Sitting Trot II
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, June 16, 2008 10:21 PM
If you did your home work and read the articles you may already understand why core stability is so important in riding and especially in sitting trot. And correct breathing is a vital component of core strength. To prepare your body for engaging core correctly you can do the following exercises at walk:
  • Start by focusing on your breathing and direct your inhale down into your abdomen. Have a sensation that your abdomen is filling with air and not your chest. Exhale quietly. Make sure your breathing is even, count to 2(3) to inhale and count the same number to exhale. Sit quietly in the saddle, do not move your hips more than saddle moves them. Do not "help" your horse walk.
  • When you can consistently inhale down into your abdomen start exhaling with pursing lips. It will take you longer to exhale like that. Inhale as usual. Instead of pursing lips you can exhale with quiet grunting sound. Such exhaling will engage your deep core muscles. You will feel a strange sensation like something is pushing out from inside your abdomen. I call it "Abdominal Push". If you pat your abdomen at that moment it will feel firm.
  • Next step would be to keep that feeling inside and try to inhale. This is tricky. You still has to direct your inhale down into your abdomen, but the abdomen is firm and does not let the air in. The air will push sideways into your lower ribs. It is not easy to achieve. Continue to exhale with pursed lips and reengage your deep muscle, keep them working on inhale. Breathe evenly. If you succeed you have engaged your core in walk. This takes time to master. Be patient with your body.
That engagement must be there throughout the whole ride: walk, rising trot, sitting trot, canter, gallop etc. But especially in sitting trot, because it is a gait with most bounce. In time your body will keep the abdominal push on it's own. You can speed up the learning process by doing these exercises off the horse: in the car, in the grocery line, before you fall asleep etc.
If you want to try the exercises during the sitting trot make sure your horse has a quiet and soft trot even on the loose rein, or ask someone to put you on the longe line. Ride with or without stirrups. Align your body correctly with your pelvis in neutral, thighs rotated in, feet under you. Grab the pommel of your saddle with one hand if you are not sure you will keep your balance while in trot. Start focusing on your breathing and creating abdominal push. Ask your horse to trot slowly. Keep working on engaging your core.
Some Don'ts you should remember:
  • Do not hold your breath
  • Do not pull your stomach in. This will not engage your core. It will make you very weak and unstable
  • Do not try to move actively in the saddle. Do not push with your hips or pelvis
  • Do not grab the saddle with your knees or calfs
  • Do not try to relax completely
Happy riding...
Comment by Shannon Ardell on Tuesday, July 1, 2008 11:22 PM
Hi, I am struggling with the sitting trot. I live in Chetwynd, BC which is an hour from Dawson Creek. We have no instructors here so I am on my own to try to figure out how to improve. To complicate matters some, I have arthritis in my spine, but I am determined to ride and find that a neutral spine is the only way I can ride without pain. Any slight deviation and I tense up because I am slamming my vertebrae together and my back wont take it. To make a long story short, I am wondering if you can further explain the use of the thighs without gripping them. I have worked for a long time to have draping legs - I used to and still sometimes pinch my knee when I lose balance. I definately feel better draping my legs as when I pinch with my knee, my hip flexor automatically goes tight right along with it. I plan on sending you a video of me riding. I have taken some time off and want to get into a bit better shape! Thanks for any help. Shannon
Comment by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, July 2, 2008 09:27 PM
Hi Shannon,
First of all, gripping is a very strong survival reflex. It is hard to kill it completely because it goes off before our brain can stop it.
Second, until your core is stable you will grip occasionally here and there. Do not get discouraged and work systematically on your core strength and your thighs position. The correct breathing and core strength is vital for your arthritic spine.
Make sure your stirrups are appropriate length. The length depends on your legs, type of your saddle and size of your horse's barrel.
Read articles about rider's posture on my website.
At home, use the exercise ball to sit on it sideways to a mirror. Sit on it in such a way that the ball is between your thighs, knees pointing forward and down and almost touching the floor (you need large enough ball to keep them off the floor). Lower legs are pointing backwards laying on the floor parallel to each other. Pelvis in in neutral.
Look at yourself in the mirror and notice how your thighs are flat on the ball and knees are pointing forward not outward. That is what you want to achieve in the saddle. If it feels uncomfortable in the groin area or hip joints you need to work on stretching exercises . Just sitting like that on the ball is already a good start.
If you feel comfortable create an abdominal push and start bouncing on the ball up and down. Watch yourself in the mirror, your core should not wiggle and your thighs should lay flat on the sides of the ball. Focus on the moment when you sink down and see your thighs spread. Now, consciously grip with your thighs when you go up, relax to go down and grip when you go up. Notice how much more you are bouncing now. same process happens in the saddle.
Next, do not grip but consciously keep your thighs spread apart slightly (without changing their position) even when you go up in your bounce. Feel how much more you are connected to the ball and there is only as much bounce as you have created yourself.
If you find it difficult to keep your balance on the ball and feel yourself falling off sideways work on abdominal push, even weight distribution under your seatbones and stabilizing the thigh opposite from the direction you are falling in. Stabilizing doesn't mean gripping but giving it enough tonus not to be displaced much by the movement of the ball (or horse for that matter).
Remember, you do not bounce on the horse. You let horse bounce under you.
I'm looking forward to working on your video.
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