One of the most common phrases that I come across is, "I need help with my sitting trot" or "I can't sit to the trot but I need to for the test". A large majority of riders feel stiff, tense or just plain floppy when they are doing a sitting trot. Why is it such a hard movement? Well, I think there are a few reasons. Firstly, very few of us ride completely without tension. Negative tension that is. There is positive tension (that allows us to stay upright) and negative tension (that causes us to be rigid). More on that in another post. Secondly, the sitting trot has such a negative connotation that we nearly know we'll fail at it even before we start! Remember, words are very powerful and can influence not just how you think but also how you move. Unfortunately, these two negatives can impact our movement so dramatically that the sitting trot becomes so prohibitive that riders' are unable to progress past a certain grade because they are unable to "sit" for an entire test.
So, how to ride the sitting trot? The first thing I would suggest is to bring awareness of both your left and right ischial tuberosity or seat bones (the boney bits that you sit on). This can be done in a variety of ways. One that I commonly use as a Franklin Method Equestrian trainer is to use Franklin balls under the seat bones. This improves the proprioception (awareness) so that the rider can then use their seat more effectively and indeed, be more aware of the function of the pelvis as a whole in movement. It would also be beneficial to brush up on some basic anatomy of the pelvis. This all increases your awareness of where these parts actually are and what they can do.
We then have to think about the sitting trot. In trot as the horse brings a hind leg forward, the ribcage swings out of the way and we can feel that swing through their back. In terms of sitting to this...when we are in a sitting position, the entire base of the pelvis is wider. This happens because as the ilium rotate (yes our bones are able to rotate-cool right?) the iliac crest or the top of the pelvis rotates inwards and the seat bones rotate outwards creating a wider base. When we add in the movement of the trot as we sit one side drops down and out slightly as the horses' ribs swing in the opposite direction. For example, visualise your seat bones are wide and then the left seat bone drops slightly down and out and then the right seat bone drops down and out. The moment in-between is the moment of suspension.
This is the function of the bones in this particular movement. In terms of riding it, try for only short periods of time. Less is more. Build up your confidence in the movement. It takes practise! I would also recommend not coming in to this work without first working on your awareness and knowledge of function in more simple exercises first. It is essential that the pelvis can move and that the leg is able to "hang" without gripping around the horses' ribcage from the hip joint right down to your foot.
It is also possible to practise this off of your horse. Try perhaps using a swiss ball to mimic the movement or even pop your saddle on a stand and practise feeling and being aware of your seat bones, allowing your leg to hang and maintain relaxation.
Let me know if you find this helpful and what you yourself felt when riding your own horse. I would love to hear! If you would like to learn more about what we do, please check out the other pages on our website and make sure that you have a look at the Toorala Academy. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to send us an email we would love to hear from you!