Trotting is a basic gait for horses that are commonly used in riding, racing, and equestrian competitions. It is a two-beat diagonal gait, which means that the horse moves its front and hind legs on opposite sides of its body at the same time. Trotting can be a fun and exhilarating experience for both the rider and the horse, but it requires some practice and technique to do it properly.
What is Trotting
Trotting is one of the three natural gaits of a horse, alongside the walk and the canter. It is a moderate pace that is faster than the walk but slower than the canter. The trot is a two-beat gait, meaning that the horse’s legs move in diagonal pairs – the front right leg and the hind left leg move together, followed by the front left leg and the hind right leg.
Which Horses To Trot
Most horses can trot, but some breeds are better suited for this gait than others. Horses that are built with shorter, more compact bodies and shorter legs, such as ponies, are typically more comfortable trotting than larger breeds. However, with proper training and conditioning, any horse can learn to trot comfortably and safely.
How to Get a Horse to Trot (Step By Step)
Before you start trotting, make sure your horse is properly warmed up and ready to go. Trotting is a more energetic gait than walking, so it’s important to prepare your horse both physically and mentally. Here’s how to trot on a horse:
- Start at a walk: Begin by walking your horse around the arena or pasture to get them warmed up and comfortable. Practice your steering and your transitions from stop to go and back again.
- Get into a proper riding position: Sit up straight in the saddle with your heels down and your toes pointed forward. Keep your legs in contact with your horse’s sides and your hands on the reins.
- Cue your horse to trot: Use your legs and your seat to ask your horse to trot. Squeeze your legs gently against your horse’s sides, and lean slightly forward to encourage them to move forward.
- Keep a consistent rhythm: Once your horse begins to trot, focus on keeping a consistent rhythm. Count the beats of your horse’s hooves (one-two, one-two) to help you stay in sync with their movement.
- Use your reins to steer: As you trot, use your reins to steer your horse in the direction you want to go. Use gentle pressure on one rein or the other to turn your horse, and release the pressure when you want them to go straight again.
How To Sit the Trot Without Bouncing
Sitting the trot can be a challenge for beginners, as it requires a lot of balance and core strength. Here are some tips for sitting the trot without bouncing:
- Keep your legs in contact with your horse’s sides: Use your legs to maintain contact with your horse’s sides as they trot. This will help you stay in sync with their movement and prevent you from bouncing.
- Engage your core muscles: Use your core muscles to stabilize your body as you trot. Focus on keeping your abdominal muscles engaged and your back straight.
- Relax your hips: Allow your hips to move with your horse’s movement. Don’t try to resist the motion or force your body to stay still.
- Practice posting: Posting is a technique where the rider rises up out of the saddle on the horse’s diagonal pairs of legs. This can help you get used to the trot and develop the strength and balance needed to sit it without bouncing.
Common Horse Trotting Problems
There are several common trotting problems that can arise, which can affect the horse’s performance and the rider’s ability to control the horse.
Picking Up the Wrong Diagonal
One of the most common trotting problems is when the horse picks up the wrong diagonal. This means that the horse’s front and hind legs are not moving in the correct diagonal pair, which can lead to an unbalanced gait and decreased performance. To fix this problem, the rider can use a technique called “posting” where they rise up and down in the saddle in sync with the horse’s movement. Posting can help the rider feel when the horse is on the correct diagonal, and the rider can cue the horse to switch diagonals if needed.
Speeding Up or Slowing Down
Another common problem is when the horse speeds up or slows down during the trot. This can be caused by a lack of balance, incorrect cues from the rider, or the horse being distracted. To address this problem, the rider should focus on maintaining a consistent pace and using proper cues to communicate with the horse. The rider should also make sure the horse is properly warmed up and mentally prepared for trotting.
Steering can also be a challenge for both the horse and the rider during the trot. The horse may become unbalanced or distracted, and the rider may have difficulty communicating with the horse. To address this problem, the rider should practice using their reins and body position to steer the horse, as well as focusing on maintaining a consistent pace and rhythm.
Bouncing or Losing Balance
Another common issue for riders is bouncing or losing balance during the trot. This can be caused by a lack of core strength, poor posture, or incorrect saddle fit. To address this problem, the rider should focus on improving their balance and core strength through exercises off the horse, as well as practicing proper posture and saddle fit.
Resistance to the Trot
Sometimes horses may resist the trotting gait altogether, often due to discomfort or pain. In this case, it is important to have the horse checked by a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues. The rider should also make sure the horse is properly warmed up and conditioned for trotting and that the equipment, such as the saddle and bridle, is comfortable and properly fitted.
Trotting on a horse can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable riding experiences. However, it is important for riders to put in time and effort to develop their own balance, strength, and knowledge when trotting on a horse. With practice and patience, both the rider and the horse will benefit from a smooth and comfortable trot. With the right horse, proper warm-up and conditioning, and an understanding of how to sit a trot properly, riders can enjoy trotting and take their equestrian skills to the next level!