Rider Health & Performance

Fit To Sit The Trot : Rider body position can restrict or enhance the horse’s movement.

By Britta Pedersen

Perfecting the sitting trot requires being fit to sit it: Imagine your seat bones have little feet attached under them and that your horse’s back is a trampoline. The rider exerts considerable force onto the horse’s back, equivalent to two-to-three times our body weight during the sitting phase of the trot. As you move with your horse it is your responsibility to absorb the forces emitted through your pelvis as you would with your ‘feet’ softly bouncing on your trampoline (without creating any non-contact time between you and your horse’s back/trampoline).

When the horse and rider move together, they are communicating in a shared language that takes elements from both the human and the equine world. In order to create harmonious movement between both horse and rider, the rider undertakes a much more complex role than it may first appear. 

One of the biggest rider difficulties I am asked to help with is, “How on earth do I sit the trot?”

Trust me when I say, I know what you’re going through here! I personally used to despise anything sitting trot related and it wasn’t until I spent the best part of a month following an intensive a three-day clinic with my then-coach, Leonie Bramall, in no stirrups and posture slings to find my ‘Aha’ moment that my brain and body finally clicked into sitting trot gears!

Understanding the Mechanics

As a starting point, it takes some serious body awareness to sit the trot. If we don’t understand the mechanics of how our bodies move on our horses, then we can’t expect it to make necessary changes. 

Secondly, be prepared to put in some serious retraining work both off and on the horse. Believe me, there is light on the other side of that seemingly huge-strided trot tunnel you are trying so darn hard to make it look effortless up there. You just need to know where to begin.

The way we sit the trot can make it easier or much harder for our horse to carry and move under us. In order to not negatively affect movements throughout the horse’s whole body, we must be aware of how we either limit or increase the movement of the back under us via our own body positioning. We do this by managing our own dynamic balance as we follow the horse’s back with our pelvis. In order to create this type of dynamic balance we need to condition the muscles that manage all forces going through our pelvis and back.

In the dressage rider, the base of support is largely due to the balancing act of the pelvis. These riders do not use the stirrup irons as a balance point, as a jumper rider would be more likely to do. Instead, our seatbones are likened more to that of the feet in a track and field athlete – they are our base of support. We must then learn and be able to disassociate our base of support (pelvis/seat bones) from the rest of our body. It must as a shock absorber to transfer the energy created by our horse’s movement, and engage and apply adequate and appropriate forces of muscle generation/relaxation plus joint mobility at precisely the right time.

Here are my 4 top priority exercises to help you develop your sitting trot posture and efficiency:

Fit to sit the trot
Exercise 2. Lower Abdominal Activations (Transverse Abdominals).  Without correct lower core engagement the sitting trot will be impossible to remain fluid.
Fit To Sit The Trot
Exercise 1. Soft bouncing on a Stability Ball. This teaches us awareness of our body in space under a similar vertical force loading pattern
sitting trot exercises
Exercise 3. Long Adductor Strengthening (Copenhagen Adductor Exercise)

Exercise 3. Long Adductor Strengthening (Copenhagen Adductor Exercise)

Exercise 4. Quadricep & Hip Opening Mobility. If you are ‘hanging on’ with the front of your hips you will always be blocking the horse’s movement when you try to sit the trot.  Work on the concept of ‘Long & Strong’ with excellent range of motion. 

sit the trot exercises

About Britta Pederson:

Britta Pederson is a Registered Senior Physiotherapist & Performance Trainer from New Zealand (RNZPT). She has an extensive career to date, with over 13 years practical hands-on experience in the musculoskeletal field. Britta holds numerous sporting, training and physiotherapy treatment certifications. She has an intense passion for sports and biomechanics, is an Internationally recognized FEI level Dressage Rider, Bikini Fitness competitor, and Freelance Health & Fitness author, making her an expert in her field.

Britta has also been a competitive equestrian rider her entire life. She began at pony club, moving onto horse trials and up the grades to Advanced level. Most recently Britta switched disciplines and was training in the Grand Prix dressage arena. She has been on numerous NZ teams as both an event and dressage rider, in 2013 representing NZ at the Sydney CDI 3* Dressage event, where she was the highest placed female rider in both the PSG & Intermediare 1 divisions.

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