How to trot your horse: a guide for beginners

By Julie Harding on |


How to trot your horse

Are you hot to trot? If you’re sitting correctly and feeling confident in walk, now is the time to gently up the pace — if your instructor thinks you are ready.

But what should you expect?

You may already have seen beginners bouncing around in the saddle, looking uncomfortable and totally out of harmony with the horse as he trots around the arena. Meanwhile, sporting superstars make it look a breeze as they rise and sit to this two-time pace.

Rising vs sitting trot – what’s the difference?

As a rider you have a choice. You can either opt for the rising or the sitting trot, but basically, once mastered, the former is a much more comfortable technique for rider and horse, so it is worth persevering and learning rising trot well.

However, the trot is one of the most difficult paces to master, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t ‘get it’ straight away. It may take several lessons to feel confident at this pace.

Be aware that what you have to attempt to do is rise as the horse moves one diagonal pair of legs forward (for example right foreleg and left hind leg) and sit to the opposite pair (left foreleg and right hind leg). You will find that the spring in the pace will help to propel you upwards anyway. When you are first learning to trot there is no need to worry which diagonal movements you rise and sit to — that knowledge will come as you progress and master the technique.

Practice your trot

It is a good idea to practice the movements while the horse is stationary. This will undoubtedly give you an advantage when you ask him to move forward into trot for the first time.

You will need to keep your lower leg still, in the same correct position as you had for standing and walk, just swinging upwards and slightly forward with your hips and lower trunk, then sitting back down gently into the saddle in a continuous movement: up down, up down in a rhythm with no break in between.

When you do this as the horse moves, ensure that you do not try too hard and exaggerate the upward movement — launching yourself out of the saddle in the process — which is a common mistake beginners make. Another familiar mistake is to lean the upper body forward or to hold the hands too high. There is no need for the hands to move from their original correct position, while the rider’s shoulders and head should stay nicely upright.

Sit still in the saddle

Sitting trot looks to be the easier technique — but it isn’t. When a horse trots, the movement is exceptionally bouncy and when a novice rider tries to sit to this, the tendency is to tense, grip harder with the legs. You will consequently find yourself thrown all over the place.

The secret is to relax and sit deeply into the saddle. By relaxing, the rider can absorb the bounce into their torso. Remember, too, to breathe and use slow breaths as a means of improving relaxation.

Kick on

So now you are now equipped with the knowledge to trot, how do you move the horse forward into this fun pace? Basically, just as you squeezed with your lower leg to get him to walk forward, you do the same for the trot, although often the pressure needed will be more, and for some horses you will need a gentle kick.

Off you go!

Image: Trakehner in motion by Kathleen Conklin via Flickr, CC BY 2.0


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