As you progress in the saddle and master the basics, you can set yourself targets to improve your technique in each of your horse’s paces before moving on to the more technical movements.
The trot can be the most difficult pace for novice riders to master, so it is generally the one that will need the most honing. Spend time perfecting the trot and you will be rewarded in the long term. If finances allow, do this with a well-qualified instructor who comes highly recommended and with whom you gel — you will be wasting your time and money on lessons if you don’t have the right trainer in place.
Now that the ‘hanging on by the skin of your teeth’ phase is passing and you are feeling more confident, how can you improve the trot to make you and your horse look like a professional, harmonious duo?
As a novice you may have thumped back down on your horse’s back, but this is one of the first things that you should rectify. Think how uncomfortable a heavy rider banging down is for the horse.
This way your movements will be streamlined, smooth and soft. By engaging your core you will be able to sit down gently and rise in a controlled way to the horse’s movement.
Novice riders invariably feel that they have to rise as high as they can out of the saddle in trot in an exclusively upward movement, often propelling themselves via the stirrups. They shouldn’t. If they do s,o they will fall behind the horse’s movement, which is uncomfortable for both parties. In rising trot, the rider’s hips should move upwards and then forwards towards the front of the saddle (the pommel) and then back down again in a controlled, relatively small arc movement. Do not thrust the pelvis forward; only move as much as the horse’s movement moves you.
You will discover that you can influence your horse’s speed by slowing or quickening your rise — that way you won’t have to resort on pulling on the reins. A well-schooled horse will respond to the tempo of his rider’s movements.
Although you may be taught to have a back that is as straight as a die, in trot the shoulders should be very slightly forward.
As a beginner, you won’t have worried about which diagonal you rise to in trot in the school. As you progress, you will learn that when riding a circle or turn you need to rise when the outside shoulder (the one closest to the wall of the school) moves forward. By doing this, the horse will be able to step forward more deeply with his inside hind leg, thus aiding his balance.
Use your thigh muscles in the trot movement and don’t straighten your knee. Also don’t be tempted to use your stirrups to thrust yourself forward. In fact, barely place any more weight than usual in your stirrup as you rise.
In sitting trot, sit quietly and still, while allowing your back to shorten and lengthen, thus absorbing the movement.
In trot, as with any movement, it is a case of practice makes perfect. Getting to the stage of unconscious rising and sitting on the right diagonal will come with time. And when you master it you will wonder what the initial fuss and fluster was all about.