Monday, November 3, 2008

Please be seated: A sitting trot progress report

My goal for this year is to develop a passably good sitting trot. Oh dear. Less than two months to go, and this goal is by no means a slam dunk. However, I have learned more about sitting trot and what it should look and feel like...

How much do you really sit in a sitting trot?
Either Rainer Klimke or Charles De Kunffy (I forget which) wrote somewhere (I forget where) that one of his great epiphanies in riding was learning to sit lightly. Unfortunately whichever of them wrote it provides no detail (that I would have remembered). How lightly do you sit? How deeply? Can you sit lightly and deeply?

How much muscle?
We're all doing ab crunches and Pilates for better sitting trots, but we're told to relax relax relax. Some of my favorite riders have an extremely powerful seat with a lot of contact. They're obviously effective and in harmony, but the softness/relaxation is less obvious. I experiment with trying to be more or less influential, and I'm not always sure how much is too much. I try to base my riding on Harv's reaction. If only I could feel what it is like to be a Heather Mason, or a Michelle Gibson, for just one ride!

What I think about when I ride
I read the Richard Weis article The Posture Does the Riding a month or so ago. Weis says that sitting trot is a little bit sitting and a little bit standing. Thanks to this article, and to my trainer (who has requested anonymity :-), I have a stronger sense of balancing on the horse rather than just plopping on his back.

Generally speaking when I sit the trot I think about..

  • Supporting my own torso -- rather than letting it drop onto Harv's back, let some of the weight go through my leg to the stirrup.
  • Feeling weight in my stirrups and most importantly, evenly weighting of the stirrups.
  • Being aware of my seat bones resting on either side of Harv's spine; staying balanced over the spine, not sliding to one side or another.
  • Trying to stretch up through my spine while my seat bones "keep a feel" of Harv's back (not perching).
  • Using my seatbones to help Harv adjust his body to stay under me (not the reins, not my leg).
  • Keeping my inside shoulder back on circles, shoulders back and down.
  • Keeping my hands low and slightly apart -- for some reason that helps my seat stabilize.

I have no idea of these concepts are correct or mistaken. What do you all think?


  1. One tip from my trainer that really helped me was to remember that even when sitting, you are riding on a diagnol. That helped me find the rhythm rather than having it just be bouncy.

  2. Thanks I'm definitely going to try this because sitting trot is the bane of my life, both of my horses are insanely bouncy.

  3. "If only I could feel what it is like to be a Heather Mason, or a Michelle Gibson, for just one ride! "

    Here's an idea for a WII fit :)


  4. those tips sound really good - also, good tip from lizgoldsmith...

    the sitting trot sounds easy, but it is probably one of the tougher skills to master well...

  5. I think you are right Stacy to concentrate on letting the bounce go down through the leg--thinking longer heel not, sitting on tailbone. I definitely think of sitting lightly by using those inner thighs--the idea of still posting helps too.

  6. Yes, I tell myself it is like posting except you skip the part where you rise :-)

  7. Since I grew up riding thoroughbreds,I've learned to be able to sit just about any trot. My bigger problem isn't so much my seat, but keeping my lower legs from swinging.

    You're right though; sitting trot is so difficult because you need just the right balance between fluidity and rigidity. If you're too rigid and upright, you bounce. If you sit too heavy, your seat is good but your upper body is all over the place.

    I like your tip about supporting your own torso. You need a slightly heavy seat, a little bit of a relaxed back, but still need to hold your posture so your back isn't absorbing all of the shock.

    Want to practice sitting trot? Ride without stirrups. A lot. But the key is that you have to keep your knees bent and heels down in the same position you would if you were using stirrups. This helps you to more correctly mimic a sitting trot with stirrups, while improving your balance, feel, and strength.

  8. I, too, think of posting when I am sitting the trot. There are some horses that I ride that make this easy and then there seems to be some that it is harder to do with. One suggestion that I have (no rotten tomoatoes) but riding bareback also helps- find an arena where you can ride a straight line and you can really feel how your horse is moving and you kind of mold to that movement.

  9. Jackie pretty much pulled the words out of my mouth - ride without stirrups and learn to memorize that feel. Or even better, ride bareback. When riding bareback you can really get a sense for how the horse's muscles move and how to move with them without getting in the way.

    If Harv has the same shark-fin withers as many of his Thoroughbred brethren, a western saddle pad under a regular bareback pad can work wonders.

  10. This is my first visit to your blog and I'll be back! I grew up riding Western ( switched to hunt seat as a adult) when it's all about the sitting trot. I don't know if this suits dressage but keeping my back supple, like an accordion, was very important.

  11. I read somewhere a long time ago that sitting a trot properly is like when you bounce a basketball. The palm of your hand comes up with the ball and then goes down with it - you don't slap at it.

    That idea of how it feels makes a lot of sense to me, and I try to remember it when I'm trotting. I think essentially it has the same concept as sitting lightly - you're not jamming yourself down into the saddle, but rising and falling with the horse's back.

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  13. Great post Stacy. I had to learn to sit the trot at a young-ish age due to *ahem*.. an abundance of boobage. Between NEEDING to stay with the horse for their comfort, MY comfort was crucial as well. (Still That and riding bareback every chance I got, and really learning to feel for things I think, gave me a decent sitting trot. At least it was decent- time to get back in shape some, and ride bareback some more to REALLY find out!

    Oh- hey- MEGA Congrats on the award too!!!! You surely deserve it!!

  14. I imagine hula-hooping; I keep my upper body balanced while my hips and seat actively follow the motion. I've been taking a gentle yoga class, which has helped my seat. I really recommend it or something like it.

    I've noticed that different horses have a different motion. I feel like riding them gives me a better feel over all. Armani's trot is gently side-to-side, while Huey's is a little stronger and goes forward-and-back. The most challenging horses to sit for me are ones that go up-and-down.


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