Horse riders Top Question “WHY CAN’T I SIT THE TROT?”

teach riders every week who ask me “How can I sit the trot?”

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Get an Independent Seat

Creative Commons License photo credit: netg15

Most riders don’t realize they don’t have to grip to keep themselves in the saddle. Horse riders must have an independent seat that swings separately from their back, legs and upper body.
If you grip with your legs, it is like putting a paper clip on too many papers, it will ‘pop’ off. Relax your legs and balance on the saddle. Use your legs to cue your horse rather than staying on.

The key to sitting the trot is having an independent seat.

How to get an independent seat

Step 1

Begin to test your riding by performing some simple riding exercises. At the walk remove your feet from the stirrups and simply ride without stirrups.

Step 2

While walking without stirrups reach forward with one hand and slide your hand, starting from in front of the saddle up the horse’s neck. While doing this, keep your legs in the correct riding position. If you lean forward and your leg slips back you do not have an independent seat. Prevent your legs from slipping back by stretching your legs down and forward.

Step 3 – repeat! Make riding without stirrups and riding exercises a permanent part of your daily riding program. For more tips lik this try these 20+ Exercises to Improve Your Riding Position.


About Laura

Laura Kelland-May is the founder of Thistle Ridge Skill Builders Development Program. She more than trains horses, she trains people to train their horses. In addition she is a Sr. Judge and can offer insight into What the Judge Is Looking For. Follow her here and get more tips.
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6 Responses to Horse riders Top Question “WHY CAN’T I SIT THE TROT?”

  1. You’ll laugh at this, Laura, but consider testing it out. I always thought I had a good seat (good glue and decent natural balance, certainly – I’m at an advantage with short legs and a low center of gravity), but realized there was a whole ‘nother level. You’d be amazed how quickly you find your center when atop a fractious horse with jacked-up stirrups. I’m not suggesting anyone try this, of course, but I always figured longer legs provided the best opportunity for ‘finding your seat.’ The connection I (finally) developed with the horse when my legs were taken completely out of play (sans stirrups for steadying) was amazing. I never would have imagined this, but I learned more about effective dressage riding from galloping race horses than I did from some of the discipline instruction.

  2. An exercise that will really test your center and your independent seat is posting on one stirrup only.

    The other is learning to do a 10% Kegel exercise (engage the pelvic floor) but keep the butt and thighs soft. Your horse will be so happy you did that! :)

  3. Laura says:

    Thanks for this. Riding with one stirrup is W A Y more difficult than no stirrups. Thanks for reminding me about this one.

    People often forget about their core and other muscles. they focus on what they see, their legs and their hands and forget their is an internal structure to be supported and strengthened.

  4. Laura says:

    Oh boy… Riding fractious youngsters with jockey length stirrups… no thanks. :)

    I am always amazed with how many reminders of HEELS DOWN you can say… But MAN o MAN when the horse puts their head down for a little fractious horse play those heels can be jammed down in a hurry. Quite Recently This happened and the riders leg, heel and body position lengthened and the weight went right down and anchored her securely into the saddle.

    Thanks Nanette…

  5. Jes says:

    I’d like to second the galloping racehorses comment! It really helped all of my riding, including dressage. I always had more trouble sitting a trot in a western saddle than english (I rode barrel racers so we didn’t have the nice easy jog, at least I didn’t). After the thoroughbreds it was no problem! Thanks for the great article!

  6. Laura says:

    thanks Jes.
    I have never had the opportunity to ride barrels or really ride in a western saddle. They do look comfy though.

    Yes when you are a top a young fresh TB every tip and trick you ever heard or saw comes into being. Heels down shmeels down – you do whatever it takes to stay on top of the little lovelys.

    Thanks for commentling. Hope to hear some great stories of you and your endevors.

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