Monday, June 8, 2015

Sitting Trot

I'm trying to learn to sit the trot.  It's not really all that pretty.  In fact just brace yourselves now, I'm probably going to talk about it a lot.

I had no intention of sharing these videos, actually, but screw it - this blog is about the sometimes ugly process that is my transition from hunters to dressage.  So these are basically a perfect snapshot of that.  Complete with the kind of baggy t-shirt I wear when I think no one will see me.  You're welcome.

If you don't like videos, blogger made you these gifs. 
There are moments where I briefly sit up for a few steps and actually appear to be riding (I promise, I'm trying the whole time).  Then I start bouncing.

There are moments where I manage to get him to stop curling his face to his chest and actually use himself.  Then he flails and inverts and hops up and down and does his best pissed-off camel imitation.  

He's been doing this in every ride for at least the past week.  I'm not 100% sure what brought it on. My theory is that he was pretty happy when we were asking for lengthening, bigger strides, more forward, because that's relatively easy for him. Now I'm asking him to start collecting a little again and he's not so into it.  Either that or groundhogs.  But we're working through it carefully right now and I'm hopeful it will pass.

I actually had a realization in Pilates class the other day.  I was doing push ups and after the 6th one they got really hard, my muscles burned and I had to force myself to do the next 3.  I realized that's probably the moment where Tucker inverts and then hits the end of the reins and acts like I'm beating him.  His hind end is still getting stronger, so when feels that muscle strain, he doesn't like it, and he has no way of understanding that it's good for him.  Nor does he care.  Yet somehow... it's my job to convince him to keep trying.

More accidental somewhat wonky gif  -
here as proof I'm learning to sit the canter too
With that thought in mind, yesterday I rode through his least favorite movement, haunches-in tracking left. He hates doing this and grabs the left rein, twists his head right (a move he demonstrates above) and tries to forcibly make me stop asking.  And when that doesn't work he starts doing his little mini-rear threats.  

I decided instead of giving him a break with something else and coming back to the haunches-in at another point in the ride (which I think is teaching him to pitch a fit and then I'll leave him be), I would just keep patiently asking for it.  Every time he slammed on the breaks and/or reared, I got him walking forward again on a small circle and then asked for the haunches-in again.  I didn't escalate anything or make him feel punished or "in trouble" (big meltdown trigger for him), just tried to stay as relaxed as possible and concentrated on being soft but very clear with my aids.

It took forty minutes of walking and repeating the same boring pattern over and over again but eventually he just gave in.  It was just a mental block for him.  He was immediately responding with "I CAAAAN'T" instead of trying.  As soon as he realized he was perfectly capable of doing what I asked, we rode a haunches in all the way up and down both long sides of the arena (with much, much praise).
I was just testing her.
The rest of the ride was stellar.  His trot and canter work, while a little more wound-up than usual, was excellent and straight.  I focused on straightness, not letting him lose all that valuable work we did with his haunches, making him bend around my left leg without swinging his hips out.  He was super.  He even held it together and kept working when two turnout buddies were running around bucking right next to the ring.  I wrapped it up pretty quickly at that point - I felt like he was reaching his limit - but what a good boy.

Now fingers crossed we don't start from ground zero next ride.

I promise nothing.


  1. I thought ground zero was where every ride started. Just sometimes you move on and sometimes you don't.

    Btw, why is this dressage stuff so hard?

  2. A) Sitting the trot for dressagz looks super hard and I'm a bit scared.

    B) Simon has this similar mentality. When something is hard for him, he turns to head flipping and anxiety. It has taken a lot of patience for me to learn that he's not trying to be bad and resist punishing him. It's just physically hard and that's his way of saying "Please stop and give me a Margarita"

    Except it's me that usually wants the margarita, but you get the idea.

  3. Would no stirrup work help you for sitting trot? It helps me, but I've known people who find that no stirrups doesn't help because they bounce again as soon as they take up the stirrups.

    1. Yes! I do no-stirrups work about once a week, and if that ever gets easier I'll do it twice a week. Unfortunately I can't just drop them or cross them over his shoulders for a few minutes, because my sensitive horse can't tolerate it, but I remove them after my warm-up and it definitely helps.

  4. What a neat breakthrough! Jec Ballou writes about strapping a heart monitor to a horse and watching how many steps of shoulder in it takes to skyrocket your horses heart rate. I'd like to try that some time

  5. This is going to sound completely unhelpful but I'll say it anyways, haha! Sitting trot for me was something that just happened one day. I did who knows what to open up my hips (one instructor said think of how you move your hips during, ahem, doing the dirty) and I felt what it was supposed to feel like and then I got it. What I hope this helps with is the fact that it WILL just click one day and you'll get it, keep trying! Also, try sitting different horses trots too, especially smoother ones who you naturally can relax into because they're not jarring or bracing against anything you're doing up there.

  6. Uggggh, sitting the trot will be the death of me, that's for sure! Esp now that I'm riding a TB. I don't have any amazing wisdom or advice, except to keep plugging away at it. Good luck! :)

  7. You know what helped my sitting trot a lot? Riding bareback! You really can't tense up and brace against the movement, or you fall off :) I really was able to sit INTO the motion, rather than above it. And I couldn't get tense or pinchy, because, you know - dirt.

    Your description of working through the haunches in with Tucker was awesome, as was the analogy to doing pilates.

    1. Yes I ride bareback too and it does sort of help. Tucker is extremely uncomfortable bareback though, so I think I need to invest in a bareback pad if I'm going to try to do anything more than a few minutes.

  8. Ugh, I have such a hard time with sitting trot sometimes because I try to engage my core so it's not folded in half, but then I end up tensing my lower back and not being able to sit as deeply. The struggle is real.

  9. i really think it should be acceptable to ride dressage in half seat haha. that would solve all my problems... seriously tho nice work being patient and working through the haunches in with him! hopefully the lesson sticks!


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