Not all rising trots are equal.
There are three reasons we rise at the trot. First, we might want to take our weight off the horse's back - and the easiest way to do it is to rise (or "post") every other stride in rhythm with the horse's movement.
Second, maybe we want the horse to have the opportunity to reach further underneath his body with his hind leg. By rising while the outside shoulder reaches forward (called rising on the correct "diagonal" leg), we remove our weight from the saddle just as the horse's inside hind leg comes off the ground. This encourages and allows the horse to step deeper with the inside hind leg, which is the balancing leg especially on a turn.
Third, we can influence the horse's activity level - we can change horse's leg speed by posting faster or slower. The horse tends to follow the tempo of our seat, and if we can control that tempo, we can be more effective without ever having to go to the hands or legs.
The next time you go to a show, or visit the barn when there is a riding lesson, stop and analyze the way that the riders ride the horse's trot.
Look for the riders that appear to be working most in tandem with the horse and then watch their technique. What do you notice?
They don't move up and down.
Instead, they move forward and back within the movement of the horse.
That is, their pelvis comes forward to the top of the pommel, hovers there for a moment (or even two), and then gently settles back into the saddle, off the cantle (ideally). The "forward" movement follows an upward arc toward the pommel, and the "back" follows a similar arc.
The knees are soft and the angles demonstrate little change.
What they are not doing is standing up and down in the saddle.
There is very little rise. Why not?
When you move straight up and down, you fall behind the horse's movement. As you work to regain your lost balance, you come back down heavily and push your weight straight down to the ground. This might shorten the horse's stride, throw him off balance by putting him to the forehand, and may even cause back discomfort over the long term.
Stay in balance in the trot.
If you can move forward and back with the horse's movement, you can maintain a much more organic balance.
Use the trot bounce to send your pelvis on the arc toward the top of the pommel and steady yourself at the top of the movement with your inner thighs. Then arc back with control so you can mindfully rest on the horse, causing as little discomfort and interference as possible.
If you can move efficiently within the horse's movement, you can even influence the horse's length of stride and speed. You can slow down the horse by slowing your posting down, or conversely, you can speed him up.
The next time you ride, pay close attention to your rising trot technique and play with forward/back versus up/down.
Then let us know what you think in the comment section below.
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