Thursday, March 29, 2012

Let's Ride! Posting at the Trot

Image property of Dassett Equestrian

The second of the three main speeds of the horse, is the trot. After learning how to walk, the horse learns how to run, which is what riders must also learn to accomplish. It is a rudimentary element before learning to do anything more difficult on the horse. Learning to correctly ride at the walk, trot, and canter improves balance, coordination, and strength.

The trot, which is forward moving, is a "two step" gait. This means that the horse moves two legs diagonal from each other in rhythm. When trotting, the horse's legs follow this sequence: right hind leg with left fore leg, then left hind leg with right fore leg. Two feet will always move together, while the horse's neck and head move slightly to maintain balance. The horse's weight will lift slightly, as if bouncing as the legs move.

Before getting on the horse and starting to ride, riders must wear a helmet and protective footwear. Safety is paramount when combining horses and individuals in activities. Riding horses is an inherently dangerous activity and participants in the activities assume the risk of being injured. You, as the rider, may not always be in control of the horse, but can help to prevent injury by wearing an ASTM/SEI certified helmet and protective footwear (along with clothes, obviously!!). If at all possible, have an equine professional (preferably an instructor) with you during your first ride.
1. First things first, maintain your posture!!
  • When you are sitting on the horse, do not slouch or tense up, as there will be more of a propensity for you to fall off. Maintaining good posture will also help communicate your cues to the horse.
  • Make sure you are sitting square in the saddle and that your balance has not shifted to one side.
  • Keep your legs under you (with feet preferably in the stirrups), not too far forward but not too far back. Do not let your legs move forward as if you are sitting in a chair, and do not allow them to swing. Keep your legs still and "quiet".
  • About a third of your boot should be in the stirrup, with the balls of your feet on the bar of the stirrup. Your feet should be parallel to the horse with your heels down. And toes should not point outward.
  • There should be an imaginary straight line from your shoulders, down to your hips and through your feet, but you shouldn't be able to see your toes if you look down.
  • Arms, wrists, and fingers need to be relaxed but steady. Your hands should maintain steady contact (or tightness) with the reins, meaning you should feel contact between your hands and the bit (the big metal thing in the horse's mouth).
  • And finally look ahead of you or where you are going to be moving to.

2. Complete the steps in How to Pick up a Trot.

3. When you are trotting, depending on the horse, you will most likely feel like you are going to "bounce" out of the saddle. That is because of the two step gait that the horse is performing. You will likely feel this bounce until you can master the sitting trot. So, until that point, you can use posting. As an added bonus, the posting trot can be beneficial to your horse's back!  To start, I like to go with the phrase, "Rise and fall with the leg on the wall" (this will also be the correct diagonal). That is, the front leg of the horse that is closest to the outside of the arena. So when the horse brings that leg up, before extending and moving it forward, is the time when you should "lift" yourself out of the saddle.  And when I say lift yourself out of the saddle, I mean, without disrupting your posture and balance, slightly push your butt out of the seat of the saddle, so it is out of the saddle, but you are not standing up in the stirrups.

4. What I like about the posting trot is that it can be used to increase or decrease the speed of the horse, just by increasing or decreasing your posting speed. Once you understand the posting trot and can perform it correctly, try and increase/ decrease the trot with your posting. See what you can accomplish, just with your seat! You will be pleasantly surprised.

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