Tips to Help You
If your instructor doesn't object, take a narrow strap with you to your lessons, a short belt will do. Pass it through the two 'D's that you will find on the front of the saddle, just under the small flaps called the 'skirts', and fasten it so that the strap is doubled, and just the right length that you can hook your fingers through when holding the reins. This is much better than a strap round the horse's neck, as it keeps your hands in place, and aids your balance far better. You will find that you do not need to pull against it. Just holding it will stabilise your balance, in any of the paces.
Rising trot, when performed correctly makes it very easy for the horse to carry us, and is also little effort for the rider to trot long distances without tiring, but when ridden badly, it is another story altogether.
We looked at saddle design on one of the other pages, and here it needs another mention. When the stirrup bars are too far forward on the saddle, it pushes your seat onto the back (cantle) of the saddle. When trying to rise to the trot, you will already be in the wrong position to allow the horse's movement to move you, rather than you having to pull yourself up and down against the movement. This is the prime cause of lazy horses. When the rider is, to use the horsey term - 'behind the movement', that is out of sync, it slows the horse down considerably. The rider then kicks and thumps him in the ribs to get him to go faster, when all he is saying is 'I can't, you are stopping me'.
What happens is that the rider is not able to maintain a position of the lower leg, whereby the toe is directly under the knee, not in front of it or behind it. When the toe is in front of the knee, the rider is in the 'chair' seat as it is called, with the feet stuck forward and backside pushed to the back of the cantle. The rider then has to lever himself up and down out of the saddle in order to try to rise to the trot.
Chair seat - note the bent line between heel/hip/shoulder/ear
Instructors are also much to blame, by insisting that the rider brings the upper body perpendicular throughout the rise and sit phases of the trot. This is stupid, because it makes it so much more difficult! Instructors saying 'up down, up down' do nothing to help, as this also makes you rise too upright, locking the knee and standing up on your stirrups, landing with a heavy (poor horse) double bounce back in the saddle.
The most important thing to remember, is to keep that toe under your knee. Holding onto the strap on the front of the saddle, if you have one, bring your upper body slightly forward from your hips (not your waist which would make you collapse your lower back and sit like a sack of potatoes), and as you rise, let your hips swing slightly forward towards the pommel (the front arch of the saddle), then return as lightly to the saddle as possible, keeping your hipbones slightly forward as you land in the saddle, so that you are ready to receive the forward and upward thrust from the horse's back.
Don't land with your pelvis upright, as it will again, make you come behind the movement, and land much more heavily in the saddle. Think of allowing your pelvis to swing forward and back, as if making an arc shape, never up and down. In this way, the horse's movement will take you, instead of you having to make an effort to heave yourself up out of the saddle, against the horse's movement, making it so much more effort for you both.
Let's look next at sitting to the trot.
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