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LizzieE 07-20-2012 11:06 AM

Teaching a green rider the trot
I am teaching a very beginner rider who is about twenty, so she has developed motor skills and can understand the sort of terminology I have been presenting to her. However, we have hit a stumbling block. She has mastered the walk well, but as soon as we trot, all hell breaks loose. She forgets how to steer and my horse ends up cantering away with her or running her into a wall. It hasn't gotten dangerous or anything, but I feel that it will if we can't get her balance and coordination up to par soon. I have put her on a lunge line for the trot multiple times, and it does help with her balance. Does anyone know of any exercises I could do with her to help her improve her balance at the trot?

bsms 07-20-2012 11:16 AM

Let her try in a western saddle. She can hold the horn if she gets nervous. Once she relaxes, she can try the English saddle and go on learning English. I doubt it would take more than one session to get her comfortable.

freia 07-20-2012 11:22 AM

Here are some exercises our trainers did with us when I was a kid:

Take the stirrups away for all these.
-Option 1: On a lead line or lunge line, have her put her arms out like an airplane. Look at her and make sure her "wings" are level. Most people will be banking to one side. Once level, lead/lunge her that way. Ask her to feel the horse. Feel where her body contacts the saddle and feel the horse's movement underneath her. Ask her to focus on feeling how the horse responds to her movements. She needs to start communicating with her body and legs. When she's comfortable, have her close her eyes and do it all again. Once proficient, do it at a trot, but with eyes open.

- option 2 - similar to option 1, but simpler: Lunge her with her arms out. You want her to be able to sit the trot without being dependent on her arms and hands for balance. She needs her hands free to control the horse, not to balance herself or hang on. Does your horse have a smooth trot that's actually "sittable" or is she uncomfortable and getting bounced hard when trotting?

- option 3: We had lesson horses that reliably followed the rail and maintained their gait when I was a kid. This only works with that kind of horse. Maybe it would work on a lunge line as well. If your horse is trotting her into the wall, it may not be a good idea. Without stirrups, and eventually bareback, we did all kinds of what I called yoga at the trot. We'd hold onto the cantle and kick our heels together above the pommel (gives you great abs too!). We'd stretch out arms out to the side, then reach down and touch one toe at a time, etc. The whole idea was to improve our balance and glue our seats to the horse.

I'd suggest trying bsms' suggestion first to get her out of panic-mod and show her that she can do it, then work on improving her seat and balance with something like what I mentioned.

kitten_Val 07-20-2012 01:46 PM

Lizzie, could you find another horse to teach a beginner on? Because if this horse runs away the end result may be quite sad (the rider can fall or can lose her confidence completely).

IslandWave 07-20-2012 07:24 PM

Put your student on a horse that has a slow trot (a smooth trot would be an added bonus) on the lunge line and teach her about her position during the trot. Have her hold on to the mane/horn/strap at first to keep her hands still while she learns how to control her body parts separately.

Let her practice steering while still on the lunge line, like making her circle bigger and smaller. That way you still have control over the horse.

If it's her balance that needs work, do some stirrupless and reinless work. Leg exercises and arm exercises that really her her seatbones in the saddle.

No need to rush things, build on good experiences, and safety first!

TripR3 07-20-2012 08:27 PM

Another thing you can try is to have your friend trot just 3 steps and then bring your horse back down to a walk, trot 3 steps, then make the horse walk again, and just keep doing that until your friend is comfortable, relaxed, and controlled doing it. That will help with both her seat and keeping the horse under control. Once she can do that, then you can start upping the number of steps the horse trots before going back to the walk. Trot 4 steps, walk, trot 5 steps, walk, etc. I've taught some very timid beginners to trot that way, and it really helped them!

Prinella 07-20-2012 11:08 PM

Id say she definately needs to be lunged. Depending on the student I lunge them until they can confidently rise and do an emergency stop. That way I know when I let them off if the horse gets too fast they can stop it.
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tinyliny 07-20-2012 11:34 PM

yep. more lungeline lessons. have her sing while trotting, have her carry something in her hands to keep her from going all into the fetal (fatal) position. That's what kills the balance, faster than anything. keep her mentally occupied, not focussed downward, but out/upward.

uflrh9y 07-21-2012 08:03 AM

I agree with kitten val, you need a beginners horse. I find the trot is one of the most difficult gaits to master for beginners. A horse with a slow, steady trot, who doesn't react to leg movement and bouncing, is best. Honestly I don't think a beginner rider is ready for exercises where she doesn't hold on or works on her seat. I think we forget how hard the trot is for someone who has never done it before.

My vote is use a different horse and a western saddle.

Joe4d 07-21-2012 09:23 AM

yeh I need to figure this out. I spent years never riding faster than a walk as the trot was bone jarring and it was all I could do to hang on to the horse. Never have figured it out as I started riding Walkers. But my quest for winning endurance races has me looking at Arabians.
I imagine my learn to canter and gallop method, although very effective for me will be frowned apon. I do have to credit Clinton Anderson for the technique. One of his few training aids I have found to be pretty effective.
You know those little plastic bottles of green apple Smirnoff ?

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