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Here's a quick tutorial on perfecting your sitting trot.
Firstly I must apologise for my dulcet tones... I sound rather like a Sergeant Major! I was a little concerned that you wouldn’t be able to hear me as it was slightly windy so I was trying to speak up, so please forgive the shouty voice!
I have used Chloe for this tutorial. She is very round in the ribcage so this shows you the problems with keeping the leg down. I wanted you to see that even a professional struggles! I constantly work on this because I'm only small and all my horses are very large.
As you can see, Chloe is in the double... this is just by chance, no other reason, but if anybody would like to ask me any questions about the double bridal then please do so.
In this tutorial I’m trying to show you the movement of the rider, and how you have to swing through your hips and soften your elbows. I have raised my hands a little bit which in turn has made Chloe go a little bit behind the vertical. I did this so you guys can see the movement a bit more. I would normally ride with a lower hand position.
There are many aspects to the sitting trot; it’s all about the scales of training, obtaining a good forward rhythm, with balance, activity and to the contact, and then working on engagement and self carriage. The more correct you can produce the horse in the balance over a more subtle back, the more comfortable sitting trot will become!!! If the horse is on the forehand and behind the leg, then you will just wobble and bang around.
Also, if the horse is short in the neck and tense or tight, don’t do sitting trot. Instead I would suggest you warm your horse up well before you do sitting trot, to get that relaxation... it's far nicer for both of you. Sitting trot can reduce the swing in the horse's back, so if it's done too early or too frequently, you could possibly lose some of the natural swing through the horse's body.
If you have any questions please message me on either Facebook or Instagram @sarahwilliamsdressage and I will be happy to help!
Video Transcript;

"So today it's perfecting the trot, the sitting trot. This is Chloe, she's about 18 hands. She's my international horse. I used her because she's so enormous, as you can see, I'm only 5ft 3”. She's got a massive ribcage. So she's the one I probably find the most difficult to get a really good sitting trot on, so I thought you can see my faults, which will help you and see how I deal with it.

"So I've warmed up. I've done exactly what I've done on my other blogs. So I've walked; hands forward, back, forward, back. I've done rising trot; elbows bending and straightening, and I've cantered. I always like to canter before I do sitting trot; you need to have the horse well warmed up. It's more demanding for you to be sitting on the horse's back, it can close the horse’s back down and stabilize the horse’s back. So if your horse is not warmed up before you do the sitting trot, it makes it more difficult for both of you. So I've done all that and now I'm going to go forward to some sitting trot and explain the movement of the body and the contact.

"Okay, so that’s the basic sort of working trot. My hips are going swing, swing, swing, swing, swing, swing, swing, swing. Elbows; bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend.

"It’s hard for me to keep my leg down, she's so big and her ribcage is so sprung. That's why I wanted you to see her. So my elbows; bend, bend, bend, bend, bend. I’ve got my Chihuahuas... bend, bend, so the bend happens when your seat feels heavier. So bounce, bounce, down, down, bend, bend, bend, bend. So if you’re sat a bit heavier then she’ll actually come up a bit lighter.

"I’m without stirrups now, just to help me try and keep my leg down; you can see I find it hard. So I’m trying to sit tall through my ribcage, so I keep a big gap between my lower rib and my hip. Elbows; bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend. If I don’t, this is what happens; I've gone all stiff (laughs)... horrible.

"I liken the swing with your hips - so the swing in the walk - forward, back, forward, back; that swing in a park. The swing in the sitting trot is just faster. So, I'm still swinging; swing, swing, swing. I've got a loose leg, it’s not gripping; swing, swing, swing, swing, swing, elbows, elbows, elbows - one hand either side of the neck. My reins are a bit long... there you go. She’ll just cruise round.

"I'm just going to show you some of the exercises, because as a rider, you need to be very loose in your hips. This helps me enormously with Chloe because she is like riding a football, in the middle. You can stretch a little off the floor for your upper body strength. You can do knee up, kick down; so you keep your toe up and you just heel it down, as far as you can, you can do that on both sides. Make sure your horse is not spooky and is well warmed up. Start this gently, just in case it shocks them. You can do hip rotation, which is out, back, down... out, back, down... out, back, down – you mustn’t move the rest of your body, because the rest of your body with these exercises must stay very still.

"This is a quad stretch, so you've got to make sure you're sitting on your seat bone, you’ve not leant forward - because it will encourage you to do that - and try to get your knee below your hip and just pull the leg a little bit out away from the saddle and that will loosen your hip up. You would need to do at least eight to ten of these on each side, and of the other exercises I've shown you, but please do make sure your horse is warmed up and you need to feel confident about doing these exercises. Don't just go crazy into them because the horses, if they're not used to you're moving your legs like that, then you know, it could be a problem.

"When you do your work without stirrups, you need to have a loose leg, not a leg that does this; clamp, clamp, clamp - that's no good. You've got to be able to release... see she hates it (laughs)... you’ve got to be able to release your leg and justice on your seat. So just keep your leg low and long. If you find that hard, just hold the saddle with one hand so you can let go a little bit more. And then if you're struggling with the elbows - the bending and straightening of them - just rest the hands on the saddle, see look; bend, bend, bend, bend, bend. It just teaches you the movement. So for the downward transition, just relax and walk.

"Stand in the stirrups, keep the weight in your leg, push down... sit, and still keep the weight in your leg. So she thought I wanted her to walk, which is, again, how I was going to show you a transition. Stand in the stirrups, weight in the leg, gently sit – I’m going to try to sit a bit softer with my seat – now I relax; so I basically stopped swinging my hips and that’s what makes her stop.

"Thank you very much."


Find out more about Sarah Williams and check out the rest of her helpful video tutorials, covering a range movements and transitions > View Sarah's profile here.

Sarah Williams
Horsemart Brand Ambassador
Published on 16-06-2020
Sarah is an international dressage rider who has her own yard, located at Yonder Farm in Kent. She has been a brand ambassador for Horsemart since November 2018. Sarah is a List 2 Judge, UKCC Level 3 Advanced Dressage Trainer, BHS AI and is a BD approved apprentice trainer. She is an extremely knowledgeable and passionate Grand Prix rider with International status.