficult if there is any excessive tension or stiffness through the body. Particularly the lower back and pelvis. Exercises that work on stretching this area can be of great benefit to riders.
It is also good to pay attention to symmetry. Is there a side you favor? Or do you find it easier to do things on one rein over the other?
Trotting is very much ‘equal’ from a movement perspective, so it is worthwhile working on developing symmetry through your body. Symmetry and strength. This will then allow you to have more control over your body inside of the trot itself.
And by having more control over your body, you can have a more positive influence on the trot itself.