The Rough Truth - Sitting The Trot
Sheer panic sets in at the sound of these words. "Ok everyone, its time to drop your stirrups!" Heart rates quicken, inner thighs quiver and the flash of you trying to walk up the stairs to your apartment tomorrow make you queasy. 
But here's the thing about learning to sit the trot. There's no shortcut. Everyone who has developed a good seat has gone through the pain and agony of learning to sit. If you want to know the fastest way of securing a good seat, here it is: sit the trot as much as you can. But here are some things to keep in mind.
  1. Don't be discouraged. It takes a lot time to develop an independent seat. Dressage is about shedding the ego and making yourself vulnerable. No vulnerability, no advancements.
  2. Shedding the stirrups actually speeds up the process. We often use the stirrups as a crutch, hovering slightly to brace for impact, which only makes the trot feel way worse. You'll probably be surprised how much better you sit when the stirrups are dropped.
  3. Focus first on your upper body. The goal here is to stay vertical. Keep your head up. Leaning forwards or backwards only makes things worse. Way worse. Vertical is key. Being vertical means you are now in balance, and even if you bounce, you'll only bounce straight up and straight down. Being flung forward and backwards like a pin ball in a bonus round isn't good for you or your horse.
  4. Don't fight the bounce. I try to remind my students of this all the time. Fighting the bounce creates rigidity in your body only leading to more bounce. Bouncing is fine, as long as its straight up and down.
  5. Keep only enough tension in your upper body to remain in a vertical posture.
  6. Arms loose and elbows at your side. Elbows flapping like a baby duckling trying to take flight for the first time isn't helping anything.
  7. Keep your hands low.
  8. In order to keep your seat loose its imperative to keep your abs and thighs loose.
  9. When you start to bounce think of trying to pull your upper thighs away from the horse. When people start to bounce the first thing they want to do is clamp with their legs. This clamping will slightly lift your seat away from the saddle making it significantly easier for you to get out of rhythm. Pulling your legs away from the saddle will drop your seat back into contact with the saddle and back into rhythm with your horse.
  10. Don't worry about having your heel down without stirrups. Focus instead on keeping your whole leg relaxed and loose.
  11. Breathe. Long inhales and slow exhales.
  12. A leather strap across the front of your saddle that you can use to pull yourself into the saddle is a good way to get the feel of what being connected to your horse feels like. But don't get too used to it. Its cheating. 
  13. Initially, keep the trot tempo slow. Build energy in the trot as you get more and more comfortable in the sitting trot. 
  14. Be kind to your horse. It hard on their backs when we are learning this skill so take frequent walk breaks where they can stretch their neck.

Be patient with yourself as its going to feel awful. But stick with it and before you know it you will be sitting like the best of them! 

Happy Riding!




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