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Cynthia–sitting Trot

Improving Your Sitting Trot

Panel Experts: Julie Winkel and Verena Mahin

Submitted by member: Eve

I struggle with sitting the trot. Any tips on how I can improve this so I’m bouncing around less, more secure, and in sync with my horse?

Answer by Julie Winkel

Sitting to the trot takes practice. Because the trot is a bouncy gait, stirrups were invented to save both the horse’s back and the rider’s back.

The better the mover, the more impulsion and power, the rougher the gait. Most people have a hard time because they try to sit still. That’s impossible to do, given the movement happening underneath them. Instead, the rider that sits the trot well, does it through relaxing the lower back and moving with the two-beat rhythm of the trot.

The best exercises are to ride without stirrups, on a longe line, holding the front of the pommel with one hand and placing the other hand on the hip. This allows the rider to pull themselves down onto the saddle while concentrating on relaxing the back and moving with the horse. Getting good at this requires lots of practice. However, it can be hard on the horse’s back so limit your practice sessions to 10 minutes or less each day. Once you get the feel, you can practice without irons off the longe line, then eventually regain your irons. 😎

Answer by Verena Mahin

To establish a good sitting trot, it’s important that the rider uses the correct parts of their seat and leg. It’s easy to clamp on and hold with the wrong part of the leg. The more relaxed and supple the rider can be, the more they will be able to go with the horse’s momentum instead of against it. If you are gripping with the knees, it will pop you out of the saddle and interfere more with the horse’s natural way of going. It’s important to use the inner thigh/groin muscle with relaxed knees. Your ankles should act like little shock absorbers so that the lower part of the leg is not too stiff. With soft knees, calves, and ankles, correct use of the thigh/groin muscle, and a relaxed seat, the better the sitting trot will become.

The core plays a very important role as well. Engaging the core to be able to hold your own balance is very important to not hang on the horse’s mouth to stabilize yourself. When first learning the sitting trot, focus on your breath and relax your shoulders so that you don’t focus so much on sitting that you get “bunched up” and holding your breath. Also, make sure you can soften your hands forward to make sure you are not balancing on the horse’s mouth.

I love using canter—sitting trot—canter transitions to develop the rights muscles to be able to hold a good sitting trot. The canter allows you to ‘take a little breather’ and loosen your hips in a more swinging way so when you drop back into the sitting trot you can learn to hold in the right way. Practice in small segments so that you build in a positive way and are not fighting against fatigue.

Happy Sitting!

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Julie Winkel

Julie Winkel has been a licensed Hunter, Equitation, Hunter Breeding and Jumper judge since 1984. She has officiated at prestigious events such as Devon, Harrisburg, Washington International, Capital Challenge, The Hampton Classic and Upperville Horse Shows. She has designed the courses and judged the ASPCA Maclay Finals, The USEF Medal Finals and The New England Equitation Finals.

For more information, visit her website:

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