Once you’ve gotten a horse to start walking, the process for trotting is essentially the same. The standard command to ask a horse to trot is to squeeze gently with the lower legs. The pressure being applied should be greater than what you use to get the horse to walk forward.
When you first get started, you’ll find that there can be a lot of up and down movement in the trot. This can even cause you to “bounce” somewhat while you are in the saddle. This means knowing how to trot a horse involves keeping yourself in control as you are teaching the new gait commands.
Here’s the good news: you can master the trot.
Why Do You Bounce During the Trot?
If you try to sit during the trot, then there’s a good chance that you’ll start to bounce. It’s the most common issue that riders face. If you can sit correctly, however, you can take a lot of your body movement out of the ride. This is important to do for a number of reasons.
- It keeps you in harmony with the horse. Sitting the trot allows you to stay in better control of the dynamics which occur during this gait.
- It keeps you within the center of gravity. If you try to stand during the trot, then you’ll change the center of gravity for the horse. Sitting allows the horse to carry you with greater ease. This prevents movement interference, which may ultimately cause the horse to become unbalanced.
- It keeps you in a progressive state of mind. If you’re unable to sit the trot, then training the horse becomes more difficult. You’ll be able to increase your influence and communicate in a positive way.
The trick to sitting the trot is to become in-phase with the specific gait of the horse. As the up-and-down motion occurs, you begin to bounce because your movements have become out-of-sync with the movements of the horse. You have to anticipate the movement and decrease your own up-and-down momentum. Otherwise you’re going to be out of control in just two or three strides and that will make the trot difficult to manage.
Why You Shouldn’t Lean Backward During the Trot
Whether you’re just teaching the horse to trot or you’re trying to improve your dressage skills, one of the most common counters to bouncing is to lean backwards in the saddle. By leaning beyond vertical toward the hindquarters, you’re able to stabilize your hip joint and use the muscles of the thig and arms to lessen the overall bounce.
And that is not a good idea. Not only is it potentially dangerous to your health, but it can also injure the horse.
It’s a poor solution for the rider for a number because it causes several negative outcomes.
- It impairs the effectiveness a rider has in communicating with the horse while under the trot, creating less overall control over the ride.
- It places pressure on the back ligaments of the rider, causing the spine to react inappropriately while riding.
- It causes pain and repetitive riding in this position is known to create degenerative back issues.
That kind of positioning also affects the balance and movement of the horse. From a dressage standpoint, it encourages the horse to maintain an extension pattern.
So how do you change the positioning so you can trot on a horse effectively? The first question to ask yourself is this: if the horse was not underneath you, would you be able to land on your feet? If the answer is “no,” then you need to change your position.
You can begin the process by noticing that there is a rhythm to the trot that you can counter with your hips and core muscles so that you’re able to remain stable. Yet being able to sit while trotting isn’t an effortless process. It is one that is physically demanding and will take time to correct, especially if you countered the movement by leaning backwards already.
How to Trot on a Horse Safely and Effectively
The first thing you’ll need to do is find a neutral position for sitting. When you go beyond vertical, you get used to your sitting bones angling forward. This causes you to angle backward to prevent from tipping. This makes you look more like a pendulum because you continue to overcorrect. This is why a neutral seating position is necessary. Find a place where your sitting bones, shoulder, heel, and hip are aligned vertically and you are able to remain comfortable.
You can practice this positioning without needing to mount. Find a chair and sit on it as if you were in the saddle. Keep your feet flat and make sure your knees are at a 90-degree angle to your hips. Then have someone press firmly straight down on your shoulders. Move back and forth just a little, feeling the give that you have in your spine. When you find the place that there is no give, then you’ve located your neutral position.
This is what you will need when you’re under the saddle.
Then it’s time to start working out. Your torso needs to be toned enough that it can give you stability throughout your arms and legs. You can feel the muscles that you’ll need to work on when you sing. The muscles will firm up around your sides, abdomen, and back. Once you recognize the muscles that are going to be used, you can reproduce the “firming” feeling on your own to give your torso some added strength.
You’re also going to need strong thigh muscles in order to sit on the trot properly. It is this muscle that is going to be absorbing a lot of the movement that occurs during the trot so you can be stationary. Instead of pushing your knee down, sit and consciously keep your foot planted on the floor while sitting in a chair. Then give your leg the command to raise upward, but keep the foot flat on the floor. Those are the muscles you are going to need to use.
You can also strengthen your legs and torso by sitting in an invisible chair. Press your back against a wall and slide down until your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Then maintain that position for as long as you can.
Now You’re Ready to Teach Your Horse How to Trot
When you are able to master your positioning, you’re able to teach a horse how to trot. Keep the horse at a pace that is fairly lively while you are engaged in a balanced walk. When you’re ready to increase speed, shorten the reins and then squeeze with pressure from your legs. Keep squeezing until you achieve the trot.
You may need to use a quick, but gentle kick to encourage the trot. Some horses may also respond better with a verbal command to transition to the trot.
Most horses will be hesitant to maintain a trot while under saddle for the first time. You may only get 4-5 strides at the trot before the horse decides that it is time to return to the walk. This is normal. Praise the horse for achieving the trot and then you can return to it at a later time.
The trot is a two-beat gait. This means the horse is going to use his legs in a diagonal pattern. Most horses trot by first starting with their left front and right rear leg. Then the horse will reach forward with the other pair of diagonals. As you learn this pattern, you’ll be able to use your balance to post.
Posting simply means that you’re able to rise and lower with the strides of the trot that are produced by the horse. This is where a majority of bouncing occurs at first because many riders incorrectly anticipate the gate and so they create their own bouncing motion.
Learning how to trot on a horse can be a lot of work. There will be moments of frustration when you get it wrong and bounce out of the saddle. You may also experience an added level of resistance from the horse at first, especially if they are just starting to learn how to trot. That means it is just as important to have fun with the experience as it is to get the techniques and mechanisms correct.
You will also want to remember to reward your horse for a job well done. Treats after a ride will reinforce the positive skills that were learned. Praise good behaviors verbally and with pats when they occur during the ride.
Above all else, maintain communication with the horse at all times. You’ll want to make sure the reins are in contact with both their girth and their mouth. Your positioning will help to maintain this communication as well. This will eliminate confusion and ultimately help you and your horse trot successfully on a regular basis.